Monday, August 8, 2016

Giraffes, Termites, Warthogs and...a Horse?

Amanpuri Hotel is basic but has all the important things; clean rooms, hot showers, laundry service, good restaurant for breakfast, bar and most important of all WIFI. Despite sending out four bags to the laundry service, I still have a fair amount of delicate hand washing. My husband, Shawn artfully drapes our camping clothes line around the room, which is now laden with wet articles.

The breakfasts in the morning are good; bacon, eggs, toast, yogurt, juice, cereal, coffee or tea.

Shawn, Graham and I take a relaxation day...many of the group choose optional extreme sports activities including quad biking in the dunes, sky diving (I would rather be sliced and dropped into a tank of starving sharks...then again, I am afraid of heights) and Cameron, Frank, Alex, Ayla and Merel choose sand boarding.

Cameron had a great time and said they met a French guy that bought them all beer.

Shawn, Graham, Jolanda and I set out to explore Swankopmund. The streets are very wide, but there really isn't a lot of street traffic. The town has a strong German influence. We feel perfectly safe here.

There is a neat downtown area with a lot of safari outfitter shops, pharmacies, restaurants, Namibian Art stores and Antique shops ( more on that later).

Graham and I watch a flock of those chicken/turkey like birds which are called Guinea Fowl. They don't appear to be the deepest thinkers in the bird kingdom.

The waterfront is lovely and has a big lighthouse and a few piers.  A lone surfer rides the waves as they crash to shore. The day is warm and sunny. We stop for coffee at a waterfront cafe before continuing to a Saturday artists market.

The actual artists are selling their wares; wooden statues, masks and salad tongs, carved stone statues and bowls, batik printed materials, jewelry and ornaments. Each stall owner stops you to talk about their crafts.  They are a bit pushy but in a friendly manner. I let them know that I'm not buying anything in the morning but would return in the afternoon to make my purchases.

Just separate from the market, a large group of topless women with their children from the Himba tribe display their handmade jewelry. At first I thought they had fur collars around their shoulders, but upon closer inspection I notice that their hair has numerous long red covered rope-like braids that go to the shoulder and then the loose ends were all teased together to create the effect of one continuous black collar.

Jolanda decides to go back to the hotel to meet up with Martien, Felix and Leonie who had just come back from quad biking. Shawn, Graham and I continue to explore. Graham discovers Peters Antique Shop which has all manner of World war stuff, local crafts and antique things, old postcards, stamps, maps and so much more. Unfortunately, they were just closing for lunch but would reopen at 4pm.

While searching for a restaurant for lunch, we spot Martien, Sam, Felix, Leonie and Evi who had just missed Jolanda. We go to the same cafe where we had our morning coffee and I have the most phenomenal couscous with spinach, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese and croutons in a balsamic reduction. Yummmmmm.

Splitting up after lunch, I go off on my own to the market and negotiate for a little
wooden zebra that Shawn wants. I also get a Batik Guinea fowl pattern material and an engraved nut from a palm tree. The nut already had a giraffe, hippo and Guinea fowl etched on it and the guy carved Namibia 2016 as neatly as can be while I watched. The skill and precision in how quickly he carved the minute details is impressive.

All the vendors recognize me from the morning and call my name as I pass. I feel bad when I don't  buy from them, they seem so disappointed.

The Himba ladies call me over and cry out " look here, pretty bracelets" every time I move to another's offerings.

I forgot to mention, I purchased some carved giraffe salad tongs; one can never have enough salad tongs.

I meet Graham and Shawn at Peters Antique shop at 4pm. Graham is in ecstasy and has to examine everything in the many roomed shop so we leave him there and return to the hotel to refresh for supper.

Gift introduces us to the three newcomers to our tour; Jessica from Germany and Maddie and James from Australia.

We go to Kückis Pub for supper. Gift had made reservations for 18 of us but our numbers had grown to 24 because we had a farewell supper with Merel and Ayla and a hello supper with Jessica, Maddie and James. This seemed to throw the staff off a bit and it took over an hour to get our meals.

I order butterfish, butternut squash and spätzle. It is good but the portions are huge enough to feed three people. I suddenly hit a wall and am so exhausted that Graham and I head back to the hotel early.

 This morning we pack up, load Brenda and all hang out in the courtyard utilizing ever last moment of Internet in the warm African sun. It's then time to continue our Namibian adventure.

We stop at an area of Skeleton Coast National Park. Gift tells us that we are running a little behind and this will be a 10 minute stop so " make like Chinese tourist and jump off truck, picture picture and jump back on."

Skeleton Coast got its name from all the whale bones that were scattered along the beaches. There are many ship wrecks on the skeleton coast because of the strong currents. The wreck we visit happened in 2008.

There is a skeleton fashioned from beach driftwood and refuse with a note made of sea shells saying " Welcome to skeleton Coast".

Our trip continues. We are now going back into a mountainous region that seems to pop up out of nowhere. These aren't jagged mountains, they are rounded.

It's hot inside Brenda because we closed the windows in an attempt to keep the dust from the natural roads out.

Our next stop is to Spitzkoppe for a guided tour. Gift tells us to wear closed toe shoes. No patta patta ( flip flops).

Gift announces that this will be our campsite for the night. He advises that there is no water, showers, flush toilets or bar here. "I assume that means there is no WIFI" I state. "Yaba" Gift confirms.

An open top straw enclosure surrounds the outhouse toilet. Although they smell, the seats are surprisingly clean and the setup  fits the purpose. It is all doable....just as long as you don't look closely into the depths.

The day is hot, 38 degrees. We park Brenda beside a small mountain. Gift and the food prep team prepare lunch and then we head out with our guide towards Spitzkoppe mountain. Spitzkoppe means pointed head. The movies 10,000 BC and The Gods Must Be Crazy were filmed here.

We study the 2,000-4,000 year old rock paintings.

Our guide teaches us a bit of click language and tells us that bushmen store their water in ostrich eggs. They put a hole in the egg, empty the yolk, fill it with water, seal it with a stick and bury it, making sure the stick is above the ground so that they can find it when needed.

He then shows us the rhino plant which is deadly poisonous. It has a milk that the bushmen put on their darts to kill their prey. They have to cut out the part of the animal where the dart entered but the rest of the animal is fine to eat. The milk of this plant when ingested, in contact with an open wound or inhaled when burning is deadly.

After our tour we climb up to the rock bridge. The stones here are textured and give lots of grip. I get nervous about going up so high but James and Maddie help pull me up.

We see a lot of large Guinea Pig like rodents on the rocks. I wonder if Bonnie and  Clyde from High Park Zoo in Toronto escaped again and caught a flight to Africa. Gift later tells me that they are called Swakup Dassies.

I end up going down the rocks on my butt...heights really aren't my thing. Shawn and Graham continue climbing. I start to walk back but get a bit confused with the road so I wait for the guys at the bottom of the mountain. I see some green birds with peach faces that look like lovebirds. I don't think they are native to this area though.

Cameron and his buddies climb another rock. I return to the camp only to discover that he's ripped the whole backside out of his linen shorts...and those are the shorts that dry the quickest.

We set up our tents in the dimming light after sunset.

In the darkness, our campfire and truck light dramatically illuminates our mountain , silhouetting Brenda in its foreground.

Gift serves a delicious oryx stew which he made in a big black cauldron over the fire. We companionably sit around the fire, discussing the trip so far. All agree that this is the adventure of a lifetime and the friendship of our group ( our travel family) makes it that much richer.

There is some talk of scorpions in the area but most of us still choose to sleep outside. The skies put on a grand performance with clear constellations, satellites and shooting stars. I try to keep my eyes open but drift off despite the sheer magic of it all.

I watch darkness turn to light as dawn breaks behind our mountain. Our camp comes alive as we dismantle tents and pack the truck. Brenda is decorated with balloons and streamers to celebrate Felix and Evi's birthdays".

We're on the road by 7:00am. We stop in an hour to use the flushable fasciities. Hakuna Matata plays on the truck speaker as we take off.

The dust isn't as bad on the bus today. It's still dusty but not as bad. Alfons put weather stripping on the bottom of the door yesterday.

A market in a small Herero village is our next stop. There are about a dozen wooden stick stalls manned by women at sewing machines. The young children happily run around in the sand. The women are dressed in brightly colored long dresses with material head wear. We buy two Herero lady dolls.

I get pictures of the kids; they are beautiful....and its on the road again.

Everyone is in high spirits. Hey Ya by Outcast is playing while Brenda flies over the unpaved road, sometimes causing our bottoms to rise a few inches from our seats when we go over a huge bump. Birthday Ferrero Rochiers are passed around. Someone's taken down one of the big balloons which we all bat around the truck. Yee Ha! This is living!

The next stop is a Himba village. It is actually a cultural information village inhabited by 26 women, 6 men and 39 children. The children are quick to greet us.

The women are bare breasted and have cuff bracelets around their lower legs. If there is one line down the length of the leg cuff it means they have one child. If there are two  lines it means they have two or more children.

Their skin is a deep reddish brown from the red ochre they cover themselves with to keep their skin from burning. They clean themselves with smoke instead of water. In a hut, they have a small fire/ smoke dish that they use to make themselves sweat. They clean their clothes/animal skins with the smoke as well.

The women attach a goatskin piece to the top of their heads as a sign that they are eligible to have children. They have numerous braids going down to their shoulders that they cover in a milk/ochre mixture and they add hair extensions to the ends which they get from stores ( in the old days they would get them from their husbands and children).

Frank brought the soccer ball with him which the boys kick around with the children until one child leaves with it. Next thing I notice is that all these little Himba children are dabbing with the boys. ( dabbing is that pulling back a bow posture that I talked about the other day...a pop culture thing.)

The kids take our empty water bottles.

Cameron bought a bracelet for the girl who he says is not his girlfriend. I buy a bracelet as well and Shawn gets a little wooden hippo.

There is a small schoolroom outside the village with signs on the wall...alphabet' another says " I deserve an education", " I am a boy" and more.

We have our lunch a few km away from the village and are now on our way to our night camp. There are many termite hills along the way. We stop to take pictures when we spot a family of giraffes.

On the road again, Evi  spots three warthogs. We spot many more along the route.

Evi calls out "Elephant!"

Everyone yells "stop the truck!"

As the truck is grinding to a halt, Evi yells out, " Sorry. My mistake. It's a horse."

We will be arriving to our campsite shortly

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