09 September, 2014

An Oryx Holiday - Part 3 - Damaraland Camp

Here is post #3...again, by my parents :)
To see the previous posts, go to: Part 1 and Part 2

We arrived at Damaraland Camp last night just after sunset. We were racing there to beat the sunset because there are no lights in the middle of the desert. It was dusk when we entered the Damaraland entrance but the entrance said 13 more kilometers to the camp. The roads are classified by condition...B,C, and D. There are no A roads. B are the  two lane paved roads on which you can travel up to 120 kmh. C roads are either paved or gravel and you can go from 80-100 kmh. D roads are teeth rattling, spine jarring, genital jarring (at this point John has had 2 glasses of champagne, while we are writing this blog post) (refer back to Diane's condition at arriving at Kunene Lodge.) where, with luck you might go 30kmh. So these roads that we were "racing" on were D roads. Johanna wants to tell you at this point Diane had taken over driving a couple of hours earlier because John.................blah, blah, blah (imagine - sometimes a wife needs to take over the driving!). Anyway, once we arrived, there were two staff members who greeted us...Alexia and Hilka. It was impressive...they knew our names and had us directly to our rooms instead of registering first. They recognized that we were tired. This was typical of how the entire staff treated us during our entire stay. They took our bags. On the way there, another staff member gave us each a sherry. Our two rooms were next to each other and basically the same...two twin beds enclosed by a mosquito net, a bathroom with 2 sinks, shower, and toilet. Stepping up from the bed was a desk and closet. The "cabin" was really made of thick canvas. If you wanted to "close" the windows, you would pull up a piece of canvas and hold it too the window by Velcro.

We ate dinner and at each meal thereafter we had a staff member eat with us. During our stay every staff member personally introduced themselves to us and often made conversation with us.

In the morning, Alberth brought us hot water to make coffee at 5:40 am. By 6:10 we were in his "jeep" on the way to breakfast. Breakfast was on top of a mountain with 9 people plus staff...fruit, bread, cheese, and eggs and bacon cooked on an open fire.

After this we started on our trek to find elephants. We were so Iucky to drive up very close to an elephant herd and observe the main male, females with their young, and teenagers who never stopped playing the whole time we were there. On our trip through the Torra conservancy, (3522 square kilometers with 1200 people living there) we also saw oryx, kudu, springbok, many birds, 2 kinds of rock...dolomite and basalt, and 3 types of plants were pointed out to us. 

an Oryx

Desert-adapted Elephant

2 teenagers playing around

We were close!!!

We stopped at a village that was founded during apartheid in South Africa called DeReit. A woman gave us the story of how the town was founded. The children hung around us and got a chance to either have their picture taken or use Johanna's phone to take pictures.

We came back to the camp for lunch and then went to another village. The income from the Damaraland Camp helps to compensate the farmers for loss of livestock due to predators. We were guided around by a teenage boy, named ..... On their farm they have  over 500 goats, sheep  and ... donkeys. They sell these goats to people who need goat milk or breeding females or males. Sometimes they slaughter the animals but not often. The family has about 5 dogs who are there to protect the animals by barking when a predator animal comes on the property. These dogs are very skinny...ribs showing....and very dirty. They are not pets. Their food is fruit and meat...not sure where the meat comes from. They have chickens which are kept in a "hen house" about 6 feet by 10 feet and are sometimes let out to scratch. They eat the eggs.

They built a garden, quite big, enclosed with a 10 foot high fence. They also electrified it using solar energy. This was supposed to keep the elephants out. But elephants have thick skin and they could care less about some puny solar electric fence. They just ran over it and destroyed the garden including the family's banana, guava, orange, and lime trees. One day when he and his grandfather have time they will replant this garden, along with getting a larger solar collector so it will generate more electricity.

The family also makes money by supplying the lodge we were staying with water. The women here do the lodge's laundry. The income from the Damaraland Camp helps to compensate the farmers for loss of livestock due to predators.

For dinner that night we had to walk away from the lodge in the dark. When we got to our destination there were fires to light the area and a buffet for all the guests. The staff sang us the African Union Anthem and the Namibian National Anthem and a welcome song. Just after dessert was served they came out singing an anniversary song holding a cake which they had baked for our anniversary. When we got back to our room there was a bucket of ice with champagne and many lit candles. It was a lovely way to end the stay at our favorite B&B so far.

08 September, 2014

An Oryx Holiday - Part 2 - Kunene River Lodge

Here's post #2, written by my parents....(see the previous post for Part 1)

We stayed here for 3 nights. We arrived at 5:30 just in time to order dinner. Diane drank 2 double gin and tonics and a glass of reed wine because of the drive there. We traveled on a D road which means it was very rocky, bumpy, windy, narrow, and hilly. It was a wonder our undercarriage didn't fall off. We were on this road for 11/2 hours to cover about 25 kilometers. That night when Diane got up to go to the bathroom she saw a cockroach and a 2 inch spider. It freaked her out. She sprayed the spider with supplied Raid, enclosed herself in the mosquito netting, took a sleeping pill and finally fell asleep.

On the first full day we went canoeing and Johanna and Crystal went white water rafting. They began their whitewater adventure by jumping 7 meters from a rock into rapids. TheIr guide was Florian, a 27 year old German who had beautiful blue eyes. As you can imagine, the girls had a fabulous time! The afternoon was hot and we all laid around trying to get on the internet or napping. John took a dip in the pool. At 4:00 Florian took us and ten other people on a sundowner cruise. Scenery was beautiful as were the rapids we approached but didn't go in them.

standing on Angola!

the sun setting on the Kunene River

On the third day we visited a Himba family. It consisted of a grandmother, grandfather, granddaughter, 2 boys, and set of twins. There are about 55,000 Himbas in northern Namibia. The 2 boys attend school and the girl stays home to help with the chores...not because she's a girl but because she is the oldest. When children turn 12 they get their bottom teeth knocked out with a stone and a stick-something they are not looking forward to. The people cover their bodies and hair with otjize- a red paste made from goat fat and a red stone that is ground up. This acts as a sunblock and moisturer. It prevents hair growth so men have no need to shave. The grandmother we saw had no wrinkles. They eat a diet of mahangu (a type of flour) and goat milk. They only eat meat at special occasions.

Johanna getting her face painted by the Himba woman

For the rest of the day, we rested....

Breakfast everyday, was always eggs, bacon or sausage and beans with a slice of tomato. Or granola, yogurt, cut up fruit, cheese and toast. Dinners were your choice of steak, chicken, or pork. Small salad, fries, and dessert was the Kunene special...

07 September, 2014

An Oryx Holiday - Part 1 - To Namibia & The Village

My parents finally made it across the pond to visit me! We are currently still on holiday, but they've decided to take over my blog for a few posts...to tell the tale of their Oryx Holiday.

Now, there are a few ways you could look at the fact that THEY are writing these stories:
   1. I'm too lazy to write about it
   2. I've become so adjusted to Namibia and Namibia's way of life, that I forget to tell the little stories of details surrounding Namibia and my life here.

I'd like to think it's #2 - and I truly believe I've adjusted, and when that happens, I don't think of explaining the small details. Even my mother pointed that out to me one day on the phone - when I didn't have much to talk about. 

So, if you don't mind, the next bunch of posts will be our experiences on our holiday - written by my parents, from their point of view - from 2 people who have never been to Africa, or a developing country, and were even a bit worried coming over here, as to what to expect. 

I'd like to think that, even in a small way, this has changed their way of thinking of Africa, Namibia, developing countries, and other cultures around the world....

p.s. You are all welcome to come visit me as well! And I'd HIGHLY suggest you visit my village :)


We left JFK at 11am for a 14 hour flight to Johannesburg. After a 4 hour layover we took a 2 hour hop to Windhoek.  On deplaning we were struck by the endless horizon, bright sun, and blue sky. Johanna greeted us and we immediately got our rental car..a Hyundai Tucson...new! John had the fun of learning to drive a stick shift, shifting left handed with 6 forward gears and the windshield wiper and directional controls just the opposite of what we have in America. Needless to say there were many turns made with the wipers running and you drive on the left side of the road here. Added to that we couldn't find reverse gear until the next day.

We went directly to a B&B where we saw our first meerkat and then to Joe's Beer House for dinner. Johanna and John shared a barbecue of oryx, kudu, crocodile, zebra, and ostrich. Diane ate a vegetable wrap which was more like a quesadilla. We went back to the B&B and crashed.

We then picked up her Meme (who had just gotten back from a trip to Cape Town with other teachers from her area - she was VERY excited about this trip!) and took a 9 hour trip north to Johanna's village, Onamunhama. She lives on a homestead which is about an acre that is fenced in completely with branches and small tree trunks. It was sandy but very clean and raked often. There were a few small houses and 4 round huts. These were referred to by the family as their rooms. Johanna's room (hut) is about 10 feet square and the door into it is only four feet high. But you can stand up inside and the ceiling is about 9 feet in the center. She has set up a kitchen area, a gym, a bathroom, an office and a bedroom-all in 100 h roofs. square feet. The larger houses are used by the meme and the older children who are not in school but work. These have cement floors and walls. Linoleum or tile often covers the cement. The roofs are hand made thatch. The huts are used by the younger children.

Anna, a teacher, let us stay in her room (house). It has a queen size bed and we only had to go 75 feet to go to the bathroom which had running water...this a toilet and shower. This area is used very sparingly by the family to save money. They take bucket baths every day. This consists of an 18-24 inch plastic tub. First heat the water in a big pot then pour it into a paint bucket and then over to the tap, to fill up with cool water. Then bring that over tithe bucket bath room, pour it into the plastic container and scrub.

Two of the houses had solar panels but the electricity was used for lights and the stereo system and a tv which has a screen about 10 inches big. They have a gas stove which is used sparingly. Most meals are cooked on an outdoor fire. They eat on the ground as there is no table.

One of the more remarkable things on arrival was the night sky. There were no clouds in the sky and no lights on the ground so the Milky Way was very easy to see.

On Sunday morning we were awakened by the rooster, dogs barking and boys playing soccer at 7 am. The family had an outdoor fire and had cooked their breakfast (meat, this particular morning) and sat either on logs or the ground. Johanna made us breakfast, and we had granola and a form of powdered milk. We sat on the steps to eat it. Shortly after breakfast meme (mother and/or grandmother) and the kids and the dogs were gone to the homestead next door, where the wedding was taking place.

The wedding...they were preparing and cooking food for the wedding. The morning of this celebration a brown cow was shot and the men butchered  it for the wedding which would feed meme's family and friends. Other food included carrots, potato salad, cole slaw which was warm, a green salad with the newly discovered feta cheese. Surrounding the homestead were tents set up by the different families who came to the wedding.
Women were preparing food for their family who would be in their tent.

Johanna bought a special shirt for John which she calls a tate shirt and a dress for Diane which Johanna ended up wearing. All the older women wore these dresses and many of the men either wore suits or these tate shirts. Some men even wore jeans.

We were the only white people there...many of these people had never seen a white person. Kids stared at us in bewilderment and many adults glared at us thinking we were Afrikaans. Still there were many who came up to us and shook our hands or asked if they could take a picture of us. Diane took a photo of some boys who were very excited to see themselves. John was approached by an elder gentleman who could identify with him because of his white hair. He insisted that John was German even though his son tried to explain we were from America.  Johanna said we were celebrities. This was the second day of the wedding. The first day was a church ceremony followed by a reception at the bride's homestead. The second day was a civil ceremony and a party at the groom's homestead. The bride moved into her husband's homestead. The bride and groom had a special tent decorated in purple and white with greenery and a three tiered wedding cake. This tent was for the bride and groom 
(who, by the way, were dressed in western wedding attire) and their immediate family. This all took place within the fenced area of the groom's family homestead.

We walked to and from the wedding across a very sandy and dry mahongu field for maybe a half mile. Getting back home as a little harder because there was only the light from Johanna's and Crystal's cell phones. 

First full day of Namibia - check!

the meerkat
me cooking in the kitchen at my homestead!

at the wedding, with my nephew, Junior

The bride and groom

They were celebrities! Everyone wanted to take their picture

    A shirt found in one of the stores here