Warning this will be a long entry as I try to summarize the last 16 days of my vacation; this entry covering almost all of my African stay.
Ok, what a fantastic last 3 weeks of my vacation! While I loved Borneo too, South Africa and Namibia where the absolutly best part of my vacation. The Kruger park safari in South Africa was wonderfull and I got to see vast variety of local wildlife up close. We even ended up being chased away by a huge angry old male who didn’t like have his little romantic encounter with a female elephant in heat interupted.
Did a small 24 hour buss trip from Johannesburg to Windhoek (capital of Namibia). Was about as boring as I feared it would be, although the first half of it was interesting enough as I ended sitting next to a nice South African girl called Anrja. We had an interesting time discussing many issues like teen pregnancies, HIV/Aids, local politics, religion and that she had broken up with her previous boyfriend since her parents couldn’t deal with her being together with a white person; wasn’t sure if I thought that had some irony to it or not :)
Arrived in Windhoek early early in the morning. No Wingo there. There was a really pushy taxi guy however, which I almost had to run away from. After a while I ended up going to a hotel nearby thinking I should get a room and get some sleep and try calling Wingo on the phone (it needed a recharge). After hearing their price I decided to go back to the buss stop in case Wingo was just late. Turns out he was there now and the pushy guy was actually a driver he had sent for me (who had gone back and gotten Wingo while I was in the hotel).
We drove back to a nice hostel called the ‘Cardboard box’ in Windhoek where we spent the first day before going to get the car we where to rent. During the day we went off to buy a digital camera for Wingo and in the evening we met up with two friends of Wingo’s; Jeff and Gillian. Jeff also working in the peace corps and Gillian being his visiting girlfriend. We ended the day eating at a nice Cameronian resturant in Windhoek.
The next day was car rental day and we got a cheap transport there sharing a car with a nice scottish girl who was down in Namibia to get some practical work experience as a vetrenarian as part of vetrenarian degree. I had her pegged as Irish at first due to her natural red hair, but I guess there might be a relativly higher concentration of that rare trait also in Scottland. Arriving at Avis it seemed there was some confusion about when we had booked the car from. The lady first claimed we had rented it from the day before, but after a short discussion with Wingo she relented. We where quite lucky as it turned out they where now out of 2-wheel drives so we ended up getting a 4-wheel drive for the same price.
We took our leave of Avis and headed off to pick up Jeff and Gillian who where joining us for the first part of the trip. Our first stop was the Etosha national park in the north of the country. It was similar to Kruger, although since where quite a bit further north the landscape was drier and browner. We got some really nice pictures there however; and our self composed dinner of Boerwors, vegetables and canned sauerkraut turned out to be one of the definitive gastronomical highlights of the trip.
The next day we drove more around the park. One of the camps we stayed at used to be an old german fortress back in the collony days, which had been beautifully restored and today was a lodging place for tourists.
We ended up driving up to the village where Jeff stayed and lived as a teacher. Like most Namibian peace corps volunteers he had lodging living at the homestay of a local family. This place was the home of a local headman whose house where out in nowhere. No real road or anything going there. At the house I guess I got my first real taste of the local AIDS issue. The local way of doing things it seems means that the local headman takes any AIDS orphans into his own household. Which meant the headman had a lot of kids staying at his place; with only a minority being his own.
Jeff part of the homestay was primitive by our standards, but not bad compared to what most local had. His had his own little house as part of the homestay made of bricks and cement. And while he had no electricity or running water he did have a gas fueled oven and fridge. Only thing that could have gotten a bit embarrasing was that when I needed to take a leak in the evening misunderstood the directions I got, so instead of pissing through the fence out of the homestay I pissed through a fence into the chickenhouse :)
Next morning Andy and me took our leave of Jeff and Gillian and travelled onwards to stay one night at Wingo’s house. He was also staying at the homestay of a local headman; although being a little closer to a city they had running water and electricity. Lots of children at this headmans place to, but consider he had 60 kids of his own that wasn’t all to be blamed on AIDS :) (For those who wonder he had only one wife, most of the kids was from various ‘accidents’ with other local women ;)
From there we travelled towards the coast to a city called Opuwo in order to see the Himba people. The Himbas is a local tribe which still leaves a traditional life as nomadic herders. The women especially has a very distinct look as they cover their bodies in a mix of ocer and animal fats making their skin look very red. They also style their hair using a mix of clay and animal fat with different hairstyles depending on age and martial status. Since my own pictures aren’t online yet I guess pointing people to this nice article by National Geographic is the best way to let you see some of what I mean.
We stayed with two girls named Stephanie and Ingrid, who where working in Opuwo with the Peace corps. They where really fun to hang out with and was very gracious about our stay expanding from one night to three :). It also turned out that the mobile schools operated for the nomadic Himbas was funded from Norway and had a norwegian project lead. We went over to talk to them and arranged to come with them for our second day in Opuwo to drive around to the schools with the exams papers.
The first day was spent helping Ingrid and Stephanie with various computers around the towns and at the schools. Also had a nice walk around the town and the surroundings.
Hmm, this is taking longer than expected. Guess I do a second entry tommorow with the rest of the trip :)