Desert Safari

Koraxis, Namibia

After almost a week of spotty to no internet access, I am catching up, so this blog is coming much closer to the last than what happened in real time.

Five days ago we left Terrace Bay, a fishing village on the coast, and drove inland to an area called Damaraland, home to the “click-speaking” Damara people. Much like the San people (remember the movie “the gods must be crazy”?), these folk talk with 4 tongue clicks as part of their speech. When written, the clicks are expressed as exclamation points. One of our camps was Doro !Nawas, said with a click before the second word. Very weird to listen to!

The scenery continued to be surreal and beautiful, changing frequently, but always very arid. The locals say that Namibia was created by an angry god with left-over parts.

The desert-adapted animals we saw along the road and on game drives seem very heroic, living in this harsh environment. By now we have seen thousands of oryx, with their straight, sharp horns and black & white faces. Many ostrich and springbok as well. The springbok are everywhere but not always noticeable as they are so small and they blend in with their surroundings … good protection from the jackal that stalk them.

The highlight of this part of the trip was a morning spent with three trackers and a couple of guides, looking for and, lucky for us, finding the endangered desert black rhino. There are only 23 of them in the country and we saw 5, including a mom and baby. We were with another couple, from Tssawassen – small world – and their photography instructor, who insisted we head out at 5 AM to be sure to get good light. And did we ever!! The last rhino sensed our presence, even though we were downwind and they have terrible eyesight. She started a charge, which made the trackers and guides very nervous and the rest of us wondering who was the slowest runner. The woman from Tssawassen had put on a red scarf, attracting attention, and once she took it off and we stood still, the rhino lost sight of us and galloped off into the hills.

Another highlight was a visit to Twyfelfontein, a world heritage site with 2 – 3 thousand year old rock engravings done by the Damara. They mostly drew animals and the thinking is that they were appealing to the gods for a good hunt.

The other tribe in the area is Himba. The women have very a strange hair style that consists of big muddy dreadlocks. They apparently never bathe – probably b/c there is so little water – and they coat their skin in mud as a way of keeping the sun off. We saw them by the road selling bangles made of cow horn … I now own a few, not only b/c they are attractive, but also b/c buying is the best way to get a photo.

The safari camps we stayed in were beyond luxury and the level of service was so attentive that it made me feel a bit uncomfortable at times. Not used to the Downton Abbey lifestyle. Sundowner drinks in the countryside, hot coffee delivered to our tents in the AM, gourmet meals, free laundry, etc, etc. At the last camp, there were only 5 guests – Craig & me, Lawrence & Han, the Tssawassen couple, and Morris, their south african guide/photo instructor. There were at least a dozen staff waiting on us!! All lovely, friendly, knowledgeable people. On the morning of our departure from camp they gathered to sing us goodbye!.

After traveling 2000 kms on extremely rough roads, and only 20ish kms from being back on asphalt, we blew a rear tyre without realizing it. By the time we stopped there were only shreds of rubber left on a damaged rim. It was noon and the usual 40 plus degrees … not the most comfortable conditions for changing a tyre. As other 4WD vehicles blew by us, a group of Namibians in a 2WD Toyota car, traveling at about 30 kms an hour, stopped to offer help. By this time we were finished and ready to go, but marvelled once again at the friendliness and helpfulness of the people here.

Today we will drive back to Windhoek, spend the night there, and fly to Maun, Botswana tomorrow to begin the next phase of this amazing adventure.

We’ve enjoyed hearing from those of you out there on your own journeys – Sharon & Ray in South Africa, Donna & Ron in India, Ron  Julie on Zanzibar, Marilynn & Wayne in Portugal, Steve & Lisa in Panama & Nicaragua and finally, Bev & Larry in Botswana (who must be out of internet range as it has been a while!). Jeanne & Don are you in South America now? Wishing everyone safe and happy travels. For those at home, hoping all is well.

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