Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sossusvlei to Opuwo, Namibia . . . "Moro"

I imagined we would be spending a few weeks in Namibia travelling from luxury lodge to lodge in the comfort and safety of a 4-wheel drive.

I was wrong.

Phil, on the phone to the car hire company, ended the conversation with: "I don't need a 4 wheel drive, just give me your cheapest car". So, we set off to explore the country (known for its notoriously bad roads) in a trusty Toyota Tazz. I soon a realised that our budget had also priced us right out of the luxury lodge market. We stopped torturing ourselves reading descriptions of "spacious chalets overlooking the desert plain, all with their own deck, plunge pool and jacuzzi" and attempted to work up some excitement over descriptions such as "this dusty and uninspiring camp ground is somewhat redeemed by the clean ablution blocks and lively bar".

Despite failing to meet my travel and accommodation expectations, Namibia itself - the people and the country - did not let us down.

We started our tour with a trip to Sossusvlei and saw some amazing sand dunes. The desert experience continued as our Tazz managed to carry us along some particularly rocky roads, over the Tropic of Capricorn and up to the Skeleton Coast. The trip took us past a colony of seals and, much to Phil's delight, an area known to be good for gem hunting. The reported find of an aquamarine was enough for Phil to insist that we spend a few hours in the midday heat searching for a stone for my engagement ring. Not the romantic ring shopping that I had imagined but Phil had an air of desperation about him and was not to be refused. Tragically, we were unsuccessful and made our way up Skeleton Coast warned by frequent road signs announcing "SAND!" in case we had not noticed the miles of dunes to our near right.

Skeleton Coast was so named because (prior to GPS and modern methods of communication) shipwrecks were common along the coast. Any survivors of such wrecks washed up and found themselves with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and desert on the other. In 1860 a man left a message on some slate found much later:

"I am proceeding to a river sixty miles north, and should anyone find this and follow me, God will help him."

No one knows who wrote it or what became of him . . . but we followed him up the coast anyway. Not really with a fear of death but, in the Tazz, with a definite fear of being stranded for days after a breakdown or a couple of flat tyres. It was a low/no traffic area. However, as I had insisted on us packing over 20 litres of drinking water we were fairly relaxed.

Leaving the Skeleton Coast gates, cheerily decorated with a skull and cross bones, we headed further north to an area of Namibia dominated by the Himba people. The Himba women cover themselves in (not much more than) body paint made from red ochre. Our first contact with the Himba was a Himba woman hitchhiker we picked up. She was the first of many hitchhikers including a guy from the US (Shay) who travelled with us for a few days. With no public transport in the area, people either hitch or walk. [Note: When making decisions on whom to offer a ride - keep in mind that red ochre body paint stains car upholstery.]

Our first Himba hitchhiker was extremely attractive, as Phil commented repeatedly. We soon found out that she was not the only one, the Himba women seemed to be particularly good looking. So, I was very flattered when the chief of a Himba village we visited offered to buy me from Phil for 20 to 30 cows. I hear that is a pretty good price. Phil is still considering it.

Possibly inspired by the beauty of the Himba women, Phil decided to get his hair cut at the local barber in Opuwo. He was able to choose from one of twelve styles depicted in drawings displayed on the wall. None of the men in the pictures had hair like Phil's. Unfazed by his absence of afro Phil chose style number six. The barber was talented and certainly tried his best, but Phil emerged looking like a cross between Tintin and a neo-Nazi. Perhaps that is why he is having so many "difficulties" getting our photos loaded onto the website . . . perhaps not.

The rest of Namibia to follow in a few days.


Blogger Phillippa Yaa said...

dear intrepid adventurers,

that was a lekker laugh, the moon keeping you up! great that you haven't lost your sense of humour.

Opuwo sounds AMAZING! When we were there it was literally a war zone. did you stumble into any ghosts roaming over the land? Did you feel like you were at sea without a paddle? Well done for packing the water, that's the most common mistake.

I have decided to stay at home in March instead of going hiking with Dave and Bridget. Xoliswa, my dynamic collaboratrice and I will be finalizing our script after 8 weeks of work and we'll need all the time we can get. We want to attract a producer so it's worth working on. We are having a Pan African party on 1 April. Come as your favourite dictator.

I am enduring Enduring Love. I'm kind of morbidly fascinated seeing as it reflects the accident Francois and I experienced together. Your gifts of books are keeping you close to our hearts and eyeballs as we roam the plains of your favourite imaginations.

I think of you a lot. You guys! You set a high standard on life experience! It sounds like you are becoming such good friends. I envy you this time to spend with your lover. Of course, the main thing, is the cooking keeping up with the hectic pace of this adventure?

In keeping with our Ghanaian habit of sending gifts with friends to any corner of the world where a home-person or family member lives, Toni is in Adelaide doing her show the Travellers. Armed with a bottle of spiced chillis from Akhalwayo's Grocery store for Sam, and some bits and bobs for Damian and the Pearses, she has made contact. She reports that she has not yet met the great man, but in keeping with their sweetness the Amamoos and the Pearses seem to have booked out the show in order to see the friend of their recently enfranchised daughter perform. (MY GOD THAT SENTENCE IS FAR TOO LONG)

wishing you thick tyres, enough wine and the love that keeps on loving

your sister
Phillippa Yaa

3:08 PM  

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