I mentioned in an earlier post about how good our guide, Jeremia, was at spotting wildlife. Driving along a dead straight, gravel road, across a featureless plain at about 50 mph he notices this.
This little fellow was only 6 inches long and quietly sitting by the edge of the road absorbing the early morning sun. After a few minutes with us watching he got up and started to move across the gravelly sand surface. After only a few strides he looked like this –
and when the chameleon was about two yards away the only way we could pick him out was by the tiny shadow his body was creating. The camouflage was perfect.
We saw lots of ostriches and learnt that several females over a period of about ten days will lay their eggs in one communal nest. Two dominant females from the flock will then raise the entire brood – so all these funny little scuttling chicks are not brothers and sisters.
I hadn’t thought about it in advance but being in a very arid country meant that there were very few insects about – far too hot in the daytime and too cold in the evening, although in a couple of places we had mosquito nets over our bed and we took antimalarial tablets for the northern most part of our journey. The beautiful red dragonfly was by a pool at a restaurant.
Namibia is a very large country with a very small population. Apart from in the two towns of Windhoek and Swapokmund the only people we saw were those working in the tourist industry. From reading the guide books and visiting the museum in Swakopmund I knew a little of the country’s history, the European colonisation and the movements of indigenous peoples, and Jeremia was keen for us to visit two groups of local people who with support from his company were trying to improve their own lives.
This extended family group of Himba people were making and selling beaded jewellery. The women’s hair was utterly fascinating – many tight, narrow plaits thickly coated with ochre mud, with the ends combed out into bushy ‘tails’.
At the Hairdresser
The woman having her hair plaited was sound asleep. We made a donation in respect of taking photographs of the people, but with Jeremia translating for us we discovered that they had a $50 and a $10 American notes which they had no way of exchanging for Namibian dollars. After checking the exchange rate on Jeremia’s mobile phone we were happy to help.
The other main ethnic group were the Herero people and their appearance was totally different.
Buying Dolls from a Herero Woman
These ladies wore full length, very colourful cotton dresses – the Herero national costume. The story is that the early Victorian era Portuguese settlers were unhappy with their almost naked house servants and covered them up with flowing dresses. Today, long after the days when styles of clothes could be imposed on folk, and even after independence, the Herero people choose to continue the tradition.
As we approached the Damaraland area we started seriously looking out for elephants.
I didn’t know that an elephant puts its back foot directly on top of its front foot print – so at first glance it could be a two legged creature. I have also added to my skill set that I can tell how old a pile of elephant dung is!
About 24 hours old.
Unfortunately no sightings before we reached our next accommodation at Damaraland Camp, another luxury tent. On the first night here, all 16 guests were taken by torchlight away from the main camp to a wonderful barbecue party in a ‘boma’ out in the rocky desert. Boma is the Afrikaans word for a stockade, and that is exactly what it was.
Waitresses at the boma
We sat around a huge camp fire and later ate our meal by oil lamps. The waitresses were a huge entertainment as they described each course of the meal, and the wines, firstly in English and then in the native ‘click’ language. When a word could not be translated into click they improvised with miming and gestures – ‘lamb’ had much baaing, and if something was going to be particularly delicious there was much tummy patting and eye rolling. Great fun.
The next morning our elephant tracking practice paid off.
Only the first of many.
Over the next two days we saw many family groups of elephants browsing the trees in the dried up river beds. Such a joy to simply sit and watch these magnificent creatures – they totally ignored us. One afternoon we visited the world famous rock carvings at Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The animals carved on these 20 or so slabs of rock are thought to be about 5,000 years old. As well as the instantly recognisable giraffes, wildebeest etc there is a sea lion on the far right – 100 miles from the sea.
On the last morning at Damaraland we were up at 5.30am to be taken for Bush Breakfast to watch the sunrise. This was a stunningly beautiful location but quite chilly until the sun rose from behind the mountains.
The staff singing a farewell song after breakfast.
On our way north we visited a petrified forest in the Aba-Huab Valley. The trees are calculated to be about 260 million years old and are so perfectly preserved they look as though they were felled only a few years ago, and they are very, very big – over 30 metres long.
You can even see the bark in places.
Dotted in amongst the fossilised trees were many Welwitschia plants, probably the strangest plant I have ever seen. They grow in the most inhospitable place and some are thought to be as old as 2,000 years.
In this post I have deliberately not included the many other animals we saw in these few days but instead concentrated on some of the other things we saw and experienced. The final post of the Namibia adventure will be wall to wall animals, which is exactly what it was like in Etosha National Park.
To be continued ……