Namibian Tribes

After dinner last night when Maria was in the shower, the camp lost power. Fortunately, we have flashlights. After a few moments, we heard the generator kick on and the light was restored. 

This morning at breakfast, they reported a leopard had been in camp. One of the workers saw it when he was out checking the generator, behind our tent. It ran away up the rocks. Watch out, baboons!

After breakfast, we set off for the Skeleton Coast, so-called because of the many shipwrecks caught in the treacherous currents. On the way, we stopped for short visits with three tribes.

First were the Herero, who have set up little shops to sell trinkets to tourists. The German colonizers were scandalized at their scant clothing, so they dressed them in Victorian style dresses, which they still wear, though the fabric has gotten much more colorful. They have added headdresses in the shape of horns to honor the cattle that they raise. We bought little dolls that they make of themselves, in exchange for photos.

Abel tells is about the tribes we met

Next were the Damara, the dominant tribe in the region (called Damaraland, from apartheid when the whites not only segregated white from black, but they attempted to segregate the black people by tribe). Yesterday, we visited the Damaraland Living Museum, where modern Damara put on a show of their traditional way of life, much like Plimouth Plantation historical village in Massachusetts. Today, we stopped at some Damara on the side of the road. We gave them a 5 liter bottle of water which they were very happy to receive, sitting in the sun.

Finally, the Himba. They are related to the Herero, speaking the same language, but they still wear (or don’t wear) the scant clothing that scandalized the Germans. To protect themselves from the sun, they rub powdered ochre stone over their skin, so they are reddish. The women wrap their hair with clay, leaving the ends fuzzy. And they never waste water bathing, they clean themselves with smoke. No B.O. The Himba want money, so Abel negotiated a fee and everyone came around to pose for photos. They live in a little village by the side of the road.

We are lucky Abel knew how to deal with each group, we would have been clueless.

We continued toward the coast and the desert got more and more desolate, the scrubby vegetation gave way to bare rock and sand.

The gravel road was pretty good, mostly smooth. They are constructing a tar road, so we paralleled the new road bed for 20 miles at a time. Surprisingly, the gravel detour was very smooth.

Eventually, we saw clouds on the horizon as we approached the sea. We returned to tar roadway. The air got cooler. Once we reached the coast, it was quite cool, it felt like low 60s, quite the shock from yesterday’s 95. 

We turned south and drove along the South Atlantic. We stopped at the most recent shipwreck, from 2007. We continued on to Swakopmund. “Swakop” is the Nama tribe’s name for the river that flows into the sea here. The word means “diarrhea”, because when the river flows it is muddy and has lots of debris. “Mund” is German for “mouth”. There is no corresponding town that means constipation brain to complete the description of some people you know.

Driving to dinner this evening, I spotted a small sign advertising “Swakop KFC”. I did look up “Swakop meaning” to confirm and sure enough…

Swakopmund is a very strange little city. It is a totally modern seaside town with a downtown area that looks like a German village. Maria needed a sun hat, so Abel stopped at a shopping mall that was way more up to date than our dying mall back in Marlborough. She didn’t find anything suitable there, but she did in a department store named Woolworths! It’s a South African chain, don’t know if it’s any relation to the defunct U.S. Woolworths.

A Damara woman sold us espressos here

We checked in to our modern hotel and relaxed in the sun on the balcony.

After an afternoon nap (it’s surprising how tired we get sitting in a car for hours), Abel took us to The Tug, a seafood restaurant where we had oysters and Kingklip, a fish native to the southern Africa Atlantic coast. Everything was delicious. Back to the hotel and sleep. Where we are sitting wide awake at 2:00 am.

Bruce, Maria, Abel