A Travellerspoint blog

Holding ON

The joy of travel

It is the last morning of the last day in the wilderness. I have my coffee in the dark on the deck outside our room listening to the rushing of the river just beyond the deck. I have always liked the quiet of the morning but in three days the scene will be different, back where I started. How will I hold on to the peace and calm of the natural environment, the good part of the disconnect from the world?
Re-entry is always tricky. We have two travel days ahead of us so we can switch gears and great ready. I have already vowed to go on a news fast for at least a week and concentrate on the people closest to me.
The remains of the trip will have to live in my head and my heart. I always have my photographs but the feeling of freedom and adventure is intangible and difficult to capture in a photograph, but I hope I did. From Gorilla trekking in Rwanda, something I talked about for over a year, to sitting on the Kunene River at the Namibia and Angola border, I have done some things I never imagined. The people along the way have been an integral part of the experience and the self drive was so much fun. I will never forget the scene at the gas stations, a gathering place and hub of activity in this sparsely populated country. If someone told me one of the memorable things would be gas stops I would have laughed.
I guess that is what I love about travel, the things that just happen in between what we plan, when my life intersects with the life of the residents of another place, when we can find our common denominator, the things that makes us all the same. For me that is the essence of travel. Not the lions, and elephant, not the museums and famous buildings because as amazing as those things are, for me it is always about the moments when another human being touches my heart. When I sat in the hut with the Himba women and she decide to give me a gift, and then another, and then another. Three small things that she wrapped in a tiny scrap of material that she for whatever reason felt compelled to give me. The ochre powder, the sticks she uses to make her ‘perfume’ and the powdered perfume itself. The feeling of her covering my face with the orange powder and they way she looked at me. A moment in time.
The reason to travel, the human connection.

Posted by Lauriesam 04:13 Archived in Namibia Tagged #namibia #africanadventure #lovetotravel #adventuretravel #africa #feelinggrateful #africanlife #selfdrivenamibia #meetingnewpeople #culturalexchange #namibianlife #himba #feelinglikealocal #livingthegoodlife Comments (0)

The End of The Earth

And beyond.....Namibia on the Angolan border

I Thought I had flown to the end of the earth but even after we landed we drove some more. We drove through sand dunes, rugged rocky hills,
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down another sand hill and then much to my surprise, an oasis on the Kunene River, the border between Angola and Namibia appeared before my eyes.
Serra Cafema has been here sitting on the Kunene River since 2004. It is the most remote place I have ever visited and it is very hot, too. The land belongs to the Himba people and the camp owners rent the space from them. The camp has agreed to employ 70% Himba staff and also help the local people with some basic supplies like oil for cooking, flour, water or maize.
The Himba are a nomadic people, some raising and caring for cattle, sheep or goats. They live a simple life and are happy to have visitors come to learn about their lifestyle and buy their beautiful crafts.
We sat with a family this morning for several hours.
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At first we were outside, the matriarch surrounded by her daughters and grandchildren. It was obvious she was in charge. She was using a large stone to crush ochre into an orange powder After some time outside she invited us into her home.
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She showed us how she uses smoke from herbs to ‘bathe’ and perfume gathered from plant bark. She showed us how she uses the orange powder which is then mixed with fat (cream from milk) and then applied to skin and hair for beauty and also it’s a good sunscreen. We spent quite a while in the small dung covered hut and I thought it was hot in there until we came outside again. Then it was really hot. Today the temperature hit 100 degrees and apparently this is the beginning of winter. The locals don’t seem to mind as much as me, I was feeling a bit sick from the heat. After rehydrating with water from our vehicle, we asked to see the crafts and they all lined up in a row on the sand, each person sitting on a light blanket spreading their handiwork out in front of them. From the matriarch down to the smaller children, the crafts were presented. We were very happy to buy some of the beautiful necklaces and bracelets.
I then walked over to the corral in the middle of the village and watched the Patriarch milk the cows and later hang the gourd container full of milk on the outside of the hut in the shade for drinking later.
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I wanted to beg them all to go inside and get a drink of water, but I am sure these people know how to survive in this very dry, rugged and difficult environment.
With no running water or electricity or anything else you may consider essential, the most interesting comment from the Matriarch was about my IPhone. She wanted to know if it was free or if I bought it, she said she would like to have one, too.
She loved looking at the pictures I had just taken of her and her family. She also liked the pictures of our family, our dogs and snow! It is very hard for the people here to imagine snow.
It is almost six o’clock PM and I am in my room watching and waiting for the sun to slip below the sand dunes to the west because I know the temperature will to drop immediately. Our room here is beautiful, but there is no AC and for about 20 more minutes it is still so very hot at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Funnily enough, the heat is part of the experience, it makes you think about life here and how people manage to exist.
I am sitting here wearing almost nothing, well maybe nothing, OK, absolutely nothing, the fans are going, windows with screens open wide and sheers drawn just in case that might help block the sun a little. I am about to take my third shower of the day because earlier even the cold water was hot! Haha! In spite of this, it is so beautiful here, the sun now finally slipped behind the dunes and I can feel the temperature change just like that! For those people we visited in the villages today it will be bedtime soon. It must be very dark out there.
For us a Gin and tonic and a lovely meal. Simple pleasures indeed, life doesn’t get much better than this.

PS see more Himba photos in the gallery

Posted by Lauriesam 22:21 Archived in Namibia Tagged #namibia #africanadventure #lovetotravel #adventuretravel #africa #culturalexchange #himbalife #namibianlife #himbavillage #desertlife Comments (0)

A Moment Etched in Time

Life’s simple pleasures

sunny 85 °F

The last time we were in Namibia we flew from place to place and except for Windhoek, we never really saw people outside of the camps.
This was the impetus for the self drive from Kasane, Botswana ending up in Windhoek, Namibia. Of course we have our stops planned along the way, but what happens in between is the real reason for the trip.
After crossing the border I started to notice people walking along the road, this isn’t unusual in Africa, but I couldn’t see any towns on the map so I wasn’t exactly sure where everyone was going. When I looked a little closer I noticed very small villages just off the side of the road.
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Many people walking along these long, flat, straight roads in the wicked heat of the day.
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The villages look simple and the homes either small square structures with tin roof’s or round huts with a thatched roof. No electricity and no water. Women and children alike can be seen along the road carrying 20 and 24 L containers of water. You can see the residents sitting in the shade, often the women in one area and the men in another. Sometimes people sit on the side of the road selling fruits or veggies or fresh killed meat.
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We finally drove through Katima Melilo, the first big town with a bustling Main Street, crowded with people shopping and going about their daily business. It was fun to look at the interesting shops and blend in with daily life.
This morning we left our camp with about a 3 hour drive ahead of us. And even though we had breakfast at the camp, by 10 or 11 AM we were eating Simba chips, salt and vinegar, and Biltong from the shop in Vic Falls. A nice mid-morning snack! Driving the Caprivi was a breeze and when we arrived in Divundu, we decided to fill the gas tank. You definitely want to top up with gas at every opportunity in these parts.
We pulled into the center with the food store and gas station, the parking lot was more of a sandbox with quite a big long horn cow making his way through the lot. No one gave him a second glance.He slowly made his way through, near cars and people as if he was invisible. (Sorry, I missed this picture) The sun was beating down hard and everyone is moving slowly including us. We filled up the car observing life happening around us. A car that broke down near the pumps with no fender in front and a long rope tied to what was left of the grill, as he waited for a tow. BBA67061-717C-45E0-B237-D6145FAA79CB.jpegA lovely lady wearing a brightly colored uniform who filled the tank, she waved us forward making room for a huge truck to have access at the pump behind us. 60B67E41-FDA1-4E9B-94D4-11C78AD620F4.jpeg40016923-3178-41A4-AA62-68F2792F95E8.jpegThere were women sitting under a big tree selling fruits, veggies and crafts, too.
Of course we headed into the food store to have a look around. The small store was reasonably well stocked.
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Nothing jumped out at me until I found the freezer case full of ice cream.
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For 37 years I have heard about the famous ‘choc 99’ - a Flake* bar in a cone surrounded by soft serve ice cream made on the spot in an ice cream shop. Well now you can buy them prepared in the freezer at the food store. They also had Crunchie* ice cream bars and Kit Kat Cone. This was a long KitKat finger in a cone lined with chocolate on the inside, the chocolate and vanilla ice cream all around the KitKat keeping it upright in the middle of the cone. Allan got the Choc 99 and I got the Kit Kat cone, we stood in the shade in front of the store eating quickly like giddy children, the fast melting ice cream dripping down our chins.
Nothing fancy, just two people enjoying a simple pleasure in a place I will remember like a painting in my mind.
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  • Crunchie’s and Flakes are English chocolates loved by my husband and his chocolate loving South African family, and me, too!

Posted by Lauriesam 08:39 Archived in Namibia Tagged #culture #lovetotravel #adventuretravel #africa #selfdrivenamibia #nambia #namibianvillagelife Comments (0)

Crossing Boarders

sunny 85 °F

Leaving Zimbabwe was sad, we stayed in three different places with three completely different experiences, all good.
Yesterday we drove from Victoria Falls across the border to Botswana where we rented our 4X4 car at the Kasane Airport. We are on Africa time and so the whole process took at least an hour and a half, if not more. No computers with signing pads, rather contracts with carbon copies and lots of stamps. This was all done in a very efficient manner, but it took time. We picked up a Satellite phone as well and then loaded our things in the car and off we went. 24C8442B-AD1E-4926-B8A3-F158F9FFAD7E.jpeg
This is the real adventure part of the trip and Allan has been reviewing all the options for navigating since before we left home. I remember sitting on the couch a month a go looking at all the gadgets hoping I could figure them out. For all the 37 years we have been together he has been the main driver and I am the navigator. The days of many maps folded neatly in the glove box have long passed and the GPS has taken over and really improved so much over time you could almost follow blindly. But in this case we were pretty sure we would not have cell service so this was the plan: The satellite receiver picks up a signal and sends it to the Garmin app on the iPad which has a map and shows exactly where we are. I also have two back up paper maps which Allan has marked clearly with our nightly stops and the route that seems the most obvious. I am very nervous about getting lost and although we have been told by some the roads in Namibia are good, they are indicated on the map in various grades, A being the best, B, C,D and so on down to little dashes indicating who knows what!
As I said we took off from Kasane Airport heading for Namibia with two Cappuccinos in hand and we are right in the heart of Chobe National park. It is just before 10AM and we only have a 3 hour drive at the most which means time to explore.
Chobe is the home of so many Elephant that the gov’t is discussing bringing in hunting again, when we are told this our hearts dropped.
Leaving the airport on the A road we turn off on a tiny little road that we missed and entered the park. I see the trails on the map marked with dashes, we take the chance with the four wheel drive and head down to the river. We are almost there and we come across 2 elephant eating right on the side of the road, we wait and wait and they just don’t seem to want to move. F46497BA-99C9-48CC-BC04-BA62AF79508F.jpeg I have to be honest, there was a little swearing from me, I could see the river and wanted to get closer. Instead we back up on sandy road in the deep soft tracks and turn around. We see a game vehicle and he says he will push them out of the way. What? So we turn around, follow them, he manages to get around, but the Ellies seem to sense us and move into the road making it even harder to go further. Again we back up and wait and finally turn around and look for another way down to the river path.
These roads are just tracks in the sand made by the big land rover game vehicles and quite difficult to drive in our car. We have to get around downed branches and big sticks all along the way. We finally make it to the river and it is just beautiful, we see storks, 46054DFB-B766-4774-BF5C-9B8508170F2B.jpegbirds, water bucks, wart hogs and lots of big Elephant. We are around the game vehicles and use them to hide from the herds at some moments, but at other times we are so exposed it is really scary. D97BD940-763B-41E6-860E-CDE21B7B5DCB.jpeg77FCF9EE-15F1-42FC-906B-5D4DE9BA32BF.jpegF7AD5DFE-7A21-4360-B22E-4D98D313198B.jpegDC72B976-334E-4656-9E85-52FC0F2C6EBA.jpegThe Elephants are huge and many, mostly crossing the road are heading to the water, but sometimes they insist on giving us a shout out just to let us know who is boss. And they did a good job. Although we considered driving all along the river as we head toward the Ngoma boarder crossing it would have taken way to long as we would have to wait for the Ellie’s all along the way, so after a while we drove out of the park on the worst sand road ever. Very stressful and somehow we didn’t get stuck as we dodged trees, tall grasses an deep sand up and down and around. It seemed like would would never come out of the trees as we crossed the park, but ultimately we made it back to the A road! Seriously, a big sigh of relief by both of us.
We drove to the Ngoma border crossing into Namibia and it was not well signed, we stopped and signed a book at the first stop, drove over the river then passed a building and got to another stop. Signed another book in a tiny boarder post when they came running to say we missed immigrations! Some discussion ensued and we went back to fill out more forms an get our passports stamped. Except for a stop sign here and there, no other instructional signs were present. Anyway we got our passports stamped and a thumbs up from the guy at the boarder where we had just signed the second book and off we went. Finally we are in Namibia, the adventure continues.
And for a reward here is the gift we received at the end of the day, a quintessential African sunset.D4FFA0B3-C954-4F75-A54F-4F429F6FE3A2.jpeg

Posted by Lauriesam 06:48 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

What Tourists Don’t See in Zimbabwe

The bread basket is empty

sunny 80 °F

Zimbabwe used to be the referred to as the bread basket of Africa, sadly the basket is now empty. Due to complicated politics and the devaluation of the Zim currency in 2000, the economy runs on the US dollar. So if you were a pensioner here, saved money all your life waiting to retire, your savings became worthless practically overnight. Slightly less than one quarter of the population is employed and there is corruption rampant from top to bottom. No middle class left, just the wealthy and the those just trying to get by.
We hopped through the Harare airport, so we didn’t see the town or people. But met a family on the plane who told us waiting for gas for the car for ten or twelve hours was not unusual. That was the first hint. We also knew that all payments or tips should be make in the US dollar.
The camps we stayed at were so remote we did not experience the village life.
But in Victoria Falls we were followed by those trying to sell some crafts or their former currency as a souvenir, the bills were high numbers like 10 million or higher!
Everyone took no for an answer, they tried hard but did leave us alone if we did not engage.
But yesterday we were in the local butcher shop buying the best Biltong I ever tasted, and a women came to the register with a small packet of meat. She asked how much and then asked the owner if he could cut it in half. I was outside, but Allan told the owner he would buy it for her. He asked the price and was told it cost one dollar. He turned to the women and said go get some more, she looked a bit confused, but finally took one more. He said , “ No, get more than that.” She came back with half a dozen or so and gave him many blessings.
I had no idea what happened, but observed a women practically skipping out of the store, spinning her plastic bag to close it tightly.
It is just a glimpse of life in Zimbabwe. No food, no money and no meds in the hospitals.
These are truly beautiful people and the country beautiful beyond belief. I can only hope that after seeing the turn around in Rwanda that there may be hope for the people in Zimbabwe.

Posted by Lauriesam 09:13 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged #culture #africansafari #africanadventure #gamedrives #lovetotravel #adventuretravel #africa #zimbabwe Comments (0)

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