More Himbas, Hereros and Dancing

April 25. In the morning, after breakfast, we return to the Himba village we visited yesterday.  As we walk around the village, we learn more about Himba culture and customs, see the chief sit by the sacred fire, lit twice a day and forming a line with the entrance and where the cattle are that cannot be crossed (we have special permission), enter a hut where a woman is burning a kind of incense that creates a perfume  as she applies material to color her skin a reddish brown (feels like a sauna), buy some things at the store to support community members and visit with the women and children in the village (the men are off tending the cattle).
From the village, we go to the big city (not) of Puros, which has no streets.  Boys are playing soccer in an open area and Hereros women dressed in colorful, daily costumes that must be very hot are sitting with babies in the shade of a tree.  We happen into a church ( a simple square room with benches and a ceiling made of canvas), where a minister is christening three babies, who are with their mothers and a couple other women.  The minister speaks English and is quite chatty.  He invites to,return to,take photos after the service tomorrow.  On the way out of Puros, we pass the Manchester United bar.  The Himbas are big English soccer fans.   
We return to the lodge for a couple hours, before returning to,the Himba village for late afternoon photos, a group photo of all of us with Himba villagers and then to watch very energetic dances by the firelight, involving the chief, village women and even a few children.  Much of it appears to be improvised.
After the dancing, we return to the lodge for an excellent dinner and the retire after a very long, 16- hour day.

Welcome to Himba Land

Friday, April 24​​.  After breakfast we transfer to the Lodge’s Airstrip where we board a light aircraft flight to Puros.  The flight requires a stop for refueling and door-to-door lasts some four hours. There we are met by our safari guides (who have brought our specialist safari vehicles up from Windhoek, along with luggage we left there, which includes my Nikon with 300mm lens) and transferred to Okahirongo Elephant Lodge located inside the Puros Conservancy where we will stay for three nights along the banks of the ephemeral Hoarusib River, under the shade of towering camel thorn and Ana trees. 
Okahirongo Elephant Lodge is located in the Kaokoland, often described as one of the last truly wild areas in the northwest of Namibia, where elephants, black rhinos, lions and other African animals live in a desert environment. The luxurious accommodations are comprised of 7 double cottages and one suite with two double rooms and private lounge. All the chalets have their private gazeboes.  The only problem with the rooms is they are quite hot, with only one fan and less than ideal ventilation.  Otherwise, they are quite lovely and beautifully situated, and the large outdoor shower is a definite treat.

After lunch, we drive to a Himba village, spotting some birds and a family of giraffes en route.  Unlike the hunter/gatherer Bushmen, the Himbas raise cattle (though none are in sight).  The village is in a coral-like setting and is much smaller than the Bushmen area.  The chief, who sits by a “holy fire” and is guided in his actions by ancestors is the only male in sight.  The women are all young enough to be child-bearing, and many children play in the area.  Once again, Nevada distributes many photos she has taken from a prior trip.  People are friendly and willing to be photographed, which we do for several hours, taking advantage of the late afternoon light and a lovely sunset enhanced by a cloudy sky.  Unfortunately, again, I am unable to include photographs.
The Himba, Tjimba and other Herero-speaking people who inhabit Namibia’s remote northwestern Kunene Region are loosely referred to as the Kaokovelders. Basically Herero in terms of origin, language and culture, they are semi-nomadic pastoralists who tend to tend from one watering place to another. They seldom leave their home areas and maintain, even in their own, on which other cultures have made little impression. For many centuries they have lived a relatively isolated existence and were not involved to any noteworthy extent in the long struggle for pasturelands between the Nama and the Herero.

 

The largest group of Kaokovelders is the Himba, semi-nomads who live in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. They are a tall, slender and statuesque people, characterized especially by their proud yet friendly bearing. The women especially are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment that protects their skins against the harsh desert climate. The homes of the Himba of Kaokoland are simple, cone-shaped structures of saplings, bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. The men build the structures, while the women mix the clay and do the plastering. A fire burns in the headman’s hut day and night, to keep away insects and provide light and heating.

 

A family may move from one home to another several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle. Men, women and children wear body adornments made from iron and shell beads. A Himba woman spends as much as three hours a day on her toilette. First she bathes, then she anoints herself with her own individually prepared mixture not only protects her skin from the harsh desert sun, but also keeps insects away and prevents her body hair from falling out. She uses another mixture of butterfat, fresh herbs and black coals to rub on her hair, and ‘steams’ her clothes regularly over the permanent fire. Men, women and children adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets, anklets and belts made from iron and shell beads. With their unusual and striking designs, these items have gained a commercial value and are being produced on a small scale for the urban market. Sculptural headrests in particular are sought-after items.

We return to the lodge for an excellent dinner.  Our group is very convivial, and, happily, there are no “losers” to be avoided (though others, who have a more objective view of this blogger, may disagree.  We return to the cottage for what turns out to be a very warm night,

 

Another day with the Bushmen

Thursday, April 23.  (STIL UNABLE TO DOWNLOAD PHOTOS)This morning we took a 31/4 hour walk around the area in which the lodge is located with two Bushmen and Arno, the owner of our lodge, who is very knowledgable about Bushmen practices.  The walk was fascinating, exposing us to various activities and experiences based around the daily lifestyle and tasks of the !Nhoq’ma community, including skills such as fire making, rope making, setting of traps for birds and antelope, as well as lesser known hunting skills with, for example, the springhare probe. Bush food, water roots, and medicines are pointed out and  collected.
After a leisurely lunch and rest period, we walk back to the village and wandered around to photograph more.  This does not sound like such an exciting activity, but actually seeing unscripted glimpses of village life is quite fascinating.  The number of true hunter/gathere communities in the world is quite few, and it’s a privilege to experience one firsthand.  We buy a few gifts from an unattended shop to help support the community.
We have a leisurely dinner with good conversation and plenty of drink, including a local liqueur similar to Baileys, called Amarullo.  One of the guides hears elephants and we wander down in the dark in an attempt to get closer, but no luck.
In the end, the itinerary summary of our two days with the Bushmen proved quite accurate:  The stereotype image of the San (This is the generic name for the Bushman peoples living in this area of Bushmanland – including the Ju-hoan communities around Nhoq’ma) will be replaced by a realistic view of the San and the problems they are facing, but also with appreciation for their skills and knowledge lost by modern man. This is only possible due to the limited number of visitors facilitating individual attention, the location of the camp close to the village, the remoteness and wildness of the surrounding area, the natural friendliness and spontaneity of the community and the impromptu activities.  

Technical difficulties

Just wanted to report that all is well, but having trouble not only uploading photos, but accessing stuff I’ve written.  Will send more when/if I solve this.  On the positive side, the trip is great.

Meeting the Bushmen

Wednesday April 22​​  After breakfast this morning, we were transferred to Eros Airport in Windhoek where we met our pilot for the 2-hour flight to the Tsumkwe region, previously known as Bushmanland. We left in three planes, each carrying three guests and a pilot.  Flying over rather barren, uninteresting terrain, with occasional bumps or drops, with another of our planes sometimes barely off of our tail, we landed at Nhoma’s airstrip, where we were met and transferred to the Nhoma Safari Camp.

 Nhoma Safari Camp is a semi-luxury tented camp situated in the northeast of Namibia within the communal land of the Ju/’hoan Bushmen or San, 80 km northwest of Tsumkwe. The camp is spread over a vegetated dune with views over the Nhoma omuramba (fossil river bed) and is a short walk from the Ju/’hoan village by the name of //Nhoq’ma (no, this spelling does not contains typos). Guests are accommodated in spacious meru style walk-in tents with private verandahs. The safari tents, shaded by large Zambezi teak trees, provide the basic luxuries such as comfortable beds and en-suite bathroom with hot water. At the highest point of the dune is the thatched dining area where wholesome meals are served buffet style. The camp is owned and was built by Arno Oosthuisen (a convivial fellow who was one of the people who picked us up at the airstrip) with the help of the //Nhoq’ma community with whom he has had an exclusive working agreement since 1999. Tourism allows the community to earn cash in order to buy food and supplies not provided by the surrounding environment. Without tourism, the community may have left their ancestral land and moved to settled areas such as Tsumkwe.
After being taken to our comfortable camp and taking a very short breather, we went for a buffet lunch at the thatched dining area, and talked about what we would see when we walked over to the village that afternoon.  Met back at the main tent at 3PM for the 5-minute walk down a sandy road to //Nhoq’ma.  The village has about 100 people, including the children who are on school vacation from their school 30 kms away.  Fabulous opportunity to see the people of the village, who were quite welcoming, but went on about living their lives.  Nevada had brought hundreds of prints from photos she’d taken last year and people were thrilled to see them.  This generous gesture I’m sure opened people up greatly to us, though I think they’d have been welcoming anyway.
Spent a wonderful couple hours wandering around, taking photos, watching them feed their children, make jewelry, create fire from rubbing sticks, children and adults playing games and doing dances, none of which was being done for our benefit.  The area was large enough for all of us to walk around without getting in each other’s way while taking photos.  We returned for an excellent dinner of kudu, very tender, then walked back to the village to watch and photograph people doing healing dances, again not being done for us, as they started well before we arrived and were not affected by our presence.  I did not know what the hell,I was doing in photographing at night with a tripod, and my photos confirm that.  Below is an assortment of photos from a great day.

 
 (NOTE: HAVING PROBLEM LOADING PHOTOS, WILL TRY TO FIX)