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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  their own culture, 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,

 

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