Sunday, November 20, 2011

Namibia and the Skeleton Coast - Oct/Nov 2011

In October 2011, Kit and I took a month-long tour around Namibia and South Africa with Overseas Adventure Travel. Namibia is a little-known (at least to those in the U.S. country directly above South Africa on the western coast of Africa. It's a relatively new country, dating from 1990, and has been occupied by the British, Germans, and South Africa during its history.

You can click any of the photos to see them larger. When you get to the bottom of the page, click "older posts" to keep going on the trip in chronological order.

Here's our motley crew; Kit is the third person from the left, for those of you who've heard lots about her, but never met her:

And our redoubtable guides, Rudy !Naibab and Ludmilla Beukes showed us all there was to see and made the trip so wonderful; Ludmilla is a seasoned Namibian guide, but she's new to OAT, so was with us to see how Rudy does it. You can read a bit about Rudy in this National Geographic article.

Our first stop was the 1907 Christus Kirche (Christ Church), an artefact of the German occupation of Namibia, which was once called German Southwest Africa. It's a source of some controversy because only the names of German casualities of the settlement wars are posted on the walls. There's some sentiment for tearing it down since it's a reminder of painful times.

Windhoek - Gardens

These are the beautiful gardens fronting Tintenpalast, the old Parliament building in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Those of you who know me well know to expect lots of photos of plants...
The drive is lined with alternating purple and white jacaranda:

I never did find out what this beautiful tree is, but I regret there were no seed pods on the tree for me to bring home:

You get a lovely view of the Christus Kirche across the gardens:

A bronze cast statue of the Herero chief, Hosea Kutako, who was best known for his vociferous opposition to the South African rule:

Parliament building

Built in 1913 as the administrative headquarters for German South-West Africa. The name Tintenpalast means 'Ink Palace', in honor of all the ink spent on the typically excessive government paperwork it generated.
The exterior has beautiful metal decorations that show many of the birds and animals in Nambia. Click each of the next two photos to enlarge them and see how many you can identify:

Our next stop was Katatura, which means “the place no one wants to live,” to which the native population was forcibly removed in 1961 in order to build the downtown business district. The majority of Windhoek’s half-million population lives there today. In the market, we saw this woman weaving a basket with her son in her arms:

Typical market display of beans and, in the foreground, mopane worms, the caterpillar of a moth that is fond of mopane trees; it's a major source of protein for indigenous peoples, esp. in the northern part of Namibia. And no, it doesn't taste like chicken... Someone described its taste as being " like seasoned cardboard with a definite hint of timber," which pretty much covered it for me. I imagine it's an acquired taste.

The market includes butcher stalls, so there's plenty of meat being barbecued nearby on the "braai," or grill.

A Herero woman we saw at the market, wearing the typical Victorian-era dress and headdress of the Herero. The Herero peoples were yet-another object of German genocide beginning in 1904:

Penduka and farewell to Windhoek

Our next, and final, stop in Windhoek was Penduka, which means "wake up," a women’s workshop where they do embroidery, batik, beadwork, pottery, sewing, and glass beads from broken bottles. They've decorated the exterior of one of the buildings with wonderful paintings:
Here are some samples of their batik, which is done with a flour paste, not wax.
We d luncheon on a man-made lake run by Penduka and all the staff turned out to do a little dancing, drumming and singing for us.
Naturally the first thing that caught my eye at the airport was this wonderful and weird succulent tree:
Our chariot for the flight to the Kulala wilderness:

...but we had to wait until this odd little craft took off ahead of us...


The view from the air coming in doesn't really prepare you for the beautiful Kulala landscape. Bushmen called this area "The Land God Made in Anger," and Portuguese sailors weren't much kinder, referring to it as "The Gates of Hell."
As you can see, though, it wouldn't seem to merit those epithets; it's really quite beautiful, in a stark sort of way.

There were good rains in the fall (our spring), so the Bushman's grass is thick in most places.

Kulala Wilderness Camp

The Kulala Wilderness Lodge is set right up against some hills in the Kulala park. As you can see, there's a main lodge and individual tent/cabins:

Our home for three nights. The stone portions of the structures are the bathrooms, while the rest is thatch-roofed tent:

The staff greeted us with song!

Our lovely spacious room with its wooden floors and mosquito-netted beds:

The "loo with a view"

All the bathrooms have a large picture window in front of the toilet for idle musings while looking over the plain:

More Kulala landscape

There are fairy circles in this park area; no one knows what causes them, but you see them dotted around everywhere and nothing grows in them

A beautiful end to the day:

The Namib-Naukluft Desert

At 55 million years, the Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world. It gets less than .04" of rain a year, so most of its animals rely on dew and underground rivers that come to the surface occasionally for moisture. Its dunes are spectacular and stretch many miles inland from the sea. Some dunes are a thousand feet high and largely stationary. A few hardy souls rose very early to see them from a hot air balloon:

We had a high thin cloud cover the morning we went, so the shadows on the dunes at sunrise were not so dramatic as they might have been, but still quite beautiful. Notice the grazing oryx in this first one: