In the footsteps of the San People

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Day 55: Windhoek, Namibia-Sandunes Lodge, Gobabis, Namibia (1 November 2009)

Well, we woke up this morning and just about missed breakfast but boy was it nice to actually sleep in real beds in lieu of those sleeping mats and our trusty sleeping bags. Food and bags were done and as we left Lee, Christine and Carsten waving at the front door of the hotel, we chatted with Maria (who’s allergic to tomato) and Bernardo and met Ian (British aeronautical engineer in the British Royal Air Force) and his wife of a few years Louise (who can‘t eat milk products), a British lawyer living in London…and immediately we were excited to make new friends! Young couples, our age…not something we had found a lot of on this tour so we new the next few days would be really great!

We drove through Windhoek on a quick city tour as we didn’t get to do one yesterday and then we were on our way to Sandunes Lodge, run by a nice man named Andrew. Andrew’s lodge was known as the home of the San People, Bushmen, and Andrew easily communicated with the people who lived in these small villages on the property. We arrived to find beautiful rooms, available wildlife and a possible interaction with the San people. We were introduced to Andrew and his staff over a lovely lunch of chicken (well, not for me) and salad and then we had some time to hang around before we would go to the Bushmen village if we wanted. We relaxed, I did my nails and everyone was kind of enjoying the lazy afternoon before the ride.

Our drive to the Bushmen village was short, but our transportation was the interesting feature of the afternoon. There were two jeeps with some room inside but one had a whole separate seating section on the top; yup, that’s right…we sat on the roof of the car! (this is something to definitely tell your mother after she knows you have all of your limbs after the journey was over) We felt every bump as we drove and gripped onto those bars for dear life; but I have to say that the ride was awesome…scary, but awesome! We drove through the actual bush on sand tracks that were nowhere near close to being considered roads by any stretch of the imagination and then we got out and walked further in the bush after we had parked by a bunch of reeds that again wouldn’t be considered a car park spot by anyone…but it was amazing. We continued to walk through the bush, swatting the flies and mad that even when we asked Paul if we could wear skirts/shorts and thongs he said yes but of course we would have preferred long pants and shoes, and eventually we arrived at what looked like a makeshift village where at least six adults, two teenage boys and a few children were staying in stick-made huts around a man-made fire. They wore very little clothing, stayed in these tee-pee huts, spoke their own language, used old school methods of hunting and trapping animals, were totally nomadic, played with sticks, drank out of ostrich eggs and sang and danced for us as Andrew translated our conversations. They demonstrated how they lived, how they trap animals and how to make a poison to place on the end of the arrow, how to make jewelry out of ostrich eggs (they put some pieces in the fire to get a different color for the necklaces but they were all created from the same shell) and altogether how they lived. When a very young boy (less than two) kept grabbing for Gayle’s water and she wouldn’t give it to him I gave him ours. His eyes lit up and he was ecstatic. He needed help lifting the bottle and the water dribbled down right onto his bare belly which you could see growing bigger with every sip he would take. He was adorable. Those big eyes looking up at me as he drank and then he attached himself to my leg when he was done and I had wiped his belly of the extra water. Andrew told us later that the reason he had trouble with the water bottle and tipping it and holding it was because he was used to drinking out of ostrich eggs which were a completely different entity altogether.

When our visit was over, after we attempted (poorly) to shoot the arrow to a target but got a good laugh out of it, we waved goodbye, jumped back on our dangerous seats perched high atop the jeeps and were back at the lodge just in time for dinner. Dinner was lamb on a spit and I chose not to join the others as not only was it too difficult for me to see the lamb but the awful noise of the cutting in the back just ripped right through me. Paul said that it certainly was not the first time that someone had chosen not to join this dinner and Andrew generously made me a separate vegetarian dish of the best pad thai I had in all of Africa and had it brought to the room for me. Not only was the food out of this world but the service was so sweet. I finished eating and brought my empty plate to the kitchen and joined everyone else for ice cream as they had finished eating as well. After witnessing another amazing African sunset on our journey home and the great food for dinner, we thanked Andrew and headed for bed as tomorrow was a long driving day to Maun after a bit of time on the bus.

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Namibia-a place I never knew I’d absolutely fall in love with and want to journey to again and again. It is so very easy to comprehend Angelina Jolie’s love for these beautiful people and this gorgeous land. I’ve learned so much on this part of our journey, things you couldn’t learn in a book or even on television but things you had to see and experience on your own, with your own eyes and your own heart. Things that made you feel deep in your soul and changed your view of the world and the things there are to do and the people there are to meet. Everyone we interacted with was wonderful and so incredibly genuine. Their land and way of life might be different to that of our own but it has merit and benefits beyond your wildest dreams. Each person we met seems to truly enjoy his or her life to the fullest and not take any day for granted, a lesson that is not taken lightly. I can’t wait to come back to Namibia, there is just so much peace and beauty here to experience and it gets into your soul and deep into your heart.

Tomorrow: Botswana!

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