Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shumba means Lion

In the promised land last week, my tour picked up another three Germans who actually need a translator - it's great, because now I get to transfer all my guide's tales and stories into German, and have a purpose in life. Other than washing dishes.

After my last update we headed up North to the Spitzkoppe mountains, and a remote bush camp. No showers, and what we call Plumpsklo in German. The night sky was spectacular, and the mountains stored the day's heat well enough that I decided to sleep outside. I was rewarded with the first moonset of my life, and the most brilliant view of the milky way and Southern sky I've ever seen.

From there on to a traditional Himba tribe village. A project for orphaned children, it's a proper old-school collection of dung-and-termite-dust huts around a cattle kraal, and the women look like out of a history book. They color their skin with ochre to protect it from the sun, and their lower front teeth are knocked out at age 12, because it's their tradition. Makes one appreciate being born in a place like Western Europe. They were friendly though, and bombarded us with questions (in Himba, translated into English by a male guide who went to a regular school and spoke English). About our age, our relationship status, our country of origin. Much to the shagrin of a young American couple on our tour who at the time didn't seem all too sure about their own relationship status...

At the Himba camp, I was advised not to sleep outside unless I wanted goats to lick my face, or mischievous jackals to steal my shoes. So I resorted to my tent. Our main guide Norman on the other hand went and slept on Janis the bus's roof - neat solution.

After a stop in Outjo, a tiny Namibian village with a German bakery, proper pudding Plunder and internet at the premium rate of about 10USD per hour, we headed on to Etosha national park. From my two Zimbabwean guides I learned the Shona words for all the animals we saw - shumba the lion was definitely a highlight, and so were the mzou akanaka, the beautiful elephants we saw mud-bathing at the water hole at night. Plus gnus, zebras, and springbokke galore. Steinboks are actually tiny and look a lot like rabbits, and the birds here have the funniest names. When Norman told me about the African Hoepoe (pronouced "hoopoo") I thought he was kidding, until he showed me the hoepoe's entry in his little birdwatching book.
And giraffes are the funniest sight when they try to drink - they have to sort of spread their legs and slooowly lower their heads; it takes them about 23 seconds to even reach the water!

I went in for the roof-sleeping the first night in Etosha, climbed up the bull bar and made my bed under the stars. Fantastic! Except for the honey badger that made a huge commotion trying to break into our camp site's trash can right around midnight. First I thought it was some drunkard stumbling about, then I realized what was going on, and I started making noise from above until the wild beast decided to give me some peace.

From two nights in the park we headed on to a welcome rest in Windhoek, the pretty tiny and dead capital of Namibia. The biggest highlights were the beds we got to sleep in, the pool at the guest house we stayed at, and the most delectable extra-extra-rare Kudu steak I had at Joe's beer house. Oh, and of course the Schoefferhofer Weizen one of my German passengers, Gert from Dresden, bought for all of us at dinner. Die hat so schoen geprickelt in meine Bauchnabel!

Now we've reached Botswana, a very poor, arid and deserted country full of shrubby trees, cows and donkeys. We're about to head into more or less complete wilderness in the Okavango delta tomorrow morning - hopefully there will be another update soon thereafter.

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