Namibia, which we came to after a 6 hour drive up the road from Cape Town, is my favorite African country of the six we visited. Wild, open and simply ravishing to the photographer’s eyes.
Namibia became a free, separate country, breaking away from South Africa in 1990 – four years before the end of apartheid in South Africa. Namibia was a political football at the end of WWI. The Germans lost as you recall and they lost on the continent of Africa as well. Namibia, was from 1884 to 1915 known as German South-West Africa and the native people suffered like the Aztecs in Mexico or the Incas in Peru – they were conquered by a handful of Europeans with modern firearms. It must be said that it doesn’t seem South Africa was terribly interested in extending its territory over Namibia.
Between 1904 and 1907 the Herero and Namaqua people took up arms against the Germans and in a bit of breathtaking brutality ended in the expulsion from German SW Africa of those peoples and their decimation in what is known as the Herero and Namaqua Genocide.
“Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot” – Lt. General Lothar von Trotha, commander of German forces. Who would have known what happened in this far away corner of the world? Not I.
It ended with the loss of 50-70% of populations of the Herero and Namaqua. The survivors of the Battle of Waterburg (ironically) were driven into the deathly dryness of the Kalahari desert to perish. Some survived and made it to British territory where they were given asylum on the grounds that they lay down their arms. Check that link out and the picture at the top: holocaust redux.
We will visit Orange River and paddle our canoes, Goegap where strange plants are silhouetted against the Namibian sky, the Fish River Canyon which looks like the Grand Canyon, White Lady where we will be chased by elephants, Sossus and Dead Vleis for the most photogenic spot in Africa, Dune 45 (tallest in the world, so I am told – I knew as much about dune heights as the Waterburg massacre), the German bakery at the ends of the earth in Solitaire, the cape fur seals along the coast (smelly, but you are protected), and Swakopmund where we unwind in a cabin with hot, running water in a room just off the bedroom almost like home. We will also pay visits to Etosha (you may have seen the National Geographic or Nature specials on public broadcast. Etosha is a very special place and home to the “big 5” which will be explained in detail. Finally, before exiting Namibia for Botswana we will pay a visit to the vast Etosha Pan and learn what the word endorheic means. The Etosha Pan, you will be pleased to know, is similarly king-sized: bigger than the state of New Jersey or the country of Isralel. Bet you never heard of it.
Namibia, in addition to being very dry is second only to Mongolia as the least populated country on earth. I wouldn’t have known that earlier but after driving its length and breadth, it’s easy to believe. Namibia is one of the only places in Africa where wildlife runs free. No fences that the wildlife cared about, no national parks to protect them, not many people to harass/hunt them.
Etosha, it must be admitted is the kind of African side-show that we came to know and appreciate. It’s nature distilled, on the rocks, attracted (by water) and fenced in for your touristic pleasure. Don’t get me wrong: the continent is much better off for all that. We crossed great expanses of Botswana, Zambia, Malawi (the entire country is devoid of wildlife), and Tanzania. There is nothing, nothing, nothing outside the parks: or almost nothing. Occasionally a vervet monkey sidles up to you looking for some Velveeta or Marmite but other than that, nothing, nada, zip.Come along! The flat tire is fixed and we are ready to roll