We rolled on through dry, empty, beautiful and bleak Namibia in Benji – the 19 of us. Sixteen travelers, most of whom had been to Africa before and Chiyemi and I. One other American, M, a fine photographer from Minnesota. I think four Aussies, four Swedes, one German, one displaced Brit living in New Zealand and three from Great Britain. Mixed lot with mostly 40+ age group, which surprised us a bit. We’d heard stories of the gap-year booze and cruise Africa tours. Not that way.
Africa in Focus, bless their thoughtful little hearts sent us the over 60 questionnaire which asked such things as:
“1: Conditions can sometimes get a bit annoying on these trips, although we do our utmost to give you a comfortable and trouble-free tour. The climate (both hot or quite cold, and pretty wet (only) in the rainy season) can sometimes make life on our mobile camping safaris a bit trying. Dust and some dirty jobs are part of the life that you must expect, although again we almost always stop at campsites with good ablution facilities.
Could you cope with these conditions and enjoy the experience?”
Could I cope with a questionnaire this stupid? Perhaps… here’s another 60+ question (and I know the company meant only to let us know that this wasn’t going to be the Hilton Hotel we were staying in but a truck with tents).
5: Some of the group you will be traveling with may have a rather younger lifestyle. Could you adjust to this and still enjoy the experience?
Repulsing the impulse to snap back in my normal 68 year-old crotchety way, I read on…
Question 5 continues:
“• Some members of our groups often like to sit and drink, or have modest parties, around the camp fire until quite late into the night. Will this annoy you, if you do not wish to join in”
Only if you’re really stingy with the bottle, Charlie! Perhaps I’m just sensitive to questions?
“8: We will be traveling through some areas that are pretty remote, often with no communication to the outside world – although we are unique in that we carry a cell-phone and laptop computer for contact and e-mail! Facilities and backup may be very basic or non-existent. Could this be a problem to you?”
What’s a cell-phone? You really should be asking this of the 20 somethings, shouldn’t you? Us geezers have hardly ever seen a computer let alone be annoyed by its absence.
Enough carping. We visited the seals along the coast where the desert runs right up to the shore. Jackals will eat the young pups if they get a chance though these were all a bit older.
The only story worth mentioning was at the White Lady Camp where several of us took the optional “elephant ride” out through the countryside a few miles from camp to a dry riverbed where the elephants come to drink – this is Namibia after all and water is at a premium. You can see our stakebed truck with bench seats and a ladder to get in AND OUT. The elephants were reluctant at first but one finally trotted by. Not at all like the nearly tame elephants of Chobe and Etosha who would be much more used to vehicles and gawking tourists. This one was clearly not of a mind to stop for a peanut.
We found a pair of females later, maybe this same one jogging by, me not being an elephant id expert. The driver said we could get down and get closer for a photo of the two in the riverbed behind our truck. G and M were quicker (and younger) than yours truly and got off, approached the two elephants, getting maybe 50 feet from them before one of the elephants took exception to the over-friendliness. This was just as I was getting off.
She bleated fearfully and ran after our two intrepid men who had been happily taking pictures. I thought you weren’t supposed to run but maybe that is just for rhinoceros? No time to speculate – I got back on first and with surprising quickness, so did M followed closely by G. Just about then another group of elephants crossed the road in front of us.
Nice! We’re trapped between two groups of elephants, if they want to have their way with us. Imagining being tromped by elephants. Look at the truck picture below. That’s not what you want between you and an elephant.
That night we were entertained by the locals, singing and dancing. I don’t think they even had a CD! Everyone else from the region showed up, too including some kids. I handed out some of my first Obama “badges” (what the British empire call buttons). I’d brought a hundred or so for souvenirs and they were appreciated from South Africa to Tanzania.
The reddish colored women below belong to a group called the Himba and it’s interesting to read about them in Wikipedia. Both their bathing habits (they don’t use water but a special kind of dust) and their religion are notable and to readers, probably, a bit odd. Himba Wikipedia
Also you will see ladies rather more heavily dressed in bright cotton fabric with wide, horizontal headpieces or hats. These are the Herero (those nearly exterminated by Lothar von Trotha and his Prussian military. The Herero are Christians and are interesting as well: Herero Wikipedia.
Below the mid-Namibia gallery. Don’t forget you can click on images to enlarge them.