Monday, 7 March 2016

Swakopmund, Namibia

More tales from my African adventure of 2010:
The Oryx - the national animal of Namibia

We travel through spectacular scenery on the way to Swakopmund, spotting exotic animals along the way including the solitary and handsome oryx, the national animal of Namibia. We stop for photographs at The Tropic of Capricorn and pass through vast mountain ranges of striated rock.  Way out in the middle of nowhere in a lonely and desolate canyon a couple of German men hid out during the second world war to avoid internment by the British.  I have no idea how they survived in this arid and hostile landscape but survive they did and wrote of their experiences in a book called The Sheltering Desert, a fascinating account of endurance and self sufficiency. Until I arrived in Namibia I had no idea that it was so scenically stunning, so vast, so empty.
It was in this area the Germans hid out - wild and desolate

Thousands of flamingos at Walvis Bay
We stop at Walvis Bay to admire the large flamingo colony and the lavish homes along the foreshore before  a long, tedious trip through a flat golden desert, the wind spinning the sand  into whirls. At last we arrive in Swakopmund and our accommodation - a hotel with real beds and showers and...well, you get the picture!  We are delighted and all dive into the showers.  What bliss!

Endless straight roads through swirling sand
In the afternoon we are taken for a tour of the shanty town on the outskirts of the city.  Many of the houses are built from cardboard, scraps of iron, plastic and timber but the streets are all tidy and litter free. It is very humbling to see people live this way, however, the government is endeavoring to improve things by constructing small tidy houses on the edge of the shanty town. There is a very long waiting list for one.
The "Township" Swakopmund

We call in at the home of a woman from the Damara tribe.  She is dressed in the rather quaint costume Damara women have adopted, based on 19th century German dress, including a hat shaped like cow horns, in honour of the tribe's love of cattle. It is a cultural requirement that women of the tribe speak in a soft low voice, almost a whisper, so our guide repeats her answers to our questions. She takes us on a tour of her tiny but very neat house and then offers to dress some of us in Damara dress as a surprise for the rest of our group.
With a Damara tribes woman -  We dress in the tribal costume.  I'm far right

 Our next stop is at the home of the Damara chief, a tiny, gracious,wizened old lady of 85. She sits in her living room answering questions interpreted through her nephew, Beadle, while children and grand children saunter backwards and forwards through the house. Beadle is a large, beaming young man with an impressive head of plaits.  We are all transfixed by their unique clicking language.

Proud of his gift of a pencil

As we walk around the township we are greeted  warmly be everyone we pass while children run around us playing tag and rolling around like puppies.  We give them gifts of pencils.  They are so thrilled you would think it was a million dollars and we are quietly ashamed of the affluence of the West. At the local shanty bar we enjoy a refreshing drink and listen to some cool, funky African music as locals come and go. I enjoy watching a loose limbed young man dancing to the beat and could have stayed watching him for hours.  In a small thatched hut beside the bar we are served a traditional meal of cold maize porridge, beans, chicken, spinach and roast caterpillars, yes, roast caterpillars!  I tried them to be polite, but won't again! Finally some children put on a short but enthusiastic dance display for us in a narrow, dusty alleyway.  It has been a brilliant tour, so sobering, so informative, so humbling.  We overcome our feelings of intrusion once we are told that tourism is vital to the township's economy and highly valued by the residents.

There are some good examples of the Namibian Click language on Youtube.