Breath of fresh air

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
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Trip End Oct 25, 2010


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Where I stayed
Camp Monteiro

Flag of Botswana  ,
Friday, October 1, 2010

A new morning, and, as more often than not, we are taking down our tents at the crack of dawn. Only once did we spend 2 nights at the same place, but we are covering great distances so many hours are spent in the truck. Sometimes to my regret, but you can't have it both ways.

By now we are quite well trained, though the tents are heavy and not very sofisticated. We are all responsible for carrying our own stuff around and take turns helping Katie out.
Breakfast is rushed, eaten standing in the dark. Sometimes I feel like a soldier in some foreign desert.
No-one's had a proper night's sleep and many will nap on the road. I'll be writing wobbly words.

We are just now coming into Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Not safe at night or on your own, taxis can be dangerous. Well, our camp is 20 km outside of town and we are just dropping off some fellow passengers whose adventure ends here. We will return later, dinner out, great. Katie does a good job but cooking on a budget in challenging circumstances has its limitations.
Eddie is now telling us: 'Don't show anyone that you are a tourist.' Funny bugger. There is nothing more obvious.

Our camp somehow lifts my spirits, at first I don't know why. It's nice but not spectacular. Then it dawns on me; it has green-leafed plants, little circles of white stones round the bottom, flowers, blue and purple in the trees. Some houses can be seen from our hill, a road, trainrails - all signs of civilisation.
That's odd - isn't this what I wanted to get away from? But I can't help feeling comforted some how.

We had a pleasurable evening, we bid farewell to our Spanish travellers, sorry to see them go, they had become our friends. Hugo, Nudia and Isbel - we would miss those guys.
The French girl, Cecelia left earlier, the German couple continuing their journey by car, a new German couple ready to join us.
Next morning a too hasty visit to Windhoek where we badly needed to catch up on our banking, shopping and internet. We had 1 hour, which was cutting it a bit short. Took three bank visits to get sorted, but the internet cafe was marvellous, modern and relatively fast. I had my travelpod entries ready on a UBS stick, so just plug it in and ja, nothing. Simply nothing on it.
I was well and truly pissed having been sweating over Eddie's laptop on a very hot afternoon. And Alice had checked and double checked, I know I am useless when it comes to technology.
Damn.

We had to push on, a very long drive ahead + a border crossing that can take any amount of time.

It is now the next day, Saturday October 2nd (sorry about the chronology,) back in the truck and heading for Maun. It is hot. Again.
Last night Alice and I upgraded and opted for straw huts. Not just for the experience but the luxury of not having to bother with the tents. 5$ well spent, just wonderful.
But the really, really wonderful thing was watching the bushmen dance by the fire at night and going for a walk with them in the morning.
The dancing and chanting was telling us the stories of hunting, animals, sickness or just for fun. The men danced, the women and children sitting by the fire clapping and singing. The clothing, the movement of the feet, the clapping - such unfamiliar rhythms, hard to follow though I tried - all absolutely fascinating.
It was a joy to witness, making me giddy and happy.
But what about the Himba tribe? I felt so strongly about their plight.
And so I did and do but this was something completely different.

The San live 300 km from the campsite. They travel here to demonstrate their dances like any other folkdance group might do in other parts of the world.
They are happy and proud to do so and after the show the audience does not follow them to their homes or invade their lives, nor ask impertinent questions. The artists are admired for their talents and treated with respect we show our dancers in Europe.
We are not made to feel responsible for them, they are paid for their performance, a reasonable price, agreed beforehand, so we are not randomly passing out tips and hand-outs.
No begging, no children tugging at bags and pockets.

During our walk our guide talks about the use of plants, roots, seeds etc. Often medicinal. And a teenager told us how alcohol and school corrupted them. School corrupts? Hmm. In general I believe education to be a useful and powerful tool but in this case I couldn't see the point of the kids learning algebra, french, history and the likes. How useful would that be? They have their own history, values and traditions, stories and medicines.
Can't see why any of us should try and improve their lives.

We are not all the same and nothing will stay the same. And why should it? It's the way of the world.
But I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet the San people like this -  like a breath of fresh air in the dry and dusty desert.
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