Africa still muddles my mind. I’m happy but also a bit out of place. Seeing the first wild animals the previous night and the gorgeous campsite at Hobatere were pure endorphin.
We get up early enough to see the sun rise over the savanna – beautiful. The weather is crisp and a heavy wind (going on all night already) make preparing breakfast more difficult than usual. Since we take our time and watch birds that we feed with chunks of apple we need to hurry cleaning up and putting the tent down. We have a long day ahead of us, all the way to the Namibia/Angola border to Epupa Falls.
Along the way we drive through Opuwo the “capital” of the Kunene region. Stefan the guide calls Opuwo a shithole (Drecksnest in German). I don’t find it charming either and I guess the town has got two faces, at least. I’m glad that I come across the mayor’s Christmas message only after I return home otherwise I would really have expected a prospering town. Opuwo suffers from the usual “side-effects” when strong tradition in rural African areas clash with the 21st century western culture: poverty, neglect, prostitution, crime and alcohol abuse. On the other hand there a few pretty logdes for tourists in the vicinity. Mobile phones and traditional Himba co-exist next to each other.
Pumping gas becomes an ordeal because we’re once again surrounded by groups of kids and young men. No all of them are friendly looking in my opinion. My western need for security is being probed. Marga gets herself into trouble with (self-declared?) army officer because she takes pictures of an old and rusty army truck without asking for permission. The heat builds up but the spark doesn’t jump and we get a away unharmed.
Shopping is a little easier. At the parking we pick 5 “security guards” out of a group of some 20 kids for our three Land Rovers. We “pay” each one with a can of Coke. On the recommendation of Marga & Stefan we buy corn flour, sugar and bags of Bic ballpoint pens in the super market to give away to Himbas.
In Opuwo the tarred road ends. For the next 10 days gravel roads, some better, some worse, will be our constant companions. Namibia’s north-west is Himba-country. They, too, will become companions in that if we see people at all, they’ll most likely be Himbas. They wave from the dusty shoulders of the gravel roads when we pass them. From time to time we stop and donate a bag of corn flour or something similar. Otherwise all we leave behind is a giant dust trail. Some of the Himbas yell at us angrily if we don’t stop. I can’t really hold it against them as we’re invading their territory to a certain extent. Looking negatively at the whole development one could say that every safari car that travels these roads adds to the deterioration of their culture.
It definitely isn’t a good sign that even the small kids a long the road claim that taking photos isn’t free: “No photo, $10” they demand (10 Namibian dollars are about 1.3 US $). A herder boy tells Akik0: “Give me your shoes.” They ask for “sweets” and “pen” as a pen makes them look educated and hides their illiteracy.
The gravel road seems endless, Epupa Falls seems light years away. It was too ambitious to drive all the way from Hobatere to Epupa in one day. It’s certainly doable we you rush it but we’re on vacation and stopping every now and then is more than just a mere necessity. When we finally arrive at Epupa the best spots at the campsite are already occupied, of course. With a bit of luck we manage to squeeze two Land Rovers next to each other and Marga’s & Stefan’s next to our adjacent neighbors. There’s only enough time for a quick stroll around before it gets dark around quarter past six.
At Epupa there are three options in terms of accommodation: the Epupa Lodge, the Omarunga Camp (tented camp), and the campsite next to the camp. For African means Epupa is quite green thanks to the water of the Kunene river. Palm trees grow along the river and the climate is mild even in July (i.e. African winter) which means that it’s comfortably warm in the tent at night. In summer, however, it’s 40° C. The campsite is well equipped, the sanitary installations are quite new, the showers are romantic (again, no-roof-starred-sky-showering) and they even practice waste separation.
Also, if you have cloths that need cleaning I recommend you let the locals here do that (ask at the campsite). They earn a few bucks extra and you’ll experience that cloths even get clean when washed in the river with nothing but plain soap. Plus, it’s very reasonable even if you tip them generously. You fill a bag with cloths and agree on the “flat-rate” price.