Saturday, March 24, 2007

To the North... Finally!

Well, I finally did it, I made the journey to the north for our Independence weekend which amounted to five days away from school.  Janet, Caroline and I rented a car from a friend and drove up to Ruacana where the famous Ruacana falls are.  It was a truly amazing trip and full of plenty of adventure.  Here's the summary:

Day 1: Driving for 10 hours is fun.

Ruacana falls and the Kunene river.  Truly breath-taking. Here's a cliff-top view of our camp ground just downstream form the waterfall.  It was paradiseSunset at the campground.  There's a mysterious building in the background that looks pretty cool soft light.

It took a while, but we made it to Ruacana after a very long drive.  The only difference between the north and the south in Namibia is two things: trees and water.  We drove through some wetland which were amazing: trees growing out of swamp-like lagoons.  In addition, the trees grew thick and rather tall (10-15 feet) and spread out to the horizon in every direction.  An arid desert.

Some boys tried to sell us a live crab they caught in the river.  They were pretty proud with their hunting skills. The falls from below.  We had a blast swimming in the warm water at the base.There's an old hydro-electric power plant at the base that we explored.  Behind me is the old equipment.  Pretty cool.
Myself, Courtney, Erikka, Caroline and Janet pose in front of the falls.   

Day 2: Swimming and Visiting

From the campground in Ruacana we went to the falls and walked down to the base using the shoot of an abandoned hydro-electric power plant.  Once at the base we found ourselves completely soaked, so we had no problem just jumping in the water.  We found a protected area and lounged in the semi-warm water while taking in the amazing scenery.  It's a moment I'll never forget.

Janet looking out over the Kunene. Me playing on the crane in the power plant.The stairs down to the falls.  There were 505 of them, so says the guy at the camp ground.

After lunch we left for Opuwo, a town a couple hours from south from Ruacana.  There we met up with another volunteer Pat, who arranged a visit to a Himba village outside of Opuwo.  The Himba's live as close to their centries-old traditions as they can.  They live in villages made from sticks and cow dung.  The women wear ochre on their skin at all times.  Going into this village was stepping back in time.

These shelters were built for the goats to protect them from the sun and the rain.. A view of the village with various kids playing outside.  For the most part, everyone in the village seemed very happy.Some Himba.  You can see the women have ochre painted on their skin.  The boys have a single pony tail while the girls have two until they are older, then they get the locks.

We learned that the Himba are relatively nomadic, traveling once every few years depending on water sources.  They heard cattle, sheep and goats and live nearly subsistent.  They make and sell various forms of jewelry including necklaces, bracelets and baskets. 

Janet was painted by one of the Himba women.

We also learned that only women are allowed to wear the ochre on their skins.  We couldn't get a good answer as to why, but we suspect it's as much cosmetic as it is protection from the sun and insects.  The men spend most of their time with the cattle, roaming constantly in search of grazing lands.  They leave the village for as long as five or six months at a time.

The village consisted of perhaps 100 individuals which constituted one family.  They sometimes marry within villages, but more commonly do so between others.  We were shows how they build their houses using a combination of cow dung, mud and water.  The result is as smooth as tile and hard as concrete.  They hold up well to the torrential downpours that can occur in the desert.

This visit, although slightly awkward, we truly amazing.  We brought a gift of food for the village and they in return allowed us to take pictures and ask questions.  I would love to spend a week or two living in a village like this and hope I can make this happen sometime this year.

Day 3: Car Trouble

We had planned on visiting the skepeton coast to camp on the beach and play in some of the ship wrecks but found ourselvs high-tailing it back home once the car started acting up.

We had to clean all the electrical connections every time the car died.  It sucked. Here me, cleaning and Janet, waiting.  At one point we couldn't get it started and I had a moment of panic as we were 60k from the nearest town and literally in the middle of no where.

It started in the morning after a long night of hard rain.  The car just stopped running and would not start.  After several hours of help from various car "mechanics" in the area, we got it running but it ran poorly.  It would die randomly and could not idle for more than a few seconds.  We learned that the problem was due to the moisture and muddy roads.  As we were surrounded by muddy roads, we felt like we may be trapped.  However, I managed to drive it in this condition to the closest town, Kamanjab by keeping the engine between 3,000 and 4,000 RPM's and avoiding water puddles.  It wasn't very fun.

We got back to town Friday night and I was happy to be home and get a nice hot shower in.  Next time I go north, I'll be sure to bring some anti-humidifier for the car.

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