The First Rain

Tuesday

On Tuesday we left the natural wonders of Etosha National Park and headed south more than 400 kms to Windhoek, the Capitol of Namibia and the nation’s largest city (estimated population, a whopping 200,000).

We arrived in the center of town at 3:30 in the afternoon and we were allotted nearly two hours to run errands and pick up supplies. Tarynne and I elected to spend the time in an Internet cafe so we could post our last blog entry. With the exceptionally slow African Internet, this took almost all of our two hour stop.

With our blog entry posted and a few additional supplies (Tarynne got a new toy, a neon pink soccer ball) we climbed back into the truck and drove about 15 minutes outside of town to our campsite.

Once we all pitched our tents, we showered and dressed up for a night on the town. You see, it was a special occasion because two of our traveling comrades were leaving the trip so we had to celebrate with them on their last night.

Prosper arranged a pair of taxi buses to pick us up and take us into town to Joe’s Beer House for dinner.

Joe’s Beer House is an awesome outdoor/indoor restaurant with a gravel floor, central koi pond and a fire pit. To Tarynne’s uncontrollable excitement, there was also a bottomless supply of peanuts available at the bar.

For dinner I ordered a cheeseburger (I’m ordering a burger in every country in search of the world’s best burger), but we also sampled a selection of game meat including zebra, springbok and crocodile. It turns out springbok is absolutely delicious. From now on when we see a springbok, all we’re going to see are delicious dinner plates bounding through the savanna.

After dinner we stuck around the bar drinking and socializing with the group before whipping back to camp at midnight in our taxi buses.

Wednesday – Botswana

On Wednesday we were on the road by 7 a.m. cruising toward the Namibia – Botswana border.

After a quick lunch stop we arrived at the border at noon and without much trouble our entire group made it through immigration and into the third country of our trip.

As we traveled down the highway deeper into Botswana the landscape began to turn from flat golden brown to rolling hills with green flatlands in between.

Approximately two hours after crossing the border we arrived at the Ghanzi Trailblazers campsite, which is located on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. The camp is positioned very near a tribe of San/Bushman who we were scheduled to meet the following morning.

Upon our arrival at camp we set up our tents and the majority of the group sat around resting from the long day of travel.

Of course since Tarynne and I are more like 12 year-olds than 26 year-olds, we were restless from the long drive and decided to explore the area.

After a short investigation and a brief chat with one of the locals we discovered there was a swimming hole in a quarry about 4 kms from camp. Feeling fat from all of the truck rides and the lack of exercise during the last four weeks, we decided to leave the group and run to the swimming hole.

The run was a little bit more than we bargained for because the “gravel” road to the quarry actually turned out to be a sand road. We ended up half jogging, half slipping and sliding our way through the cattle fields and bush to the quarry.

Despite the sandy terrain it only took us 35 minutes to cover the 4 kms to the quarry and we arrived at the swimming hole at about 6:05 in the evening.

Still catching our breath, the caretaker let us into the quarry and we staggered toward the massive hole in the ground carved out of the rock.

From the edge of the quarry we looked out over a deep hole about 100 meters wide and filled with sparkling turquoise water.

Steep rock walls rose dramatically from the shimmering pool and to our left was a floating dock attached with ropes to the face of the rocks. On the dock sat three paddle boards and with the sun sinking lower in the sky we scurried down the crumbling rocks toward the dock. I told you we’d be paddling again after our Cape Town canal cruise.

The water was incredibly warm so we stripped down to our underwear and pushed off the dock on a pair of paddle boards. The water was extremely still and our boards glided peacefully across the tranquil surface.

It was the perfect place to recover from our first exercise in almost a month.

After gliding around the pool and taking in the breathtaking rock walls surrounding us, we flopped off our boards and submerged ourselves in the fresh cool water.

By the time we had finished swimming and climbed back out of the quarry it was already 7 p.m. The sun was low above the horizon and its bright rays were shining through an expanse of dark heavy rain clouds looming above the desert plains.

As we began to jog back down the road through the bush, the light of the setting sun cast an orange glow over the sand under our feet and it began to rain.

The light rain quickly turned into a downpour of gigantic raindrops splashing off our golden-brown skin as we trudged through the heavy sand back toward camp.

With the sun setting slowly behind us and the rain pouring down around us a rainbow emerged out of the darkness, its arch stretching across the endless bush as far as the eye could see.

About halfway home with the daylight fading a huge flash of lightening lit up the sky and after six or seven strides forward in the muddy sand we heard the deep rumble of thunder in the distance.

With this first crack of lightening we picked up the pace hoping to make it back to camp before nightfall.

The thunder and lightening continued for the next 15 minutes as we jogged through the bush with the wet leaves on the side of the trail sticking to our bare skin.

Finally we emerged out of the bushes and back at camp just as the last sliver of light slid below the horizon. As we dried off in our semi-flooded tent, the rain pattered on the canvas roof and thunder continued to rumble in the distance.

Fortunately, while we were gone the cooking team had prepared a feast of sausage curry and vegetables, and under the shelter of the outdoor bar, we huddled shoveling the much needed food into our mouths.

After dinner Tarynne and I stretched our tired muscles, then headed to bed early as we needed to be up at 6:15 in the morning for a walk through the bush with the nearby San/Bushman.

Thursday

On Thursday we awoke at 6 in the morning with everything still soaking wet from the overnight rain. We quickly cleared out the tent and hung as many clothes as we could on the wire clothes lines throughout the camp.

At 6:30 a fire was lit by one of the owners of the camp and the smoke which spiraled its way into the morning sky signaled the nearby San/Bushman to stop by our camp.

By 6:45 about ten San/Bushman shuffled into our camp in a single file line dressed only in animal hide.

We then followed them out into the bush through the dripping shrubs covered in morning dew.

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After a short walk the group stopped and give us a short explanation of where and how they live. Of course the San/Bushman only speak in a “click” language so all of our communication was done through a translator.

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After the main spokesperson (who is 23 years-old with three kids) shook all of our hands and repeated our names and where we are from, we were led deeper into the bush.

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At the next stop we were shown a specific root that the San/Bushman give women to eat who are having difficulty getting pregnant. According to the San/Bushman, if a woman eats this particular root they will get pregnant within two months.

We then moved on to find another plant that the San/Bushman use to help the elderly get rid of backaches. With this plant they dry out the root and then scratch the person’s back in the area that aches. They scratch to the point that it draws blood so the nutrients from the root enter into the body.

The San/Bushman also showed us a root which they grind up and snort to get rid of nightmares and different root that they use to dye their animal hide clothes.

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We were also shown how they use the tall yellow grass as a straw to suck the morning dew off plant leaves to stay hydrated in the barren wasteland.

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After we were shown how the San/Bushman stay hydrated, one of the younger members gave us a spear throwing demonstration.

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Lastly, we were shown how to make a fire using dry grass and sticks.

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The walk lasted slightly more than an hour and when we returned to camp Prosper had prepared scrambled eggs, toast and baked beans for breakfast.

We ate while our damp belongings continued to dry before packing up and hitting the road toward the city of Maun and our next campsite.

About James

Washed up Wazzu alumnus in the middle of a horrific quarter-life crisis.
This entry was posted in Botswana, Namibia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The First Rain

  1. Erica & Nick says:

    Fantastic pics again James, & a real insight into the bushman’s way of life – did you have to ask their permission to photograph them? I guess they’re used to it though.

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