Nomad Adventure Tours: Cape Town to Vic Falls Tour Day 9

by Melissa on August 9, 2012 · 22 comments

**NOTE: This article contains pictures depicting slight nudity**

On day 9 of my overland tour with Nomad Adventure Tours, I woke up to the sound of nothing.  As I lay there in my sleeping bag, I opened my eyes and glanced out of my tent’s window flap that I had left open the night before.  The sky was a color that can only be described as something between purple and gray.  I knew that it must be quite early since I didn’t hear the rustling of anyone in their tents nearby.  Not to mention, the alarm on my iPhone hadn’t gone off.

Not long after I snuck out of my tent, a few others followed suit.  Before long, water was being boiled and all the breakfast goodies were being spread out on our serving station attached to the side of the truck.  Tents came down and were safely stowed in their appropriate compartment.  Hungry campers ate their early morning breakfast consisting of cereal and bread with peanut butter and/or jam.

By the time everything was cleaned up and everyone had packed their belongings back on the truck, it was time to hit the road.  Shingie and Sandile had mentioned for us to keep our eyes peeled for the very rare and elusive mountain elephant which is known to roam around the area between Spitzkoppe and our next stop, Kamanjab – otherwise known as Himba camp.  It was 340km of dusty gravel roads that we had to cover – a good five hour drive before we could set up out newest tent city.

I’m pretty sure I dozed off for the majority of this particular drive because besides stopping when we passed another Nomad Adventure Tours truck making their way to Spitzkoppe from Kamanjab – I don’t remember much from that journey.  I definitely don’t remember seeing or hearing anyone say they saw any mountain elephants.

We rolled into the Kamanjab camp just before lunch.  As Shingie and Shaun made sure lunch was being prepared, the rest of us set up our small village of tents in the secluded campsite.   To the one side of camp lay acres upon acres of grassland and to the other, a cluster of massive boulders – which looked like they would have been fun to climb up to the top of.  That is, if I hadn’t just nearly broken my toe clean off the day prior.  While I was no longer sulking over my toe injury, I was growing restless with keeping my activity to a minimum, and aggravated with the need to redress my wound every 6hours or so.  The usual grub was served up – sandwiches and salad and we all enjoyed them as if we had never seen food before!  After lunch Shaun and I took to the great task of soaking and redressing my toe – this was particularly important because the Kamanjab camp was ESPECIALLY sandy.

At this time some members of the group started wandering off to climb the boulders, some laid out and suntanned, most decided on popping open a cold one and enjoyed some conversation with others, and then there were the few who decided to have some quiet time – reading or napping in their tents.  I took this time to wander off with my camera and found some amazingly beautiful lizards of all different shapes and colours savoring the cool shade that some trees and rocks provided.  I didn’t want to wander off too far, knowing that we were eventually going to have to go on our guided tour to meet the Himba people – one of Africa’s last known nomadic tribes.

When I returned to our campsite,  I took the opportunity to follow suit with Shingie and Sandile and took the opportunity to wash some of my clothes that had gotten dirty in the previous few days – especially since it was a nice sunny day, thus they would hopefully dry quickly.  So yes.  I don’t think my mom or dad would ever believe it unless there was photographic evidence – but I did my own laundry.  BY HAND.  I’ve come a long way!

Around four in the afternoon our guide joined us.  He taught us how to say hello and thank you so we could converse with the Himba women and children.  Then it was on to their little fenced off compound on the campsite.  The younger children saw us coming and came running with their arms in the air, just wanting to be picked up and held.

The feeling of being able to play with these children and be a part of their joy and innocence is something that is absolutely beyond the description of any words in my vocabulary.

There was one little girl, in particular, clad in the traditional loincloth and her hair done in the usual braids adorned by the young Himba children – and on her feet were a pair of very dusty knock-off Converse high tops.  She had an empty 1.5L plastic water bottle and had noticed that Shaun was carrying his full water bottle under his arm.  Despite the language barrier, she was able to convey her message, “can I have some of your water?”  Of course, he obliged and she said something else – what I can only assume was “thank you” – then ran off to show off to her friends and family members that she had gotten some water from the strangers who had entered their small village.

We started wandering around their traditional little village.  Four or five women in their twenties were singing, clapping their hands and doing a little spin-around type dance that was keeping us, a number of the children and themselves more than entertained.   A few of us Nomads wandered about the village with babies and small children on our hips and even more youngsters running about in front of us showing off their goats, puppies, mud huts and other random little bits and bobs.  Sue and I exchanged looks with one another at one point and we didn’t even have to verbalize it – this was such an incredible, heartwarming experience that we would take with us forever.

Our guide wrangled us all together after nearly half an hour of playing with the children and started getting down to the nitty gritty facts.  He had a beautiful Himba woman on display as his model as he explained the meanings behind the various items of clothing and jewelery she wore.  We learned things such as, the ochre and butter mixture that they put on their skin give the Himba people a slightly reddish tint and this is to protect their skin from the elements.  The women wear metal ankle cuffs which have vertical lines which indicates how many children she has.  And so on…

The guide then led us into one of the huts where another woman showed us how they are expected to ‘shower’ with only the smoke of what smelled like incense – no water.  The men in our group were given the opportunity to try their hand at playing some traditional Himba instruments – notably giving the oryx horn a little toot!  Raymond gave it a really good go – but I think that’s simply because he’s South African and probably learned this useful skill as a small child.   The woman who had been ‘showering’ for us then took the opportunity to ask us some questions, so with the guide as her translator she asked all the women if we were married or had children.

When I told her I was not married and did not have any children she looked at me with the most shocked look on her face.  She said something in the Himba language and the guide giggled.  He then translated, “she is shocked that you are not married.  She says she thinks you are so beautiful and that men are stupid for not marrying you.”  I laughed – and so did everyone else in the hut.  Oh if only it were that simple!

We emerged from the hut moments later to find that while we were chatting and learning about their culture, the other women had gone to much effort to set up their little ‘shops’ – displaying their wares (mostly handmade jewelry) on beautifully colored blankets.  We took this opportunity to try our hand at haggling with a massive language barrier, and buy a few souvenirs.  My haul consisted of about 4 bracelets and a necklace.

Sue jokingly decided that part of her haggling would include trying to buy a little Himba child.  So when it was time to leave… there was Sue with a small child cradled in her arms, running off towards our campsite.  The mother – the same woman who called me beautiful – followed closely behind, laughing.   Upon arrival at OUR campsite, Sue gave the child some snacks for him to share with his brothers and sisters and friends as well as her untouched 5L jug of water.

Shortly after our return we were treated to a lovely dinner which was followed quickly by joining around the campfire with a cold beer in tow.  Others knocked off early, but I was still reveling from the experience we had had a few hours earlier.  In the distance I could hear the Himba people singing and chanting and I remember sitting there for a long time with a stupid smile on my face.  I sat there so long, it wasn’t until I realized that the campfire had gone out and the few of us left were sitting around a pit of golden embers.  I took that as my cue to head to bed.  I joined Sue in our tent, crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep knowing that I was completely at peace.  It was sometime around this wonderful day that I finally understood exactly what the likes of Toni from Reclaiming my Future and Caz and Craig from yTravel Blog were telling me – Africa has a way of getting into your soul and I was definitely enchanted, my soul hungry for more.


The Nomad Adventure Tours crew hits up Etosha National Park on Day 10 & 11! Click HERE
Not caught up on the full story? Go back to the beginning of it all! Click HERE for Day 1

**DISCLAIMER:  While Nomad Adventure Tours did provide me with a discounted tour, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**

**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

John August 9, 2012 at 11:58 am

No doubt this wonderful experience was equally unforgettable to the children and their families, into whose lives you brought joy on that visit.

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Melissa August 9, 2012 at 5:41 pm

It was incredible. Indescribable really. I really don’t feel that this post did the experience any real justice. It was THAT incredible.

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Anne August 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm

A wonderful touching experience.

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Melissa August 9, 2012 at 9:56 pm

What?! No comment about the fact that I did my laundry BY HAND?! wow… That’s the first thing I was expecting from you. 🙂

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Anne August 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Ps. Dad and I thought we might have some new grandchildren from Africa

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Melissa August 9, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I hope you mean ADOPTED grandchildren. I don’t plan on spawning anytime soon.

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Erik August 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Beautiful retelling on an amazing experience. Sounds like one of those moments that leaves you changed forever.
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Melissa August 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Thanks 🙂 And thank you for sharing on twitter. It wad definitely an amazing day – to just see the smiles and hear the laughter was something that has stayed with me and when I’m feeling crappy or down on myself, I remember that day and how much joy those children brought to me – and hopefully that we brought to them.

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Simo August 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Once again Mel your travels enthrall us all…. thanks

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Melissa August 9, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Thank you Simo! 🙂 I hope that we get to do EA together next year 🙂

Heck, maybe we’ll find some mangoes! 😛 haha

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Ed Rex August 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Fi ally I’ve read your whole blog and glad to see this post to be the last to read.

The children look so gorgeous, reminds me of my time in Uganda.

Keep it coming and I look forward to be seeing you in a few weeks. Now that you’re an expert…can you do my washing?
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Melissa August 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Ed I CANNOT believe you read through the entire mess that is my blog 😛 You are pretty legendary. I’m pretty sure you’re the only person on the face of the planet to do so.

The Himba kids were absolutely wonderful. Loved having the opportunity to hang out with them. Excited to go back to Africa to do more work with kids.

I’ll happily do your washing… by throwing it into the MACHINE! 😉 BOOM!

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Toni August 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Yes! I’m so glad that you felt ‘it’. 🙂 It’s different for everyone but we all have those moments where Africa finally gets into our soul and then it never leaves. Love reading your journal sweet; brings back so many wonderful memories!
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Melissa August 9, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Hey babe, so glad that my memories could bring back your own memories 🙂 And I’m so glad I was able to feel ‘it’. It is really hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t been and I don’t know if I’ve done it justice, but at least you know what I mean 😉

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Mike CUmmins August 12, 2012 at 4:58 am

Great opening picture. I believe this day was perhaps the best experience yet in Africa. Congratulations. A true experience into another culture.
M.C.

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Melissa August 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Thanks Mike! 🙂 It was incredible. Hard to even do it justice – being around these people who live such a simple life – where going to school is a privilege bestowed upon only a lucky few children, who are then in turn expected to teach the others in the village – it was just absolutely incredible and eye opening. They have next to nothing (in the materialistic sense of the word), yet are some of the happiest people I’ve ever encountered. It was amazing.

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Rob August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Melissa:

So.. I’ve seen many a photo and report from people who travel to africa and have similar experiences to you and I’ve always wondered – do the people smell? I imagine that the butter & ochre they put on their skin must get a little ripe, and I’m guessing they don’t actually shower. And the little kids don’t look all that clean.

Thoughts?

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Melissa August 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Hi Rob,

No… if my memory serves me correctly, I don’t remember them smelling bad or having terrible B.O. or anything. As far as they told us, they don’t actually shower with water — to what extent I believe that, I’m not entirely sure. Yeah the kids were a little bit dusty and had snotty noses, but really – it’s nothing that’s going to kill them.

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Rob August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Interesting, and unexpected. I wonder why that is. I’ve been camping for weeks at a time, and I promise you that nobody in our group smelled good. Or rather, nobody didn’t smell very ripe!

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Melissa August 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Perhaps it IS the ochre and butter mixture… it kinda had a mineral-y type smell. And the incense-like smoke shower they take did seem to pass off THAT smell onto the woman. *shrugs*

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Rob August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Another question – clearly these people see a lot of tourists, and so the amazement that you’re not married with kids has to be fake – lots of western women don’t have kids. Do these people actually live their normal lives like this, or is this a staged “this is how it was” situation? Kind of like the fake pioneer villages in Canada, or Hawaiians putting on “traditional” dances for tourists and living modern lives otherwise?

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Melissa August 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm

That is a discussion that I did have with some of the other travelers – and while some believed that they were just putting on a show for us, others didn’t want the magic to be taken away. In my eyes, if they’re able to make a living by demonstrating how it once may have been… then hey… thats cool – I’m not going to be bitter that they served me up the “Disney version” of their culture. Because at the end of the day, no one can deny the happiness and joy that those children had when they got to play with us. And in turn that made me feel really happy.

That being said, I did see a few women in traditional Himba attire selling their wares on the sidewalk in Windhoek (the capital city), so who really knows.

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