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