|02-18-2012, 02:32 AM||#167|
Joined: Jun 2010
Keep Pressing The Button
Zambia 28/01- 07/02
Where were we...
We had arrived here by pure chance, looking for just a place to sleep one night before crossing the Namibian border. Since entering Zambia we had also entered anonymity: nobody cared, nobody gave a second look, almost no hand raised for hello, almost no smile returned. But, unknowingly, we had arrived where we needed to be. We had found on the border of Nsogwe canyon our own Dharma Initiative, another special encounter on this trip. 6 years ago a South African ex-consultant for Camel Trophy founded here Overland Missions (www.overlandmissions.com).
The Smoke That Thunders, visible on the way to the camp.
Vic Falls Panoramas
Mostly American missionaries come here every dry season to learn about working in remote areas, where they will teach villagers how to care for themselves, how to farm the land in a sustainable manner, how to build wells for drinking water. The projects follow two objectives: SAM (organic agriculture + drinkable water wells) and LIFE (education, consoling, family planning). Overland Missions provides knowledge, loans the money needed, then retreats: the villagers are involved from the beginning in the projects, then are left to manage alone, with a minimum of guidance. Work is the payback, nothing comes for free. Ana was just reading a book ("Dead Aid") written with the very same thesis by the Zambian Dambisa Moyo. The money carelessly pumped into Africa for decades is not helping. It hurts the Africans, killing creativity, making people and countries dependable on aid, unable to sustain a living economy. Aid feeds corruption and civil unrests.
The base is quite vast: tents for the trainees and staff, gingerbread-like homes built in Zambian style, a center with communal kitchen, living room, braai terrace, open classroom, an organic garden, garage, showers, laundry facility. Lovely vernacular structures with a minimalist twist, in one of the most stunning places we have ever been. It was rainy season, the regular trainees were not around, so we were alone, with the few staff actually living on the property. It made sense when the blue eyed man who received us said that his name was Jacob. If you have seen Lost, you get what we mean. Jacob is the leader of this community and has been living on the property from the beginning with his wife, Jessie, their kids and their black labrador. They have a 2 year old daughter, Kya and they have adopted a Zambian girl who turned 6 the week we were at the base. The night of our arrival we had dinner together with them and their friend and colleague Laura. So instead of staying for one night, we lingered for one week, getting to know and care for these people who have chosen to leave the security and safety of the USA, to teach and help others. Their work also includes an orphanage, a pre-schooling project, and the list could go on. It comes to no surprise that they are beautiful, talented musicians and very very smart. In this little imperfect corner of perfection they are living with a purpose that gives them everyday strength and joy. We cooked together, enjoyed rooibos and cake at the wonderfully Victorian High Tea at the Royal Livingstone, we hiked into the gorge, shared two emotional Sunday mornings and had some of the most challenging and engaging conversations in years. Touched by the friendship these people offered, thankful for love they shared. There are many fantastic places around the world where heavens meets the earth, with only few accessible on foot. This is one of them. It gave us strength, it allowed us to meditate at our purpose in this quest that has been going for 8 months.
Hike into the canyon
Hippo paw. Bodies of drowned elephants and hippos are washed here, the meat taken by villagers, the bones left to dry out on the rocks.
Ana, Sunda, Jacob
Tea and cakes at the Royal Livingstone
View from the hotel terrace
Moon over the canyon, Nsogwe village
Sunda, Kya, Jessi, us, Laura
Then it was time to go. Difficult to leave, this place had become our home, these people had become our friends. Would we see them again? We could hear the calling of the savannah, of the copper Namibian dunes. And this time we knew: the answer to our questions was not here, was not there, it was inside.
Cooking and Wildlife Viewing in Nsogwe, Livingstone
Breakfast: oats with milk, cinnamon and honey
Lunch: guacamole, tomatoes, cabbage raita with Italian herbs
Mini-quiche with feta cheese and wild leafy greens. Taste similar to spinach, but with a superior nutritive content.
A Romanian traditional dish that we cooked here for the very first time. We had to pickle the cabbage ourselves! These cabbage rolls are stuffed with beef mince, rice, onions, garlic, herbs and spices and slowly baked with tomatoes and shredded cabbage. The dish comes from the Middle East and various countries that were influenced by the Ottomans have their own version.
The mushrooms were mixed with eggs, peri peri peppers, basil and marjoram to bake a big quiche
In the vast gardens of the Royal Livingstone live giraffes, zebras and springbok antelopes. Our first wildlife sightings in Africa after the Afi stint.
Hartmann's mountain zebra
The African football cup was underway while we were staying at Rapid 14, and soon after our departure our prophecy came true: Zambia become for the first time the champion! Long was forgotten the only incident: a spitting cobra sought shelter under our fridge, sadly ending up under the blows of Wezee.
|02-18-2012, 08:36 AM||#168|
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Behind the Redwood Curtain
>"sadly ending up under the blows of Wezee. "
"I don't really know, I've been too busy falling down."
|02-20-2012, 12:42 AM||#169|
Joined: Jun 2010
Caprivi Strip & Bushmanland
Namibia 07- 11/02
Once on the Caprivi Strip - infamous in the past for the armed ninjas that were crossing from the war ravaged Angola - we got warned that we were not alone.
First morning we woke up with what we thought to be elephants crossing from the Bwabwata national park. But we saw just foots prints and elephant feces. Wildlife remained elusive. In Katima Mulilo tarred roads and malls clearly show who is on top of the food chain in a country of more than 800.000 square Ks and less than 5 million inhabitants
Arriving 2 months later in Namibia at the Katima Mulilo border, it felt like the the beginning of the end. Our detour across DRC through Zambia had brought us in the Caprivi Strip, the greenest and rainiest Namibian region, rarely visited by overlanders. Gone were the rickety rice and beans shacks, supermarkets had replaced corner shops, the service stations and customs offices were modern and air conditioned. The town, chuck full of malls and fast food joints. For a moment we were trapped by the tricks of a familiar world: receipts for every shopping, Gouda cheese, whole wheat bread, chocolate, discounts, air conditioning, mobile network. But the novelty wore off quickly. The impeccable tarmac took us through San villages (ethnics famous for the click sounds that articulate their language). Mud huts were tucked behind a layer of greenery, after all rain falls here almost year round. And when the rains have been plentiful, the river that crosses Caprivi spills over, flooding the fields of northern Botswana and creating a lush water paradise in search of which immense herds of animals march for months: the Okavango Delta.
Traditionally the Okavango is crossed on mokoro boats
And the more refined version of mokoro, for visitors.
We stopped for a night on the Okavango river, in a camp with pool in cage, to protect the tourists from the hippos and crocs. A first sighting of Botswana, where we planned to go later on.
In the afternoon we saw a small group of elephants grazing over the river, on their way to the Okavango Delta. Our expectations deceived: 8 months in Africa, thousands of kilometers through thick jungle or savannah, bushcamping in remote spots, and we had hardly seen a few wild animals, if any at all, and always from great distance. Then, the following night, I got attacked by a hippo.
The story goes like this: we pitched out tent near the water. Rain came overnight, we were unaware that the others, tourists and staff, had sought shelter in the bungalows. And nobody bothered to tell us anything. Around midnight I heard a splash in the river and I went out to see where that came from. The hippo who was grazing 4 meters away, head barely above the water, must have felt he was being challenged, so he charged. I shouted, trying to wake Ana up, I stumbled on her legs and fell over, so she screamed. The hippo got even more scared than us and slipped while trying to climb out, so it gave up, exiting the river 5 meters away, through the next camp site. I thought I saw it from behind, disappearing in the night, but as we walked all over the camp trying to find someone to talk to, I convinced myself that I had imagined the whole thing. There was complete silence, nobody around, how could there be hippos roaming the camp? But in the morning the foot prints were all over the place.
We found out that two cheeky hippos do sometime dare to graze here in the night, the idea is to stay inside the tent, and you're safe. We didn't get the chance to face the hippo again, cause it started raining cats and dogs again. We had stitched the tent in Zambia, but it was still leaking, so we had to leave in search of drier places.
Destination: Etosha, with stopover for groceries in Tsumeb, the Namibian mining center (silver, lead, germanium, cadmium). What a strange artificial town, American feel after decrepit villages, no local markets, no street food. White people with 4x4s, crappy Internet for 10 Euro/hour, groups of boozed San ethnics (Bushmen) gathered to beg and wait in front of the Spar supermarket. The hunter-gatherer San communities, under constant pressure from the Khoi-Khois, the Hereros and the colonists, has almost disappeared, absorbed or enslaved, pushed to the limit of survival, the limit of existence.
Nambian lunch: beef with maize porridge
On the way to Etosha we took the chance to step on extraterrestrial soil: the Hoba meteorite, the largest that fell on our planet; 60 t, most of it iron, but discovered only in 1920.
One cannot walk o alien rocks, so I had to balance while levitating.
Memory from outer space.
|02-21-2012, 01:44 AM||#170|
Joined: Jun 2010
Beauty Behind Fences
Etosha National Park, "The Great WEhite Place of Dry Water", one of the largest wildlife reserves in the world. The numbers are bewildering: 93240 km2 1907, when the park was founded, are now 22912 km2. 114 species of mammals, over 340 species of birds, 11o species of reptiles and 16 of amphibians live in the 350km wide space, dominated by the 4731 km2 pan, left behind after a vast sea evaporated some 2 to 10 million years ago. When we hear the word Africa we dream of such magical places.
The roads run straight to Etosha gates, long ago has the bushman motherland been taken by foreign hands. A vast sky over the infinite green, left and right hundreds of miles of fences. A beautiful jailhouse for nature, beauty held captive behind the property lines of huge farms. We saw hefty herds of cattle, showroom-ready John Deer tractors under neatly organized sheds, lavish ranches, stunning gardens. These farms belong mostly to Namibians. White Namibians. Their properties are fenced in typical Namibian style: rows of wire suspended on simple wood poles. A transparent, non-obtrusive fence that allows the eye to wonder over the horizon. Solid gravel roads, proper signage, all is clean and well organized. But nothing recalls the freedom of the vast African wild, all one can do is keep on driving, always forwards, between the parallel fences. Like in a predetermined computer game, freedom is to select the gear, but not the direction.
We bushcamped a few dozens Ks from the park. For the first time we had to build around our camp a defense line: bike, rocks, tree trunks.
Quick dinner, leftovers well packed in bags and hidden deep in our alu boxes.
And a brief breakfast, rushing to enter the park.
The last miles to Etosha gate turn again from gravel to smooth tarmac. Nobody in sight, just bored gate keepers who confirmed our suspicion that we were not allowed to drive inside on our motorbike. Was this the right place? We spent all morning driving back and forth between the lodges that offer safaris and games drives, trying to find a way to visit the park, even if for a few hours. The only option for who doesn't have their own car is to hop on an expensive trip that can last from 3 hours to a few days. So we hopped on our game drive, cold water, sodas and beer included. The Defender had 9 seats, but we were alone, feeling ridiculously touristy with our Damara driver-guide, Ahue, like a couple arrived in search of hardcore shots to brag with in front of their friends. It was an unforgettable afternoon. We understood, once inside, why motorbikes are not allowed. We saw many things: cape vultures, tawny eagles, double banded coursers, helmeted Guinea fowls, Blacksmith lapwings, white storks, red-billed teals, grey go-away birds, cape crows, kori bustards, Bradfield's hornbills, lilac-breasted rollers, ostriches, Burchell's starlings, sidestripped jackals, warthogs, oryx, springboks, duikers, Burchell's zebras, griraffes, kudus, blue wildebeests. And elephants, an entire herd led by the matriarch, passing from their mud bath at arm's length away from us. And in the savannah watered by the ongoing rainy season, a pride of lions: Petrina, the dominant female, a second adult female, 8 cubs 8-9 months old, and the lion, all enjoying their prey of the day, a whole zebra. But we will not hide the fact that we also saw many other cars (rentals, private or tour operators) chasing, along us, the wonderfully free, almost improbable wildlife. The hardest most shameful moment was to see the 40 cameras belonging to the 40 tourists packed inside a bus - a bus in Etosha, people!!!! - turned upon the pride of lions. We must admit, going on a safari like that is not our cup of tea. We never meant to do it, but we dit it. The joy was less pure, the lesson difficult to digest. But we will not turn this report into a rant about morality and the debatable politics of star national parks. It is time for some photos that barely attempt to capture the ingenuity and fragility of our world.
Lilac-breasted roller, the national bird of Botswana
African grey hornbill & Cape glossy starlings
Southern pale chanting goshawk
Sunset over the Etosha plains
|02-21-2012, 02:57 AM||#171|
Joined: May 2007
Location: UAE Dubai
Looking forward to more of your report
2006 Honda CRF 250X " Sold "
2007 Sportster 883 " sold"
2008 yamaha FZ6
|02-21-2012, 08:57 AM||#172|
Off Road Montster
Joined: May 2005
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Absolutely spectacular !!!
|02-21-2012, 10:18 AM||#174|
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Behind the Redwood Curtain
"I don't really know, I've been too busy falling down."
|02-21-2012, 11:56 PM||#176|
Joined: May 2011
Location: Shanghai, China
THANK YOU !
A magnificent ride report, an amazing trip... Thank you very much for taking the time to share it here, I can tell you it's worth it, we're riding with you, dreaming with you 2 !
And even though it's a bit off-topic, but I couldn't agree more on the negative consequences of some aid programs (and I emphasize on the "some", not all). It's a very difficult topic because people in most NGO do this with a very good and pure spirit/attitude to help, and it's very hard to make them realize the bad effects it can have on populations, creativity and fighting for their own solutions/improvements.
If you try, you'll always hear the "yeah but at least we're doing something !", which is 100% true of course, but in the long-term it just doesn't work...
Stop gradually all food aid programs and yes, millions may die, but maybe its the lesser evil in the long term for self-development : African people taking their destiny into their own hands and doing what must be done to improve their living conditions, whether it is to overthrow corrupt governments because millions are dying, or others solutions (people are revolting when they have nothing to eat, or no money to eat, which is the same anyway).
NGOs, official international or national organizations could be trained to deliver sustainable/long-term aid programs like the one you described, with a set deadline after which they withdraw themselves from the projects after training the local people, it could be a solution.
But even then, would we not "benefit" the local governments by doing the work they should do with their own population ? And in the meanwhile they can continue not doing anything to improve the people's life ?
So what ? Accepting that people should die, for the African people to take matters into their own hands ? That's the tough choice...
(If this is too much OT, please tell me and I will delete all this, no problem)
|02-23-2012, 02:18 PM||#177|
Joined: Jun 2010
We are actually glad that someone took the time to comment upon this delicate matter. Very on topic imho, in fact before departure we set up a fundraising in aid of UNICEF thinking that it was about time even poorer developing countries like romania should start contributing to the aid for africa. Then 3 days before departure John had the moto accident, went to hospital and we had to postpone the whole journey by 9 months, so little time was left to raise monies, mostly our own and our families donations. Our "humanitarian" attempt failed.
Now, 9 months in, we humbly dare to consider ourselves a bit more educated about the aid business.
So what is aid? It can be humanitarian (emergency funds mobilized for calamities like the tsunami, pakistani floods, haiti quake etc). And this is the kind that probably should remain a permanent resource;
The problem lies with the "systematic aid", a debilitating form of help that is "the disease of which it pretends to be the cure" (as Krauss said of Freudianism). We have travelled in west and central africa in many countries that have been rendered aid-dependent and where the poor are poorer and the growth slower that before the aid era. Since the 70s more than 300 billion US dollars have been pumped into africa, and there is little, if anything at all, to show for that. There is no accountability attached to these vast sums of money that have been feeding civil unrests, corruption, disease, poverty and have been pocketed by an epic list of dictators.
Several factors (valuable commodities, geography, a history of slavery and colonialism, cultural and tribal particularities) are partly to blame for africa's failure to deliver on sustainable growth in an era that saw other regions emerging as true economical success stories. But there is one thing that african countries that are desperately struggling with poverty have in common, and that is dependency on aid. Aid money makes political power more desirable, worth fighting, killing, dying for; As state budget is not depending anymore on taxpayers, politicians dont feel like they owe their citizens nothing.
Unfortunately the aid business has been recently monopolized by photogenic pop stars. Aid was not meant to feed the starving in the first place, and indeed it is easy to prove that aid money never reaches the hungry but is dispersed among a selected few...Aid was meant to stimulate development (infrastructure, education, medical care, agriculture), but the data quoted in "dead aid" states that over the past 30 years most aid-dependent counties have exhibited an average annual growth of minus 0,2%, and during 1970-1998 (when aid flows were peaking in africa) the poverty rate on the black continent rose from 11% to a staggering 66%!
we have been fed the old misconception that aid prevents people from dying. When it never delivered on such a task. Its not a matter of training the NGO people to do their job in another way, it s about cutting a line of credit to insatiably corrupt politicians (an idea that appears to go against the liberal sensitivity, but that could actually work). There are healthier alternatives to aid dependency: trade, foreign direct investments, capital markets, domestic savings, remittances (western union is strong in africa, but the fees are still prohibitive encouraging diaspora to send less money or do it unofficially)..yes, even china could be accepted as a partner in development. I dont know, me. But from the field africa seem perfectly resilient, capable of mastering its own destiny. Everywhere people beg for the white money, brainwashed by decades of mistakes, maybe this must stop? We are in the process of learning and educating ourselves, wondering as we travel: what can we do to help? Maybe one day we ll find a proper answer. Thanks again for contributing,
|02-23-2012, 02:22 PM||#178|
Joined: Jun 2010
A Vanishing World
Ovamboland & Kaokoland 12-13/02
Since entering Namibia, we've been noticing the well marked picnic spots. We could have not guessed then that we would bushcamp in one of these spots, forced by the national obsession for fences. Actually it was a decent camp: after a day in Etosha, we had a table, chairs and garbage bin.
Ovamboland, divided into 4 distinct regions since independence, is the most heavily populated part of Namibia. A third of the 800000 inhabitants suffer from HIV. The local government promotes development projects and cooperation with China. Durind apertheid Ovamboland was cut from the rest of the country and is still largely influenced by Angola. The traditional ovambo huts have been "updated": the mud replaced by zinc. One must suffer from heatstroke in those houses, we imagine.
Boerewors sausages, grilled goat and ovambo bread rolls, with a texture that recalled Fes pancakes.
400 km to Ruacana.
We took the next pics at the border with Angola and we are dedicating them to the Angolan diplomats, who did their best to keep us away from their country, and to our French companions on the grueling road across DRC. We gazed upon the stunning rolling hills beyond the frontier that had costed us a lot of money, tremendous effort and possibly the friendship of Jacques and Delphine. From afar, Angola was beautiful. And in this most unassuming lonely place, the roar of Ruacana Falls, water thrusting onto the rocks, glistening at sunset.
Gravel roads, better for our knobbies.
Bushcamp with cows and sweat flies
In Opuwo, the tourist hub for visiting Kaokoland and the Himbas, where tarmac road, supermarkets, beer and plastic work together to push an ancient world into oblivion. The town is a mess of Himbas, Hereros and modern Namibians.
Jeeps from half a century ago, Herero women dressed in centuries old attire…
And Himba people, surviving in a changing world like a millennia ago
Kathiriwe: the beaded anklets protect from venomous animal bites but serve also as significant indicators; for example 2 vertical lines in the beads mean that the woman had more than one child; when the woman is in mourning, she will replace one of the anklets with a shorter one that has only one vertical line and she will also replace the traditional palm braids with an ostrich egg shell necklace.
We had to deal with the reality: we had arrived a little too late to witness the "real" Himba life. So we hired a guide, bought the gift of staple food for the tribe where we would camp overnight and we grabbed lunch.
On the right: our guide, sitting on a chair made of the packaging from the most recent Himba passion
Potatoes and goat stew
Grilled beef in an Opuwo shack
Kaokoland (Kunene) is the inhospitable and extremely dry home of the Himba, the "red people", one of the last surviving tribes living close to the nature. No electricity, no water, food consisting of meat and milk. Himba money is cattle: the so important traditional jewelry, food, wives, cars are all bought with cattle. The land is not fenced and belongs largely to the tribal chiefs, but there is no real statistic of the population ravaged by preventable and treatable diseases and some chiefs have started to sell land to the Chinese. We spent a day and a night in the Ohungumure village (The Tall Mountain). Here the kral was mourning the death of its chief. A Himba village consists of several krals. A kral represents the extended family of a chief, whose house is in the middle of the compound, while the sacred fire (okuruwo) burns on the axis that links the building to the main livestock enclosure.
The sacred fire communicates to the ancestors and the Himba God, Mukuru
The Himba huts mix tradition with any imaginable scraps of modernity, and sometimes have been entirely replaced by tents.
The men council, presided by the younger brother of the deceased chief. The tribal structure of the Himbas is based on bilateral descent, that means that a member of the tribe belongs both to the maternal and the paternal clans. This ensures more chances of survival in the extremely harsh climate of Kaokoland. Only a few isolated tribes in the Pacific and the Indian subcontinent share a similar structure.
Old and new
Ndiri Chiposa, the new kral chief
The necklace is braided directly on the body of the owner and cannot be taken off. The metal arrow is for, well, grooming.
Women mourn together…
And groom themselves together… They don't wash, but they use otjize (a mixture of ochre, butter and scented seeds) to protect their skin from the sun.
They have flawless skin and wear hair extensions clipped on with clay. In the past the hair for the extensions was coming from the men. The intricate hair styles show marital status, age, personality. Only women, children and married men use ochre on the skin. Boys wear a single braid on the back, teenager men wear two; girls wear the hair braided forward, while adult women have shoulder long extensions and a cow skin "crown" on top of their head.
This bracelet costs a whole cow
Iresistible Himba jewelry shopping. Looking for stuff that has a story.
A Herero woman, visiting her Himba friends
|02-23-2012, 11:09 PM||#179|
Joined: Jun 2011
Congrats for having the power and determination to follow your dreams and face all the hardship that comes along in doing so.
All the best
|02-26-2012, 07:39 PM||#180|
Joined: May 2011
Location: Shanghai, China
Hey Ana, I'm glad you didn't find my post to be off-topic, and even more so that you took the time to answer.
I must say that you're extremely knowledgeable about this, more than me for sure. I didn't know (and didn't expect !) the figures you posted, which are quite dramatic...
What will encourage African nations to take the problems into their own hands, to find their own solutions (certainly different than ours) ?
The problem is also that we created this mess on many different levels :
- actual frontiers and borders in Africa were created by Western European colonization, and mean nothing, absolutely nothing for African. Their tribes or ethnic populations were organized differently before geographically, and we forced people who didn't necessarily want, to live together, negating centuries of history in Africa in a few decades.
- the aid issue we both wrote about, is basically a mess now. As you experienced, everywhere in Africa people are used to wait for "white people" (or Chinese now) giving money, jobs or aid programs.
So what can we do you asked ?
I'm afraid nothing will change quickly, as too many people are not convinced yet of the mess they create while having all the best intentions in the world, of helping Africa. This will go on for decades I'm sure. What we can do on our small level is to do what we believe in : educate ourselves and try to educate themselves in solutions that involve them completely. No, I'm not giving you food or money, instead I will teach you how to install/design a well, I'll show you how to get access to primary resources, so that you can show others later.
One other thing which is very very important but may be too far to discuss on this forum : accepting that evolution does not mean necessarily to wear suits, work in big companies, possessing an Ipad, living in tall buildings, etc. . Accepting that there is not only one way of evolution for societies, that it can be different. That an evolution of an African tribe or nation can be to stay in the bush, have access to only primary resources, have an oral transmission of knowledge, and live happy, in close contact with nature for decades, and centuries again.
And who's to say that our way, our understanding of evolution is the best anyway ?
This is something that you can accept on an individual basis, and try to educate people around you. It is so far, so different compared to what we are taught, that it is difficult for most to understand. This is what is called ethno-centrism, to think that a society should behave or tend to our type of evolution.
But unfortunately when a nation is stronger than another in terms of military power, it will attack the weaker, or at least try to take their natural resources. This is unfortunately all the human being history.
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