Our Namibian road trip began in Etosha National Park region. There, we soaked in as much wildlife as possible. It was kind of crazy how seeing zebras and giraffes while driving down the road was becoming standard.
After that first week, we headed up to the north – going as far as the Kunene River, which divides Namibia from Angola. Obtaining an entry Visa into Angola is difficult for American citizens. This quickly shut down our thoughts of driving into the country. The closest we got was at our campsite that was situated on the Kunene River, where you could literally see Angola from across the way.
The population of Namibia is not evenly distributed with about 60% of people living in the northern regions, while the southern and coastal areas are almost unpopulated. Namibia’s population can be divided into (at least) 11 ethnic groups, the biggest group of which is the Owambo people. It was quite noticeable how populated it was in the North vs. the rest of the country.
We joked (well, I joked…Matt was seriously contemplating) about swimming or kayaking across to touch Angolan soil. But one of us doesn’t swim very well and crocs live in the river….so even if we both could swim well I’m pretty sure we couldn’t out-swim a croc.
Instead of visiting Angola, we decided to visit the local people of the area to see what life was like up north. Our first stay in the North was in an Owambo homestead. The village taught us different aspects of their life- from farming and household chores to clay pottery and basket weaving. It also taught us how the hierarchy of the villages work and about daily life.
We tried local drinks and snacks like homebrewed schnapps made from plants they grow nearby and worms. If you’ve known me all my life you would know that I’m terrified of worms. So I only ate one worm- it took all of my resolve and about 6 minutes of getting mentally ready. Meanwhile, Matt chomped down on several.
On our next stop in the North (along the Kunene River), we visited the home of a Himba family. The Himba are an indigenous people living in northern Namibia and is considered one of the last semi-nomadic people of the country. They are famous for the ochre +butterfat mixture that they apply on their skin as a form of cleaning, sun protection and mosquito repellent. This concoction tints their skin a beautiful shade of red and takes what seems like hours of manual labor to create.
Experiencing life for different ethnic groups in Namibia was really powerful. What struck both of us was how happy and content they are in their lives, despite the harsh environment (extreme heat and little water) and lack of modern amenities (electricity, technology, running water, beds, etc.).
Oh and by the way, the sunsets were still really pretty in Northern Namibia.