A taste of Namibian culture

Trip Start Feb 26, 2006
Trip End Nov 28, 2006

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

We just spent the past few days in the city of Swakopmund on the Atlantic Coast. There are many Germans living in Swakopmund as well as the rest of Namibia because it used to be a German colony (South Africa later ruled Namibia until it gained independence in 1990). We were very surprised by the very European look and feel and affluence of Swakopmund.

It was great to take a break from camping to have the luxury of a bed and our own bathroom! Swakopmund is an adrenalin junkie's paradise with quad biking, sandboarding, skydiving, and more. We opted for a less intense experience and decided to take in a cultural tour to meet some of the people from the townships.

It was an eye opening experience to meet the different people who were previously segregated due to apartheid from the previous South African government. We visited some of the people from Namibia's tribes - Damara, Nama, and Owambo. The Damara and Nama languages use 'clicks', and we actually had a brief lesson on how to 'click'. The township we visited was Mondesa, and surprisingly it was only 5 to 10 minutes outside of Swakopmund. Although the distance was not very great, there was a large disparity in wealth. Condos by the beach in Swakopmund start at the equivalent of $600,000CDN whereas the people in the townships must apply to the government for a $6,000 loan for materials to build their brick houses. While they wait for a loan, they live in a temporary housing community where they must build their own houses - because most people do not have any money, they go to the garbage dump to look for building materials. The temporary community has no electricity and no running water in the houses, and washrooms are outside to be shared with the next door neighbor. The township people don't have a lot, but they're some of the friendliest people we've met, especially the kids who came running up to us as soon as we came out of the car. Many of them even asked us to take their picture!

After Swakopmund, we headed out early in the morning to the mountains in central Namibia to see rock paintings and engravings made by the nomadic San people who were southern Africa's first inhabitants.

The paintings and engravings are said to range from 2-6000 years old, but were only discovered in the early 1900s!

We also saw an amazing Petrified Forest containing 260-million year old trees that turned into stone.

Our highlights:
- As part of the township visit, we had a traditional Owambo meal and dance show by the local girls. The meal included ground millet, spinach stew, and the delicacy of Mopane worms (caterpillars from the Mopane tree)...the texture is like shrimp with shells on, and the taste is...uhm....interesting!!! Amy stuck to more conventional foods such as bbq chicken and white bread!

- Cape Cross seal colony: it was an amazing sight to see 100,000 seals!! The adult seals mostly just lay on the beach while the adorable pups played in the surf. Although very adorable, seals are quite smelly and noisy (they use unique noises to find each other...and with so many of them in one area, you can imagine how much noise they have to make!).

- The Cheetah reserve: we were able to pet and watch some cheetahs feed as well as drive through a game reserve where they lived.
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