Small Bushmen and Big Cats
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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Heading into the northern Namibian heartland we drove to visit a tribe of San Bushmen. Prior to this trip Katie and I had the impression that there were still isolated pockets of people in Africa that lived by traditional ways and ancient customs. The San were supposed to be one of these groups. Well...when we arrived at the edge of the village we saw a number of very short adults and young kids walking around in western-style clothes (mostly knee-length shorts and t-shirts) whom began walking quickly towards their huts as soon as they saw us. One man stayed behind to greet us and let us know that the "bushwalk" would start in a few minutes. About fifteen minutes later a group of people came walking out in loincloths and other animal skin clothing some with bows, arrows and traditional axes. The women were all topless, most with small infants tied to their backs
We camped near the San village and in the early evening had a traditional dance performance by the Bushmen that involved a very interesting performance of "booty shaking" which I will leave it to Katie to fully explain in her trademark way!
Early the next morning we headed further west into the province of Damaraland. After a very dusty drive all day on dirt roads we arrived at the Otjitotongwe Cheetah Park. This place was founded by a family of ranchers who took it upon themselves to provide a place to relocate cheetahs who would have otherwise been shot by farmers for killing their sheep and cattle. They pay other farmers to let them capture problem cats instead of them just getting shot, and fund their operation through tourism and running a campground on their site. Now they have over twenty cats, most of which live wild in a huge fenced area, but they also have a few which are tame and live in an enclosure around their home.
Our first evening there we saw them feed the wild cheetahs, which was amazing! After driving through the enclosure for about ten minutes in the back of a truck with two garbage cans full of donkey meat, we stopped in the middle of a large field. Before we knew it, cheetahs started appearing out of the bush all around us
Cheetahs are such beautiful and majestic animals. It is a shame that in order for them to survive in the contemporary world alongside livestock ranches that they have to be put into fenced areas, but I guess its just one more price to pay to bring a nation into the modern world. We in the USA certainly don't have that great of a record either for preserving wildlife in their natural habitat. I'm just glad that these ranchers took it upon themselves to do what they could. Thanks to them, almost two-dozen cats that would otherwise be dead are alive and well.
The night before we went to see the Bushmen, we stayed at a really nice campsite (cute bar and restaurant, nice pool, great bathrooms) about an hour away from the Bushmen village
The next day we went to rough it with the Bushmen, which I was NOT looking forward to because I'm not really a fan of bush camping (which really just means no facilities, and I am a fan of showers, sinks and toilets). The village felt like it was in the middle of a desert, and the sand was really HOT to walk on. We got there around 10 am, and it was already in the 90s, and we were all sweating like crazy and trying to conserve water. I was having all sorts of thoughts, which I will share with you now in no particular order so you can understand my mindset:
-Why are we camping here in the desert when there is a really nice campsite about an hour away with a pool?
-It's really hot
-My feet are dirty.
-I wish I hadn't used all of those Olay Daily Facial Wet Wipes already, as they would really come in handy here.
-Is a women Bushmen a Bushwoman?
-The Bushwomen's boobs look like udders.
-You are going to make us do a "bushwalk" now for 2 hours? In this heat?
-Aren't there snakes and scorpions here?
Needless to say, I went on the bushwalk because it was too hot to just stay in one place and I am also a firm believer in the whole "safety in numbers" philosophy. Todd thought it was really neat watching them dig up roots and explain their different uses. I would have probably rather spent the time doing dishes or plucking my eyebrows. After the walk was over, we set up camp and spent the entire afternoon trying to stay hydrated and as still as possible in a tiny little strip of shade. Our big festivity for the evening was supposed to be a big traditional dance performance by the whole tribe around our campfire. Much to our surprise, the dancing lasted about 6 minutes, comprised almost entirely of one guy wearing a g-string style loincloth with two feathers in his butt crack shaking his booty
The next day, we were off to the cheetah reserve, which was AMAZING!!! After seeing so much big game on this trip, the only thing that could top it is to see a bunch of carnivorous cats ripping apart animal parts five feet from where you are standing. When you see them all interacting, it is a lot like watching our dog to the local dog park running around in a pack with the other dogs. And visiting the tame cheetahs was really thrilling! It is easy to get lulled into thinking that they are really just big house cats because they like to be petted, they purr, and their leg kicks like a dog when you scratch their stomach. But at any moment, they could switch into their other, more lethal personality, which definitely keeps you on the edge the whole time! Check out our pics.