Saturday, June 14, 2008

African Adventure: An incredible time at the Himba Village (Jan 29-31)

Current Location: A rural Himba Village, Kaokoloand, Namibia.

Highlights: The Himba village and a glimpse into their lives for 24 hrs, and our first flat tire.

Upcoming: Etosha National Park

Current GPS Coordinates: LAT: S 18.11.75 LONG: E 13.75.16

We spent a day and night at a rural Himba village which was an incredible and memorable experience. We are about to take off for Etosha Park, so I do not have the time to write at length here about our experiences and the things we saw, but I will do so in two or more installments shortly with some video clips. In this diary entry, I will just go over some highlights and share some pictures.

The Himba have retained many of their traditional ways despite an encroaching western way of life. They are private people and the only way we could visit a rural village was do so with a guide. This village last saw outside visitors in August 1999. It was about a 30-km drive from Opuwo along a poor windy track through trees and along a riverbed. After Ben, our English speaking and somewhat westernized guide talked o the village chief, we came in. We had to bring presents: a large bag of maze meal (ground corn = maze meal), sugar, cooking oil, tea, tobacco and snuff (Ben’s suggestion, not ours).

In the next 24 hrs, we were shown how they make the ochre colored paste with which the women paint their bodies. They grind a specific colored rock to a powder and mix with cattle butter, then completely coat their bodies. It is also used to shape their hair and a most of the skins they wear. We saw how they grow corm and other vegetables and raise goats and cattle. The Himbas basic diet is of soured milk, sometimes mixed with maze meal powder, and occasionally vegetables and meat when a goat is slaughtered (cattle are only slaughtered for special occasions). We bought a goat form the village to see how it is cooked. Once slaughtered, the goat is skinned and carefully cut into pieces. Every single part of the goat is cooked and eaten, and I mean every part, form the head to the lungs, to the intestine. Cooking is very straightforward. Every part is just put into a large pot and boiled for a few hours, then chunks are removed and eaten or saved for later.

We noticed that most of the teenagers and adults were missing the lower center front teeth. When we asked why, Ben told us that when the children are about 10, the front two teeth are punched out using a stark stick and hammer or rock. Apparently its very painful, but part of their custom and life style. We were also told about the holy fire, saw how the chief can read the organs of the freshly slaughtered goat, the sacred tree where horns of previously slaughtered animals on special occasions are placed and many aspects of Himba life. It was fascinating and I will detail this in the section on Native People, as well as include lots more pictures and video clips.

Back to the expedition nuts and bolts, we have now covered about 14 000 km, just over 6000 km since leaving Bloemfontein just before Christmas. Much of this later 6000 km has been on dirt roads which vary from quite good, to terrible. We seemed to have ironed out most of the Landy problems Rob Leimer left us with, but have had a few, almost expected problems. The other day we had our first flat tire, not a big deal. We have two spares, two spare inner tubes, repair patches, and a good compressor for inflation. The only mystery problem is that sometimes the Landy looses power intermittently when climbing VERY steep hills (low range first or second gear). It only does it when its very hot out and the gauges are also reading higher than normal (e.g., the additional water temp gauge we fitted reads about 85 centigrade). I thought it was the fuel pump as several folks have said that the fuel pumps acts up when its very hot. I fitted an electric pump which has made the situation better, but not perfect. I wonder if it’s a vapor lock problem or something similar? I am thinking about cutting a vent in the hood (bonnet) just in front of the carb. Any suggestions?

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