Before travelling to Namibia’s least inhabited area, which borders the cold Atlantic Ocean to the west with the rugged Angolan wilderness to the north, the only ovaHimba I had seen in my life were at OK parking, selling their crafts.
Driving through the Kunene region with my keen-eyed companions (locals) was equivalent to reading the local newspaper – they knew everything. When I wasn’t asking questions or absorbing all the information that was being shared, I had the opportunity to quietly take in the dramatic landscape that surrounded me.
A rich virgin landscape with ochre sand and black rock. It was in these barren plains of the inner Namib Desert where I lost my mind and found my soul. It is here, in one of the last true wildernesses in Africa where I had endless conversations with the Lone Men of Kaokoland. These “men” are life-sized rock sculptures created with masterful artistry giving the appearance that they have sprung from earth.
I admired these men whom I found to be like pieces of art in an open-air gallery, blending in perfectly with their surroundings. I sat with one where I found him on a hilltop, seemingly surveying the arid landscape. I stood next to another who was seemingly strolling across the stony plains, carrying a bundle on the end of a stick like an old-time traveller. As we drove on to Marienfluss, which lies at the extreme north-west of the Kunene region and borders Angola, we stopped at the ‘red drum’ for a bite to eat.
The Red Drum is a marker used to indicate the turn off into the Marienfluss, which has become such a prominent feature, it has been given this name on the topographic map of the area. We spent two nights at Camp Syncro, which is home to Pebble Beach, a literal pebbled beach on the banks of the Kunene River.
I, however, stayed far enough from the water’s edge not to attract the attention of the river’s carnivorous denizens after one attacked a goat nearby.
One thing about the Kunene region is that it lures lovers of remote and wild places. We also spent some time at Etambura Camp, Namibia’s first Himba-owned camp situated on top of a hill near the holy plains of Onjuva, and is a real insider tip. All units have all been built on wooden platforms allowing amazing views onto the surrounding landscape.
I got to experience the remote charm of the area and l reached a new level of respect for the ovaHimba, a culturally rich group of highly skilled people who herd cattle and live in one of the world’s harshest environments.
This unmerciful harshness of the terrain caused us three flat tyres, relentless backache and motion sickness. I’ve always had an interest in basic auto mechanics and know that changing a tyre is a handy life skill, but I didn’t expect to have to change a tyre of a fully-loaded 4x4.
Like many people, I learned to do it when I was young but I kind of forgot over the years. One thing I learned on this trip is that even if you take preventative measures to keep your tyres in great condition, it is extremely important for your safety and your convenience to know how to change a flat.
Two reasons why it’s important to know how to change a tyre in Namibia:
1. Cellphones don’t always have reception. In this day and age, we depend heavily on our cell phones, but cell reception doesn’t reach all areas. When travelling throughout Namibia, it is not hard to imagine a situation where you find yourself with no cellphone reception, unable to call for help. Changing your tyre can give you the ability to get back on the road and get help without it.
2. You will save money. Aside from saving time, you will save yourself a pretty penny too. If you don’t have roadside assistance; your only other option may be to call a towing company. Needless to say, this will cost you much more time and money than simply doing the job yourself. I implore you to make a point of visiting the Kunene region; you haven’t fully lived until you do.