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Text Fred Vnoucek
Photos Fred Vnoucek

In Namibia one speaks German. This doesn't surprise as the country at the South end of the African continent was announced to be a protectorate of the German Reich in 1884. Immediately afterwards the - German Colonial Association of South Africa' began settling. In 1891 Windhoek became headquarter of the German administration, further strongholds of German immigrants were Swakopmund and Lderitz. Until this day a lot of streets and shops in Swakopmund have German names und it may happen that you will be greeted by a filling station attendant with the words "volltanken, der Herr" (filling up, sir).

During the comfortable nonstop flight from Europe I have the time to look into the interesting history of Namibia. From the arrival of the Portuguese at the cape - even before the discovery of America - to the settlement by the Herero tribe and the Boers the historical path of the country leads to its independence in 1990.

There are several possibilities to travel through Namibia: participate in an organised roundtrip, book a rental car and drive from accommodation to accommodation or rent a so called - bushcamper' - a camper on the basis of a 4x4 jeep. The bushcamper comes with camping and cooking equipment. Sleeping facilities are on top of the vehicle. In case you want to visit remote areas of Namibia - as for example Kaoko country - the bushcamper is the most appropriate means of travelling.

Immigration is quickly handled. My friend John is already waiting in front of the airport for me. We decide to go for the bushcamper as we want to visit Kaoko country up to Kunene River. The vehicle is already fully prepared and after stopping at a local supermarket in Windhoek we can start our adventure trip. It takes several hours to reach Etoscha National Park which is one of the most beautiful sanctuaries in Africa and accomodates a dense animal population.

Founded in 1907 the National Park originally reached the Atlantic ocean. Since 1970 the park exists within its present day boundaries with the - pan- in the centre. The best time to visit Etoscha is during dry season (May - October) when the animals migrate to the waterholes.

We spend several days in Etoscha, camping in each of the three state-run campsites Halali, Okaukuejo and Namutoni. Each morning at dawn the gates of the campsites are opened and the safari may start. We are watching elephants, cheetahs, lions and the rare black rhino. Each evening at Okaukuejo and Halali a waterhole is illuminated by strong spotlights and we can watch different species of big game watering.

We are leaving Etoscha and are driving northwest through deserted regions. After a long day we are arriving at Opuwo which is the starting point for tours to the - wild north western part' of the country. Here modern time meets stone age. At the local market we see Hereros in their traditional clothing as well as the first Himbas. In Opuwo we can fill up petrol and stock for the last time. Dirt roads are leading into Kaoko country and to the border with Angola. On our route to the Kunene river we see the first Himba settlements as well as burial places.

The Himba who are also called ochre people provide the impression of an original, traditional way of life. Their name is due to their custom to protect their skin with a mixture of ferric oxide earth and goat butter. Families are living in round adobe huts and women traditionally wear handmade copper and leather jewellery.

In contrast the Herero have untertaken a totally different development. Herero women wear colourful garments in victorian style which consist of 5-10 meters of cloth. Additionally they wear a matching skilful bonded, three corner headdress. Herero men wear - especially on Herero day at the end of August - colourful fantasy uniforms.

We are very tired when we reach our destination but we manage to find a beautiful camp site which is located next to the river only a few meters away from the Epupa waterfalls. Whilst John is building up the tent and preparing our dinner I'm setting out for a little walk to the waterfalls along the river. About a hundred meters away there already starts Angola.

The Kunene River with the Ruacana Falls and the smaller but picturesque Epupa Falls naturally marks the border between Kaoko country in the Northwest of Namibia and Angola. The harsh landscape of the Koako fields belongs to Kaoko country. This is the homeland of the traditionally living Himbas. Equally the wild romantic Damara country with its unique variety of geological features and prehistorical testimonies. A very remote area where humans and animals had to adapt for which one example is the desert elephant.

Some Himba settlements are located in the area. The gifts we brought along - tobacco, flour and matches - facilitate contact with the village inhabitants. After several days we leave the camp at the Kunene river and drive a difficult route through the lonely Kaoko country. We still meet remote Himba villages several times. After some days and nights in the bush we reach the small village Sesfontein. From here it is no longer far to the Hobatere Lodge. We leave the Kaoko country and visit the rock engravings of Twyffelfontein, the fire mountain and ' petrified forest '.

The first traces of humans in today's Namibia can be retraced back to the stone age. Numerous rock engravings and paintings witness that these "natives" were living as hunters and gatherers. According to scientists they were the San - also called bushmen - as well as the Damara who different to the San already turned relatively early to agriculture.

In the Skeleton Coast National Park the Atlantic already lies before us. Passing some ship wrecks more or less mouldered - which gave the National Park its name - we reach the cross cape. From there it is no longer far to Swakopmund, where we want to spend the next days. The historical lighthouse as well as the old steam engine 'Martin Luther' are objects of interest of the city.

The Skeleton Coast Park was created in 1971. It covers 2 million hectares of sand dunes and rubble. The coastal strip received its name by the many stranded ships. The Portuguese Diego Cao reached 1486 Cape Cross. Today this place is known because of the large fur seal colony (during the season approx. 80000!) which can be visited.

Sandwich Harbour, which is located not very far from Swakopmund, forms already part of the large Namib Naukluft National Park. This National Park is the last destination of our journey. Here we find welwitschia mirabilis, a plant, from which we admire a 1500 years old specimen. We are driving through the unlimited vastness; in the distance herds of oryxantilopes and springboks are moving.

The Namib Naukluft Park is the largest protected area of Africa. The sand sea of the Namibteils with its colourful dunes expands in the South. Endless grey rubble plains with isolated hills cover the North. The Naukluft mountains consist of cliffy mountain ranges and deep canyons.

The well-known red sand dunes of Sossusvlei are located between the Kuiseb river in the North and the Khoichab river in the South. Since one may drive only during the day into the dune area, we camp near the entrance. Before sunrise we are already sitting in the vehicle in order to use the early morning light for photographing.

The majority of the road through the dunes is prepared, only for the last five kilometres we need an all-wheel-driven vehicle. The other possibility is to hike the remaining way. The dunes are strictly protected, however there are some places where it is permitted to walk on them. One step forward two steps back is the formula. However, it is always worthwhile the effort.

Sossusvlei is an enormous desiccated loamy swale, which is surrounded by dunes of up to three hundred meters. In heavy-rainfall years the Tsauchab river flows into this swale, which accumulates the water and attracts numerous animal species. The river is also responsible for the Sesriem Canyon. Over a distance of 1 km the Tsauchab river cut a 30m deep canyon into the landscape, in whose shady protection trees and plants prosper.

Far more in the South of Namibia we reach Lderitz and yet another time the Atlantic. Founded by the merchant Adolf Lderitz the city reached temporary prosperity through diamond findings, a time from which still today magnificent buildings witness. Here, where the history of Namibia as a German colony began in 1884 our journey ends.

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