Languages: English, Afrikaans (official), German, Portuguese, Bantu (Ovambo, Herero), Khoisan (Nama, Khoikhoi, San),
The earliest inhabitants of deserts of Namibia and Botswana were the hardy San whose presence here can be traced back to 100 AD. Their unique clicking language was shared by the Khoikhoi who moved in from the south around 500 AD.
Later, Bantu tribes started moving in from the northeast, first the Ovambo who settled in the north around 1300 AD and then the Herero who pushed the Khoikhoi into the desert or the swamps of Botswana around 1600 AD. The Khoisan speaking people who resisted gave rise to the modern Nana people.
This desolate part of Africa became German West Africa in 1884. In 1904 the Herero and Nama tribes rebellion against the harsh German rule was quelled in a bloodbath in which 60% of the native population was murdered.
During world war I, the german colony was invaded by South Africa who was given the mandate to rule "South West Africa" by the League of Nations. In 1966 the UN terminated this mandate but South Africa introduced its apartheid and security laws and continued to occupy the country illegally until the guerrilla war mounted by South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) and intense international pressure forced it to grant independence to Namibia in 1990.
Things have been going rather smoothly between the pragmatic black government under the presidency of Sam Nujoma and the white business minority considering the century of violent white oppression preceding independence.
There was no bus service to Botswana so I had no other choice but to hitch hike out of Victoria Falls to the Botswana border at Kasane. There was very little traffic and the little there was did not stop until this great road train picked me up. Hitch hiking is not free in this part of the world, you negotiate a fare with the driver. Its a normal way to travel where buses don't go.
I had planned to get off at the Botswana border at Kasane to visit Chobe Park and its wildlife but I got along so well with the driver Fritz Tsuseb and his helper Mathias that I decided to go all the way to Grootfontein in Namibia with them. That's Fritz walking back from the Botswana - Namibia border post at Ngoma.
Villages like this get more rare as we move west where there is less rainfall. I missed Botswana's Chobe Park but I saw some wildlife in the dry West Caprivi Game Park. It was a long dusty drive. We stopped now and then and I got to meet Hans, the driver of the other road train and his helper Nicholas.
We arrived in Grootfontein at dawn. The two crews needed a rest after driving 20 hours. We slept a couple of hours, I moved north towards Atosha Park and they continued south to Windhoek with their load of sugar.
From Grootfontein, I got a collective taxi up to Tsumeb, a second one took me as far as the turn off to the park and finally two workers in a truck gave me a free ride to the eastern gate of the park at Namutoni.
Here I learned that there was no public transport through the park at this time of the year because there are too few tourists during the rainy season. Tourists flock here in the dry season when the animals are easy to find because they have to go to known watering holes every day.
After hanging around for a while I got lucky and met Gerhard Geldenhuis, a contractor building concrete bases for microwave towers all over the park. He offered me a ride as he was going to the western gate of the park at Okaukuep with a few stops at job sites on the way. He was an interesting fellow with a lot of experience who had grown up in the times of white supremacy but had now well adapted to the takeover of government by the black community.
This was the wet season but Etosha Park looked pretty dry to me. Gerhard explained that in the dry season most of the park becomes a desert like the barren area in the background called the Etosha Pan.
When to rains come, the vegetation rises very rapidly and the animals disperse all over the park as water is available everywhere. In the dry season these springbok would have to crowd around a water hole where they are more vulnerable to predators.
The delicate springbok is a beautiful animal with its dark side band contrasting the light brown back and white belly.
I had the good luck of seeing a lot of animals even though it was the rainy season.
I saw a lot of springbok, two dozen ostriches, a dozen wildebeest, as many elephants and giraffes, a few zebra and one rhinoceros. I did not see any lions, cheetah, hyena or other predators but they must have been there with all that meat around.
I was the only tourist in Okaukuep so I got a special price (30 US$) for a luxurious three bed cabin with living room, bathroom and kitchen which was the only accommodation available there.
On the following morning I got a lift with one of the game wardens to Outjo where I caught a taxi to Windhoek. The black driver was not hostile but he certainly was not talkative. Two more black passengers got on in Otjiwarongo and we drove the rest of the way in silence in spite of my efforts to break the ice.
It was raining cats and dogs when we got to Windhoek. I got on the phone and found a room at the "Cardboard Box" backpacker's hostel for 7 US$ and the rain let up just long enough for me to walk there. I got acquainted with the other travellers, called a friend in town, did my washing and took it easy.
I spent three days in Windhoek not only visiting but also doing my traveller's chores, washing, getting photos developed and writing notes on the back, sending post cards, buying souvenirs and sending them home, etc. From here, I sent an ostrich egg shell which I value greatly.
On my last evening here I was invited for dinner by Richard and Charlotte Laaser. Charlotte is the sister of a friend of mine in Montreal. Richard runs his own business installing security systems for homes and offices. A good business in Africa these days!
The next day I hit the road again, this time by overnight bus all the way to Capetown, an 18 hour drive. This is the western edge of the Kalahari desert south of Windhoek.