Follow my Footsteps: Proudly Namibian …

After Swakop, it was back to Windhoek to overload the washing machine and most importantly to visit the annual Namibia Tourism Expo. It’s that much-anticipated time of year when the tourist industry dons all its finery, showcasing its products and services. For four days the Windhoek showgrounds are transformed, Cinderella-like, as the seven halls (and an outside area) fill up, a bevy of beauties (ie. 4x4s) is driven in for the motor show, food stalls are set up and an events tent is erected.

This year was no different and visitors arrived to see what the country is offering, view new products being launched, network, enter competitions for weekends away, watch cooking demonstrations, compete for best chef or choir, sample the fare and sip the various kinds of drink on offer.

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The 14th annual expo has been fine-tuned and polished, and although relatively small compared to international fairs (given that the entire Namibian population is only about 2.3 million), it holds authentic Namibian essence. Stands range from catering supplies to organic produce and everything in-between. ‘Local is lekker’ and Namibian products include Hartlief’s meat and Namibia Breweries’ beer, karakul rug-weaving, Piet’s biltong, Devil’s Claw tea (for arthritic conditions) and a new line of beauty products imbued with the aromatic commiphora resin favoured for centuries by the strikingly beautiful Himba women in the north-western region of the country.

Highpoints of the show included the Conservation stand where the success of the conservancy programme was highlighted. Namibia has made conservation history with the community conservancy programme, which enables communities to form conservancies and to sustainably manage their wildlife and resources. Realising the value of wildlife as a natural resource and as a tourist drawcard, members ensured that poaching became protection. The first conservancies were gazetted in 1998 and today there are 79 countrywide. Namibia is also proud to say that an impressive 43% of its land is under conservation management.

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The most fun, however, was to be had at the Gondwana stand that had been converted into a colourful padstal (farmstall) with windmill and wheelbarrow, ‘die lekkerste half bellegde rolls’ and two bands bopping away. The Etosha Boys vied with Desmond and Pietie Breedt until they joined-up and serenaded in unison. Gondwana also invited expo-visitors to choose the most original farm-name from the colourful photographs lining the stand, the winner to receive 103 free bed-nights at their lodges, a generous (and much coveted) prize. Amongst the names were Tranendal (Tear valley), Weltevrede (At peace), Plaas Japie, Dankbaar (Thankful) and Dis nou vergenoeg (It’s now far enough).

The Friday was sedate while Windhoek residents were at work, but as the sun dipped in the sky (and the temperature dropped), throngs of people arrived and the spirit rose. The choirs from joint-venture destinations (ie. conservancies with established lodges) took to the stage in the events tent with hip-swishing and foot-stamping, music played through the speakers and the smell of spit-braai and boerewors wafted through the lanes and down to the motor show, enticing all.

Ron SwillingRon Swilling is a freelance writer, based in Cape Town, writing for Namibian and South African publications. She is a regular contributor to Gondwana’s History and Stamps&Stories columns and documented the information on the Wild Horses in the Namib Desert for Mannfred Goldbeck and Telané Greyling. She invites you to ‘Follow her footsteps’ on her journey from the Orange River, exploring the Gondwana routes through the intriguing country of Namibia.

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Follow my Footsteps: Back to the land …

After a day in Windhoek, I had clean clothes, had done what was needed and was ready to hit the road. I made my way along the B2 towards Swakopmund and the coast, full of city blues (it doesn’t take long). Checking my Ron gauges, I found that they were all on low and I needed to plug in to the natural world again. I decided it would be a good idea to turn off 100km before Swakop (as the locals call it) to the Spitzkoppe massif, to re-energise heart and soul.

Spitzkoppe appears after Usakos, Tolkien-like, a world unto itself. It’s a group of friendly-looking granite mountains with the main Spitzkoppe peak distinctive at 1728m, a minor peak called Klein (Little) Spitzkoppe, and the rounded Pondok mountains. Creating an amphitheatre of wonder in between, it is a nature-lover’s getaway.

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First, I made a stop in Karibib though, en-route to the inselberg (island mountain) and the coast. Artist Anita Steyn has a gallery and studio on the main road where she creates and sells her artwork. Anita was hands-deep in clay when I arrived, making her popular ceramic basins, and I lured her from her work for lunch at the OK store. Although her home language is Afrikaans and mine is English, and neither of us has mastered the other’s language, we managed to get the gist of what the other was saying. What I did understand clearly, however, as I looked at a portfolio of her latest charcoal drawings and watercolours done recently near Rosh Pinah, was her affinity with the natural world and her incredible ability to convey it in art. She is of the opinion that if more people spent time in Nature, connecting with their source, there would be less need for psychologists. Amen to that, Anita.

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I looked at my watch, the short winter day was once again flying past and I still had a stretch of tar and a corrugated gravel road to negotiate before reaching the mountain kingdom. I stopped briefly to give a woman a lift to the Spitzkoppe village and to take a few photographs as the mountains appeared before us. The sun dipped behind the granite dome as I pulled up at a campsite. Moments later, I noticed a full moon rise in the sky to the east. Breathtaking!

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The night was perfect. Still, clear and warm. I lay on a warm rock for a while in the moonlight, nestled in the love of the land. Barking geckos called their mates and for a while I could hear the mumble of campers further away. Dreamtime was calling and I had to leave the perfection of the night and close my eyes. As I curled up, I remembered a line from a film about the Bushmen/San called ‘My Hunter’s Heart’, which had been aired several times on South African TV. It played through my head as I gave thanks for the day and the good Earth, and all the blessings in my Life that enabled me to be here at this time:

‘The sunset has seen me, the sunrise will find me.’

Ron SwillingRon Swilling is a freelance writer, based in Cape Town, writing for Namibian and South African publications. She is a regular contributor to Gondwana’s History and Stamps&Stories columns and documented the information on the Wild Horses in the Namib Desert for Mannfred Goldbeck and Telané Greyling. She invites you to ‘Follow her footsteps’ on her journey from the Orange River, exploring the Gondwana routes through the intriguing country of Namibia.

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Namibia’s own Storyteller: Doc Immelman

With over 2000 columns and more than forty books written, Doc Immelman is a prolific and successful Namibian author.

At the age of 84 years Doc Immelman is writing up his memoirs. (photo: Gondwana Collection)

His subject matter and titles are steeped in the land that he loves and Afrikaans-speakers countrywide have grown up with Doc’s books lining their school library shelves. With names like ‘Ruacana tot Rosh Pinah’, ‘Wind oor die Khomas Hochland’ and ‘Die wit hings van die Namib’, his writing is quintessentially Namibian. Boys and girls have been inspired by his books that accompanied them through high school years like good friends, capturing the mood of the time, and spurring them on their paths in later life. And Doc, at age 84, surrounded in his office by his collection of books, an old map of ‘Südwest Afrika’, elephant tusks, a buffalo skull and old hunting photographs, is still writing. Establishing major turning points in his life is not easily accomplished, as Doc, the true storyteller that he is, begins to tell story after story, so much so that eventually he realizes that if he continues, we’ll be there for supper and although a pot of ‘gemsbok sop’ (oryx soup) is simmering on the stove, there might not be enough to go around.

Peppering his account with humorous anecdotes, keeping everyone entertained with his quick wit, Doc recounts parts of his life. His story began in the Cape, where he was born as Daniel Ferdinand Immelman, only to be nicknamed Doc by colleagues later on. He attended Maitland High School and chose German as a subject, enraging his school principal for choosing the language of the enemy during wartime, and unknowingly preparing for his life in Namibia. His writing ability was realised when he was thirteen years old and a teacher encouraged him to write a poem for an Afrikaans weekly newspaper. This he did and posted it away, amazed at the end of the month to receive a letter with a post order for 7 shillings and 7 pennies. Doc didn’t realise he would be paid for the work!