There was an element of danger on the road today. Large trucks made it slow-going in parts, a car had driven over the embankment and several ambulances made their way to the scene from Otjiwarongo. I had felt the disharmonious energy in the air earlier in the day and it was confirmed round about the time when I spotted the Omatakos, those two mountains that are so-named (in Otjiherero) for their resemblance to a woman’s buttocks but any fool can see their similarity to buxom breasts. Maybe all the B’s got confused along the way or someone decided that bums were more politely-correct (yes, meant that) than boobs. Anyhow, it was about that time when a large kamikaze warthog decided to cross my path. A miss is as good as a mile, as they say, but I reduced my speed and kept a sharp eye on the road and verges. I was also venturing into lesser known territory and I felt the uncertainty tugging at me and merging with the shimmering of danger. A feeling of relief flooded over me when I spotted the first makalani palms indicating that I was now in the northern reaches of the country, and left the strange day and uneasiness behind me.
Overnighting half-way at Roy’s Camp, just north of Grootfontein, I was woken by eland making their way to the waterhole, francolins and the wonderful and comforting sounds of the bush.
A new day dawned with a positive energy. Halfway to Rundu, the Mururani veterinary gate prohibits animal and plant material from passing to the south. It also acts as a doorway into Africa, and as soon as you pass through, you pop out in the Kavango region, Alice-in-Wonderland style. Wattle-and-daub thatched village huts are immediately visible alongside the road as are ox-carts, children collecting thatching grass and people carrying water containers by any and every means possible.
I was relaxed and quite happy to slow down as I passed through the villages. At Rundu, I followed the signs (well, I missed one and did an extra loop or two) towards Hakusembe Lodge, a new addition to the Gondwana Collection. Green, neatly mowed lawn, an oasis of trees, thatched chalets and the peace and beauty of the river welcomed me. I was shown to my floating chalet – yup, there is a god after all! – before boarding the Hakusembe River Queen for sunset on the river.
Villagers washed themselves along the banks on the Angolan side, crocs (guide Paulus calls them small!) sunned themselves on the banks, water monitors slithered through vegetation, pied kingfishers dived into the water for small fish and a fish eagle took off from the fork of a tree. It was water paradise and the day ended with silence and a red sun dipping into the earth. I applauded – it was quite a show after all! We drifted downstream back to the lodge with the sounds of birds and the chiming of painted reed frogs.
Ron 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.