Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Is This Real Life?

That is the question that I continuously asked myself this weekend, because if it weren't for the bumps in the back of the bakkie or the hot sun beating down on me, I could have sworn I was dreaming. Yes, it was that incredible. Let me back up and start from the beginning.

A few weeks ago, the other Oshana girls and I decided to go visit the three volunteers in the Kunene region, in a town called Opuwo. I was really looking forward to a trip out of Oshana and to seeing the other volunteers, especially after a tough week at school. Friday came and I was anxiously counting down the hours until school ended so I could hitch a ride into town and meet up with the girls. We still didn't know how we were getting to Opuwo (about a two and a half hour drive) but just as school was ending, I got a text from one of the girls saying that if we could all get to Oshakati by 3:30, we had a free ride! It turns out a friend of Ashley's was driving back that way and offered to wait and take us in his bakkie. Cue the start of our incredible luck. We all made it to Oshakati on time, Louis pulled in, and we piled in his truck (along with the cement mixer he was transporting back- is this real life?).
Kristin in the back of the
bakkie with the cement mixer.
View driving into Opuwo.
Luckily for us, it was a fairly overcast day, so the sun wasn't burning us as we drove. We made it to Opuwo in great time, and our lovely driver even stopped at a China shop to buy us some pillow to make the ride more comfortable. When we pulled in to the parking lot of the OK Grocer in Opuwo, we were greeted by our friends, and by some Himba women selling jewelery. For those that don't know, the Himba are a traditional tribe in Northwestern Namibia famous for their traditional (bare chested) dress, and the ochre mixture that they cover themselves in to protect them from the sun. We then went to a restaurant next door owned by a South African couple that the girls had become friends with.
We had a lovely meal and chatted about all that had happened since we had departed to our sites. The girls told us that although they had hoped to take us to Epupa Falls the next day, our ride had to work, so it looked like we wouldn't be going. We were bummed, but knew it just meant we would have to come back. After eating, we walked through Opuwo to the Abba guest house where we would be spending the night. The guest house was really nice, and also owned by friends of Ashley, Taylor, and Mailin, and they gave us a great rate on our rooms. We dropped our stuff off and got changed, and then piled back into Louie's bakkie to go to the Opuwo Country Lodge for drinks. The lodge was incredible; situated on top of a hill that over looked the mountains, it had an infinity pool that offered a fantastic view. We had a great time hanging out, and got to know a few more friends that the girls had made in Opuwo, as well as a Peace Corp volunteer that knew another PCV that had come with us. We also found out that Louis had offered to take us all to Epupa the next day. Our good luck strikes again! We had a few drinks, looked at the most incredible night sky I have ever seen, including a full view of the Milky Way, and then went to bed.

The next morning, we got up early and went to the grocery store to get supplies for the weekend. We bought some food, and had breakfast back at the restaurant, including the first real cup of coffee I've had in over a month. (This shouldn't make it as high up on my highlights of the weekend list as it does, but I know at least some of you understand!)  We loaded all of our camping supplies into the truck and piled in once again for another bakkie ride.
About to embark on the ride out to
Our beautiful campsite. See those mountains?
That's Angola.
This time the sun was beaming and the road was considerably more bumpy, but we at least had pillows and bed rolls to cushion us a little. However, sun, wind, and dust, is not a great combination either for my hair (which basically turned to dreads), my stomach, or my skin. When we arrived at the campsite 3 hours later, we were all more than ready to get out of the truck. We found ourselves in a beautiful campsite right on the river, with Angola just on the other side! We unloaded the things, set up the tents and then took a much needed swim in the pool. Yup. A pool. A really nice one with a cabana bar. We were in absolute heaven. After swimming for awhile, we walked to the falls.

There really are not words to describe how absolutely incredibly beautiful they are. Not even the pictures can do it justice. Kids were washing clothes and playing in the pools that gathered off to the side, the blue sky, red sand, and green grass created a gorgeous backdrop to the sound of the water roaring over the rocks.

We climbed around, snapping pictures and just soaking it all in. I sat on a rock in the middle of the falls, with mist spraying my hot skin, just looking and listening to everything around me, and once again had to ask "is this real life?"  I could have stayed there forever.
 Eventually I removed myself from my perch and walked back toward where the kids were playing. Erica had met some and was busy taking pictures of them at their request. I walked over and said hi and started talking to some of the girls. Then they were pointing to my hair and asked me to take it out of the ponytail. I did, squatted down, and immediately was encircled by a flock of hands who all wanted to braid my hair. I sat there laughing as 6 pairs of tiny African hands pulled my hair into random braids. Soon, everyone started heading back to the campsite, so I managed to get my head away from their hands, thank them for their handiwork, and walk back, sporting quite the 'do.

The line of falls from the lookout point.
We went back in the pool for a while (the only relief from the burning sun) and I noticed that despite the copious amounts of sunscreen I had applied, I was still getting pretty burned. My stomach also wasn't feeling great so I decided to sit in the shade for a while with a few of the others. Ashley and Louis had gone to the Himba village to buy some fresh bread and when they go back, we got back in the truck to drive to a lookout point on top of a hill where you can see the sunset and a view of the whole fall line. We got out of the truck, with the sun setting behind us, and looked down the orange hill to see the Kunene River crashing over rocks with Angolan mountains in the background. Is. This. Real. Life?! When the sun had dipped behind the mountain and we had taken every possible picture we could, we headed back down to get started on our braii.
Louis had gotten some meat from a butcher (the restaurant owner's husband, who we found out had given us the meat for free!) and he and Ashley cooked us an amazing braai. We all helped by making braai sandwiches, veggies, chutney, and cheese on the fresh rolls that get cooked on the fire. Between those, sausages  and steaks, we were stuffed. We sat around the fire eating, drinking, talking, laughing, and looking again at the incredible stars (seriously puts NH to shame, and NH has good stars). It was such a perfect day. Although we all would have liked to stay up forever, we were exhausted and had to get up early to get back to Opuwo and catch a combi back to Oshakati. I climbed into my mesh tent under the stars and once again had to ask, is this real life?

We woke up early, stumbled out of bed and managed to get everything packed up and loaded back on the truck. We were a little worried about getting back on time, but our wonderful driver pulled out the best back road driving and managed to get us back to Opuwo in time to get a ride. (He obviously wins the MVP award for the entire weekend). We got a ride with a man who was driving back, and Nora (the PVC with us) used her haggling skills so we only had to pay $115 instead of the $140 a combi would have cost. We bought a bit more food at the grocery store, said goodbye to the couple that owned the restaurant, (promising to come back and try their pizza from the pizza oven they were installing that day!) and piled into the car for the ride back. It was long, but at least we were in a covered car, so no wind or sun to deal with. Aside from a pair of ostriches crossing the road, the ride was fairly uneventful. We had him drop us at the grocery store so we could do a little shopping. We thought that this store was open later than the usual 1:00 closing time, but it wasn't and it was 1:06. Our luck struck again though, and they people at the door let us in anyway. We scurried around grabbing what we needed, then said our goodbyes and headed to our respective hike points to get rides back. I jumped out of the bakkie, went into my house, and collapsed on my bed. The first thing I did was to take a shower. I had to shampoo my hair three times and condition twice just to get the texture to resemble hair again, and not straw...

Once I felt my plans for the next day were solid enough, I collapsed into bed, exhausted, but also energized for the week from the fantastic weekend. It's amazing what a good weekend can do for your spirit, and we decided that we would try to do something fun like that at least once a month if we could. It was so nice to seem some of the other volunteers again, and to see a new part of Namibia. This country is so beautiful and diverse and this weekend just made me more excited to see the rest of it! I wish that I could bring you all out here and show you, but I guess the pictures will have to do.

Hope everyone is enjoying the snow (you have no idea how jealous I am) and any days off it may have given you! Till next time,

Lots of love,


1 comment:

  1. Wow, that sounds incredible! And you look so beautiful and happy! I love the picture of the kids playing with your hair, it's soooo adorable. But seriously, that sounds like an amazing weekend and like you're having a very memorable time. Keep the blog posts coming! Love you!!