The first day’s trail climbs up to a plateau along the Eastern rim of the mountains, where we saw baboons, rock hyrax, mountain zebra, several eagles and many, many wildflowers. But we had started late and didn’t make it quite to the firstt shelter that night. Instead, we camped out in the open, using a clearing made by zebras for their sand baths. The soft ground suited us just fine and we had a great time sleeping under the moon and stars of a clear sky.
Early the next morning, we made it to the shelter and there was trasheverywhere. Due to flood damage during the last rainy season, the “jeep track” for maintenance was impassable, and the baboons had used the opportunity to raid the place. But the water pump was fine (every shelter is supposed to have a water supply, and so we needed to carry only 3 liters per person per day.) All morning the trail wound across the high plateau and for lunch we stopped near a huge active nest of sociable weavers. (It’s like an apartment house for birds.) From then we climbed down through a deep gorge, partially secured on chains, to the site of a former- vacation home that is now the 2nd night’s shelter. That night a herd of zebra visited us, munching the grasses behind the nearby bushes.
bypass a large (but now dry) waterfall. The beautiful view from above was worth the struggle. On the other side, once more in a valley, we found Namibia’s largest Moringa tree (known locally as a medicine tree for its curative values), with the stem of 4 meters
After a steep ascent in the morning, day 5 led us across the extensive milkweed plain – again with klipspringers and zebra watching us. However, in the evening we hit a crisis at the shelter: No water. This despite the fact that there was a huge tank and a solar water pump. It seems that someone had inadvertently left the valve open on the out-flowing pipe.
That night we had another good meal thanks to Michelle’s art of cooking – despite the limited choices of dry foods that we could carry, she always came up with surprises. And then we enjoyed the last of our hot chocolate under a full moon.
The 7th day hike began on a path through scruffy bushes, and at some particular narrow place, Ari tripped and fell backwards into the bushes, pulling Elsita with him. Not much happened since the
That night we camped at Kapokflakte shelter on the high plains. As the sun set, we saw a herd of springbok, but later they disappeared. We had expected to see more in the full moonlight – but a cold wind came up, forcing the animals into lower valleys and us into our sleeping bags. Next morning the temperature was below freezing with a hoar frost on the grass.
The last day led across a rubble-strewn high plateau
Despite the hardship and some big scratches and bruises, we had eight glorious days in the wild without seeing any humans except our own group. With the gorgeous views and herds of animals around, this was always my favorite hike and I am glad I could do it again – providing a bit of closure to thirteen years in beautiful Namibia.
Ending Experience #2: Success leads to new challenges (from Lucy)
I recently returned from Zambia -- my last African trip before Bernd and I embark on our Round-the-World adventure. Eleven hours by road from the capital of Lusaka, I reached Mansa – an agricultural outpost along Zambia’s northern border with the Congo. Here I met a group of amazing people associated with the Luapula Foundation, whose history is about as “far out” as its location.
Founded in 2001 by two Zambian citizens and a former US Peace Corps volunteer, the Luapula Foundation began with a donation of $870 from Louisiana, USA. Distressed by the growing numbers of children orphaned by AIDS
My visits always include a trip into the field to see what is really happening on the ground. Staff took me to meet with eighteen members of the Mushila Support Group of People Living with HIV/AIDS, an hour and a half away from the office. All the members looked healthy, which is remarkable in itself, as most had been bedridden and near death just a few years ago. Currently, all are receiving life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and have benefited from several training courses and start-up capital to improve their nutritional and economic condition.
What specifically, did the group get? Beginning two years ago, funding from the Stephen Lewis Foundation provided them with training on leadership, new farming
Group members spoke glowingly about the continued impact of the assistance they received. Their peanuts and soya crops have already produced two big harvests, thanks to the new farming techniques that they learned. For the first time in years, they have enough protein in their diet. Profits from the sale of fritters paid for last year’s school-fees, so that the children of group members could continue their education. Overall, the members said that they feel healthier and more respected in their community, and this has resulted in the reduction of stigma and discrimination. Now, other people are even asking for their advice, especially about HIV/AIDS and conservation farming. They are proud of what they have achieved, and feel much more optimistic about their future.
The problem is that African culture dictates that, when someone has achieved relative wealth, then others are entitled to share the bounty – both family members and neighbors in the community. Thus, the Mushili group was obliged not only to welcome the new members, but also to include them in the outcome of the work undertaken so far. Spreading the earnings to 51 people has watered down the benefit that any one person can enjoy. Thus everyone is a little bit better off but no one has enough to lift him- or her-self out of the depths of poverty. Once again, paying school fees has become a problem. And, as we were told, “Having two bicycles was great for 12 people, but not for 51. Moreover, we expect we’ll be 100 members pretty soon.”
I asked what the group intended to do about this onslaught of interest. I was told it is “not African” to turn neighbors away. The group’s chairperson said, “We are thinking of restructuring our Board so we can deal with this, but we don’t know how.” Clearly, this will be Luapula Foundation’s next challenge: to help the Mushila Support Group remain small enough to guarantee integrity and impact, but also ensure that others in the community can start their own groups with a similar outcome.
Beginning Experience #2: Eighteen days to go
Yikes! We’re mostly in denial about having to say good-bye, and our “TO DO” list is still too long for comfort. Nevertheless, we plan to have a website up and running (http://web.me.com/berndlucy/sevencontinents) before we leave, so you will be able to see photographs and keep abreast of our itinerary and adventures as much (or as little) as you want. We’ll also send out periodic letters, as now. Many of you have written us encouraging notes. Thanks for your support.
With best wishes,
Lucy and Bernd