When I flew into Windhoek earlier this year, the wide and at times barren landscape of Namibia first caught my sight. Namibia currently has roughly 2.3 Millions inhabitants and a total area of more than 800’000 km2. In comparison, Switzerland - my home country - has 8.2 Millions inhabitants and a total area of little more than 40’000 km2 (with the Alps taking a large portion of that).
At times, we could drive for hours and hundreds of kilometres without crossing anybody else's path. It felt like….freedom. But it was only when I climbed into the hot air balloon basket at Sossusvlei and slowly floated towards the sky that I began to truly appreciate Namibia’s landscape. From above and sunlit by the first morning rays, it’s true beauty became fully visible.
The Himba are indigenous peoples with an estimated population of about 50’000 people living in northern Namibia, in the Kunene region and on the other side of the Kunene River in Angola. They are a semi-nomadic, pastoral people, culturally distinguishable from the Herero people in northern Namibia and southern Angola. The Himba are considered the last (semi-) nomadic people in Namibia.
It takes quite a drive to reach the town of Opuwo in the North of Namibia. Opuwo is the capital of the Kunene Region in north-western Namibia and has a population of around 15’000. It is a good starting point for excursions to nearby Himba settlements. After an hour’s drive, we finally got to meet them in person. Thanks to our guide who translated our questions to them, we got a unique insight into their daily lives. Of course, I took the opportunity to take a few snaps as well.
Driven by the enormous wealth of the first diamond miners, the residents built the village in the architectural style of a German town, with amenities and institutions including a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, skittle-alley, theatre and sport-hall, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray-station in the southern hemisphere, as well as the first tram in Africa.
The town declined after World War I when the diamond-field slowly exhausted and was ultimately abandoned in 1954. Year by year, the desert sands are reclaiming the once-thriving town. Exploring the sand covered rooms of the various buildings, you can’t help but to imagine hearing the whispers of past life around every corner.
The landscapes of Namibia offer many different sights. At times, you feel like being on the surface of Mars. That feeling is only interrupted by the occasional Oryx antelope or ostrich that suddenly show up at the horizon.
The Etosha national park is another thing though. Over 22’000 square kilometres big, it is a wildlife sanctuary full of wild animals such as rhinos, elephants, lions, antelopes, giraffes, zebras, etc.
Spend a night at one of the many waterholes and you will see many of these creatures up close.