The big decision about today was which route to take from Epupa to Kunene River Lodge. The first option was to follow the river, a pretty route, for around 80km. Option 2 was 160km, retracing our route in for 70km, with little change in vegetation along the way. Option 1 sounds like no brainier, however, upon investigation, we got various reports but the jist was the first 20km to 30km was on a newly made good road, then about 20km of track, followed by around 15km of real rough, tyre wrecking stuff. The total length of the trip, according to various reports, varied between 5 and 9 hours. Option 2 around 3 ½ hours. The clincher to take option 2 however, was the report from the head of the road construction company, who was also staying at Epupa. Construction had been halted as they had come across land mines, remnants from the bush war. He was up here to meet with the Namibian Police regarding having the area swept and demined.
We set off around 9:15, passing the Zebra Mountains on our way to Okangwati. From there we turned left, retracing our steps on the Opuwa Road. Then we turned left towards Swartbooidrift, where we stopped for our first break, with the goats and cows. Or so we thought, next thing we had some local children come begging. We gave them pens and pencils but they asked for anything they could see in the car.
The terrain along this road was rocky, with no ground vegetation and littered with mopani trees and Himba villages.
Three kilometers from Kunene River Lodge, at Otjitunda, we stopped at the memorials and graves of the Dorsland Trekkers. The history of Namibia is as interesting as it is difficult and at times cruel and violent. The story of the Dorsland Trekkers (Thirst land Trek) I found particularly interesting. It took place from 1880 onwards, with Boer settlers from South Africa moving north, in search of political independence and better living conditions. Their primary destination was the Humpata Highlands in south-western Angola. On their journey up they traversed the vast, arid areas of the Kalahari desert and into Namibia and Botswana. The communities formed a closed community and resisted integration and innovation, brining impoverishment to many. After World War 1, there was dissension with the Portuguese Government in Angola regarding language, culture and religion and citizenship. Around 2000 Trekkers moved south into this area of what was then South West Africa. At Epupa I chatted to one of the ladies working there who was a descendant of a Himba mother and a Dorsland Trekker father. Life has never been easy for anyone in this area.
This lodge is run by an English couple, Peter and Hillary. It is on the banks of the river, although our rooms didn't have water frontage. There is a large deck, restaurant area, that overlooks the water. There is a beautiful overgrown garden with lush lawns, a welcome respite from the harsh conditions we have seen in the rest of the area.
We had a relaxing afternoon walking around the gardens and chilling on our patio. Al gave the girls a much needed pedicure, Gray ‘sawed wood’ and the other boys went birding. Then it was ‘cocktail on Kunene’ time, I had a mean Piña colada. The cacophony of noise on the Angolan bank across the river, in the reeds, was made by some 6000 chestnut weavers. Cocktails were followed by a delicious dinner on the deck. Topped off by a beautiful red full moon shimmering on the water.