Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nhoma Camp

Hello from Maun Botswana. Having trouble uploading photos, will try again tomorrow, if not then look in about 5 days.
We spent a couple of days at Nhoma Camp, located in eastern Namibia (between Grootfontein and Tsumkwe), a rather remote area known as Bushmanland. We were here to spend some time with the bushmen (and bushwomen), to see some of their traditional ways of living, which they still practice. If you have ever see the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy" then you know who the bushmen are.

Nhoma Camp is located very near a bushmen village and works in cooperation with the villagers to offer intertactive cultural activites for the visitors. With a guide we visted the village and watched the residents more or less going about some of their daily activities. Although our presence was obvious, the activites were more or less what the villagers would be doing anyway. In the village we saw some traditional games and dancing, as well as craft and arrow-making. At times when we were not visiting the village we could hear the singing and dancing happening as well.

The highlight is going out into the bush with hunters. Using very traditional tools and methods the hunters go looking for whatever they can kill or find. Along the way they would stop to show us particular plants and what they are used for,. They also demonstrated how to make a bird snare from materials at hand - made some cord from a flax-like plant and rigged a noose using tension from a small tree.

The major find the first day was a honey tree. Using a long stick with a hook on the end (designed to catch springhares down in their holes) the hunters would probe likely trees. If bees were present the hook would pick up the smell of the bees wax. Once a tree was found they cut it down and collected the honey and wax. Actually they ate more than they took back!

The second day we went looking for porcupine, which apparently are good eating, and the quills are used in making jewelery. While driving to the area (yes, walking would be more traditional but ...) we came upon a small antelope which they shot with a poison arrow. Since the poison takes time to work we continued on to look for the porcupines. We found some fresh tracks, but recent rain had made the ground hard and tracking was difficult. We checked some holes in the area but alas no porcupines to be found. We returned to the antelope area to track the animal. The bushmen found where the animal had laid down and pawed the ground, which indicated to them it was indeed injured. We followed the tracks, but the wind was behind us and the animal was simply running from our scent, so we decided to return later in the day. Later we returned and the bushmen followed the tracks, however other animals had come through the area and there were several overlapping tracks which were confusing to follow, so we did not catch up with the animal before it got dark.

It was humbling for us to be out in such a harsh environment with people who knew it so well, while being spoiled rotten by our hosts Arno and Estelle.

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