Let me talk to you about our recent experience with the San tribe in Namibia. The San people are also called the Bushmen. We visited their settlement close to the Botswana border, in the Nyae Nyae conservancy https://bit.ly/3dUgTH0, near the Khaudum National Park. This is a very remote and isolated region in Namibia. The Nyae Nyae Conservancy is the home of the San people, who are our oldest human ancestors and the direct descendants of the original Homo Sapiens https://bit.ly/30zgNRr They are possibly the world’s most ancient race and are said to carry the oldest human Y chromosome. https://bit.ly/3hlKyeG.
With a San national population of around 30,000, they constitute less than 2% of the Namibian population and have the lowest income per capita in the country.
So, with Anton, my Life Partner, we ventured to the wild. With my beloved car, the tent on the top, the fridge in the back, and plenty of petrol, food, and water.
We set camp at a designated spot near a beautiful baobab tree, very close to the village. There was no water, no electricity and the San people gave us some wood for a fire.
Back to the simplicity of life and the stillness of nature, which started percolating our skin. Yes, it takes a little while to adjust to the silence of nature.
The following day, Small Boy who is also a San, was our guide and translator.
He explained that there are several San sub-tribes and languages and the one visited is Ju l’hoansi. The San people in Namibia speak with amusing clicks, wear hardly any clothes, and in general, are very thin and short in stature. Also, they are said to be the best hunters and gatherers in the world. The San still use this ancient knowledge.
Accompanied by Small boy, we booked a full day immersion and went hunting with about 15 San men and women. Near the villages, they are allowed to hunt freely only with bows and arrows. There are many animals including springboks, kudus, blue wildebeest https://bit.ly/37i4XMK hartebeest https://bit.ly/3dQ7m3H porcupines https://bit.ly/3dQ7m3H, etc. They showed us how to start a fire with some twigs. I tried and failed a few times before managing with some help!!😊
They showed us how to find plants containing water underground; how to make traps for animals; which edible berries to collect. They also explained how they use some plants for medicinal purposes.
At the end of our day, in a bird’s trap, they caught a red created korhaan https://bit.ly/37jgSdo. They cooked it for us for dinner with pap https://bit.ly/37jgSdo It was at night, we did not quite know what we were eating, and I am sorry to say that the bird was tough! 😊.
Then, around a fire at night they sang, told each other fun stories about hunting and the greatness of their ancestors. They danced, went into a trance, the Medicine Man gave healing to each person including us, which was a big surprise.
From this day of activity, what touched me most and, is that they were quite shy with us. Perhaps they seldom see visitors or we look a bit like aliens to them. I am not sure.
However, when observing them mingle together, it was so nice to see that they have so much respect and kindness for each other. No one is better than the other, everybody seems to have their own place in the community. They are also joyful and playful in a gentle and quiet way. They blend with nature, follow the rhythm of the days, in a soft, quiet, and natural way.
Perhaps I am idealizing. I don’t know. The San tribe in Namibia is materially very poor and seems to have limited access to the abundance of water and food. Some of the elderly seem in poor health. They are scared of going to modern doctors or hospitals, which are against their belief systems. There are also problems with alcoholism in some of the San settlements in the country.
The San people in Namibia are the most marginalized tribe and there is little integration with the rest of the population. Perhaps it is how they want it to be. To have the freedom to live happily in their bubble of gentleness, togetherness, and simplicity. To care for each other without the interference of technology, complexity, and materialism.
Perhaps it is gradually changing with the influx of tourists and the new generations may be attracted to the material world.
However, it is quite amazing and remarkable that this particular San settlement can survive in a different era, isolated and mostly oblivious to the modern world around them. How long will it last like this? I don’t know but I wish they can retain their identity and authenticity for a long time to come.
What we remember most from our experience, is a genuine feeling of humility, simplicity, harmonious connection with nature, and their joy and respect for each other. The San people touched our hearts.
ps. Please do not miss to read my last blog on https://alacartetravels.com/namibia-with-covid-19-and-what-i-enjoy/ and feel free to visit our website http://www.alacartetravels.com. Dankie😊
You may be wondering how life is in Namibia with COVID 19 and what I do to adapt at present.
The Namibian government closed the borders quickly and put us into confinement on the 28rd March 2020 when we had 6 positive cases. We got released from confinement on the 5th May 2020 (phase 2 out of 4) https://bit.ly/2T9Q0qg .
To date, mid-May 2020, we have had 16 positive cases and 0 death from COVID 19, which is very fortunate.
Compared to many countries in the world, we were lucky to only be semi-confined, where we could roam freely for exercise, basic shopping and for medical attention.
Nathalie, from France, became my daily companion, friend and neighbour during COVID 19. Her husband came on a mission to supervise a vessel repair at Namdock Shipyard in Walvis Bay. Nathalie came to visit him for 2 weeks and then she could not fly back to France in time. That was my good luck😊.
With Nathalie, most days we walk alongside the lagoon or the sea where pelicans, flamingos and seals are our daily companions. Yesterday, to our delight, we saw 5 dolphins in the bay enjoying themselves and a couple of them came close to us (less than 10 m). Another occupation is to practise yoga and to cook. We started making French baguettes weekly as well as madeleines and that is a lot of fun and enjoyment 😊. Please let me know if you would like the recipes.
I must confess, I currently do minimum work and have a great time!!
It is a life back to basics and gratefulness to enjoy simple pleasures.
This period makes me appreciate what is important in life. Love of nature, family and friends have been the main ingredients.
Like in many countries, the closure of the country will bring huge economic loss and it is still too early to measure it. Tourism is the 3rd industry in the country. Most lodges, restaurants (only takeaways are allowed) and bars are still closed, all liquor shops are still prohibited to sell alcohol. Only campsites and government lodges are starting to open but there are no international travellers as there are no international flights yet.
Unlike most European countries, the Namibian government gives little economic help to people without work. A number of companies, during the confinement, reduced the wages down to 50%. Many workers returned to their tribal families where they survive from the farm produce, at minimum cost.
Namibia imports about 60% of the food from South Africa. Logistics during the COVID 19 period worked well, and there has been no shortage of food or basic amenities.
Namdock Shipyard, which employs 750 people, is now organizing 2 shifts and other distancing measures so that the number of workers is reduced at one time. They are finishing the repairs of the vessels in the dock and after that, there is little visibility of work.
Work-wise, I am gradually upgrading my database system and as soon as the lodges reopen, I will explore new areas and lodges so that I can continue to improve and advise you from experience when you come to Namibia.
Long-distance travelling may become more of a luxury. Time will tell.
Namibia: +264 811 240 500 South Africa: +27 632 911 454 France: +33 764 48 3232