South With Samora


This blog entry about the events of Thursday, April 01, 2004 was originally posted on April 13, 2004.

DAY 166:  I woke up in the wrong side of the bed that morning.  I was cranky that I didn’t have an extra bag to keep things in storage, plus I realized that my fleece jacket was missing.  Whether it was taken by accident, intention or just my own fault I didn’t know, but I didn’t have time to look or replace it; I was to leave on safari by eight in the morning.

I was also a little cranky thinking about the news from home that Blogreaders markyt and wheat had been frisked by “New York’s finest,” simply for “fitting the description of a terrorist.”  For I knew, like them, I didn’t physically look like the “typical American” in some people’s eyes and that it probably would have happened to me.

“DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Samora the Namibian safari guide/driver/cook asked me as he was explaining the 7-day itinerary of southern Namibia to me and two other clients on a wall map at the Chameleon Safaris office.  His initial impression of me wasn’t that of a “typical American” and he wasn’t sure if I spoke English.

“He’s American,” Jackie his boss told him.  Samora continued his briefing in English and afterwards we packed up the trailer hitch behind one of the Chameleon 4x4 trucks.

“I need a co-driver,” Samora said, asking for a volunteer to sit up front with him.

“I’ll go,” I answered.  I walked down to the right-side front door — forgetting it was the driver’s side in Namibia.

“Are you going to drive?” Jackie called out to me.

“Oops,” I said.  “I’m American, remember?”

I DIDN’T BLAME SAMORA for not thinking I was American.  He was from the Herero tribe of the east — the same tribe that rebelled against the German invasion in 1904 — and hadn’t had much exposure to the many races of the U.S.A.

“How come Americans are not traveling?” he asked me as we head down the highway southbound.

“Most are scared to travel, I guess,” I answered.  “How many do you get here?”

“One, maybe every five to six months.”

“So only two a year?”

“Yes.”  He told me I was the first American to go on safari with him in 2004.  Mostly he gets big groups of Germans and Australians.  And speaking of Aussies, the only other two travelers on this particular safari were Ben and Karen, a ten-month-married couple from Cairns.  Karen was a doctor and her husband was an avid birdwatcher and tour guide who was branching off his current employer to start his own business.  It was only the four of us in the truck suited to fit up to twelve.  (It was still the low season.)

THE LANDSCAPE GRADUALLY TURNED from green rolling hills to flat yellow grasslands the more we headed south.  It was a sunny day until we drove in and out of a rainstorm that was headed north towards the capital.  It was unusual for the rainy season to run so late in the year, but in a country mostly covered by desert, one didn’t complain.

We made a pit stop in the town of Rehoboth, originally established as a bastard community.  When the white Europeans men arrived in the nineteenth century and forced their “seeds” into black African women, a whole generation of mulatto bastards were born without any real place in society.  Like the coloureds of more recent day, they didn’t exactly fit in with whites nor the blacks and only had each other to turn to.

“The people here are good at two things,” Samora said, referring to the now mixture of coloureds and blacks.  “Building houses and drinking red wine.”  The houses were evident in the brightly-painted European-styled houses surrounding us.  The red wine consumption was evident in the drunk unemployed people wandering the streets looking for work or spare change from tourists.

AFTER STOCKING UP ON SOME SUPPLIES, we continued southbound, over the Tropic of Capricorn (denoted by a sign on the side of the road) and deeper into the desert.  I discovered that one of the advantages of going with Chameleon Safaris (rather than trying to drive independently as a “non-typical American”) was getting passed police checkpoints really easily.  While the car ahead of us was searched, we got by with just a smile.

“That guy [the cop] was my classmate,” Samora said in his African accent.

Passing former ostrich ranches and desert railroad tracks, we arrived in the small town of Mariental for a water and beverage supply stop — or as Karen put it, “the African supermarket experience.”  From there, we drove through the desert and stopped at a random shaded picnic table, seemingly in the middle of nowhere for a cold cut sandwich lunch.  No longer hungry, we packed up and continued on until we arrived at our destination and accommodations for the night, Garas Park, a private campground in Quivertree Forest.

QUIVERTREES, OR KOKERBOOMS, scientifically known as aloe dichotoma didn’t quiver or boom like their common names suggest.  The indigenous people turned to the wood of the quivertree for hunting arrows, or quivers, hence the name.  Quivertree Forest was just one of two places in all of Namibia with such a dense population of the tree.  This was due to the support of brick-like dolerite boulders created naturally by volcanic activity millions of years ago.  The naturally-made boulders were juxtaposed to man-made sculptures of people in vehicles made from dead wood and old junk.  It gave Garas Park a sort of 1930s Grapes of Wrath feel to it.

After a hike around the scenery, I helped Samora cut vegetables as he made our dinner of boerewors and kudu steaks on a grill.  Ben and Karen joined up after their afternoon birdwatch and we dined our our meat, vegetables and potatoes with brandy and Cokes until sunset (picture above).  A huge and spectacular lightning storm was approaching in the distance, which entertained us until an early bedtime of about 8:30.  (With no electricity, what else was there to do?)

The storm came over us through the night and the winds picked up and would have blown our tents away if we had not been in them to weigh them down.  Alone in my tent I felt the thunder vibrate my entire body.  I saw the bright flashes of light through the pores of my tent and felt like I might have been in the actual eye of the storm.

As scary as it was, it sure beat being frisked by a New York police officer.

Next entry: A River Runs Through It

Previous entry: Making Tracks

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Comments for “South With Samora”

  • Hey all… sorry, these are coming slow… Like MasterCard, the internet isn’t everywhere I want to be… and when it is, it’s slow, and it closes before sundown… GRRR…. bear with me… I have 10 more entries on deck, I just have to upload them…


    DUNLAVEY:  I have already designed the “The Universal Language of Beer” stein and it will be available shortly…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  04:31 PM

  • Hey Erik! I’m home sick from work today and am enjoying the reading!  I got my cafepress jersey in the mail! I was waiting for it so I could email u w/ a picture of me in it.  So when we pass each other on Mt. Kili, you’ll know who i am!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  04:33 PM

  • yup…it sure is better than being frisked…

    “We made a pitstop in the town of Rehoboth, originally established as a bastard community.”

    This must be way there is a Rehoboth in Delaware…hahaha…bastards!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  06:13 PM

  • gorgeous sunset Erik!

    Posted by Liz  on  04/13  at  04:40 AM

  • worth the wait!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/13  at  05:29 AM

  • I second the sunset pic comment! Fantastic! Thanks.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/13  at  11:11 PM

  • MICHELLE:  Seriously, when will you be at Kili?  I’ll be in Tanzania within the next couple of weeks, probably in Zanzibar…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  08:57 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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A River Runs Through It

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Making Tracks


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