Published: June 22nd 2008June 19th 2008
I am in the Middle Eastern part of Namibia, in a one horse town where the horse is long dead. My hopes for internet dashed immediately, and I still have items to attend to in the personal life. Lesson learned... get all your crap done before you leave for Africa. My worldphone (that hot phone sold in the US by CDMA providers) which allows "world" access, doesn't work at all - neither their sim card or any other international card provided. GRRRRRR. Not terrible except for every other non-american phone is working just fine. We have the worst phone service in the world, I'll conclude, again.
Anyhow, my impressions thus far are mixed, our guide, a native South African, I'd say about 60 years old, has rubbed the entire group the wrong way, and you now how much a good guide can make or break a trip. Fortunately, the highlights of Africa should still conquer this.
We are headed generally towards the Kalahari Desert and are staying the night in Gogobis (that dead horse town I mentioned). The town itself offers nothing, minus a slightly menacing feel, but just outside the town we visit a large ranch, to meet
Learning a Hunting Lesson
San Bushmen telling me what to do to make sure I get an ostrich
some Kalahari Bushman (San Tribe).
The government at one point used to subsidize the Bushman, similar to Native American lands in the US, but that is now no longer the case. The San bushman have lived in these environs for about 10,000 years, but are now in the situation where they make deals with large ranches so they can continue their traditional ways undisturbed as much as possible from the outside world as since 2006 the government refused to allow the Bushmen to hunt (it is considered illegal game killing in Namibia). The Namibian government is now under global critism for this and other actions which has threatened their existance.
Anyhow, I'm not exactly sure how these agreements work with these large landowners and the Bushmen, but I suspect the deal is "if you let us live here and do our own thing we will talk to tourists every so often and you charge them"... aside from these tourists visits they are trying their best to maintain their old ways, which are hunter/gatherer in nature. They live in simple made huts for the coldest nights only, and keep a fire always burning.
Generally they hunt with bows and arrows for native game, with exception of the ostriches, who can see the hunters coming from a mile (literally) away. Since the osterich is a primary staple to the Bushmen (they use the hide for clothing, bones for arrows, feathers for bedding and eat the meat), they have devised this great hunting method. Ostriches, first of all, can't digest for themselves and must eat stones and bones to do so. The Bushmen create a neck noose held down from a bent tree which is baited with a really 'desirable' piece of rock. I kid you not. It is apparently near to 100% irresitable to them and once noosed around the neck it tends to really freak out and choke itself to death. Occasionally it pulls its head off.
Some other cool facts: They speak in a clicking language varietal which is specific to the Kalahari Bushmen only. They cannot communicate effectively with other bushmen tribes which could clearly be one of the issues with their currently plight, along with the fact most speak no English, nor join modern society to represent themselves.
Laurens van der Post wrote the famous book The Lost World of the Kalahari, which is a very good account of their plight.