Sunday, January 26, 2014

"I am Namibian"

Friday January 24

My normal practice with timing of my arrival time to a meeting has altered since I have been here.  It’s like I double the amount of time needed to arrive on time, just because I constantly adjust for getting lost.  So this morning, I arrived at the US Embassy just after 8:30 for a 9:00 Security Briefing. The briefing was really a review of wise practices and also a good discussion of residential safety.  I hear regularly that the crimes here are more “crimes of opportunity” and so I learned about prevention strategies that included not leaving out electronics, using the iPhone in the house, and not walking alone ns isolated places.  We feel safe in the house—we have a gate and really are connected to Casa Blanca.  Both the house and hotel are monitored 24 hours by a security company so when Lindsey and Tony didn’t turn off the alarm quick enough after returning from dinner and the church concert, the company was called.  Fortunately Olivia, the manager of Casa Blanca was on the grounds and saw that it was Tony and Lindsey and so canceled the visit from the alarm company.  We have learned that we only have a short time to punch in the alarm code.

After the meeting at the embassy, we decided to make a picnic lunch and hike at a game reserve.  Daan Viljoen is a state run park that has hiking trails and accommodations.   

 At the registration the ranger at the gate asked if we were Namibian, and we told him we were from the United States.  He noticed the University of Namibia decal on the side of the car and asked about that.  I told him I would be lecturing for the university (I have learned the language that makes my work understandable over here) and he said, “So you are working here, eh? So you ARE Namibian.”  That meant we paid $N10 per person, and $N10 for the car.  With the current exchange rate in our favor, that was less than 4 US dollars for incredible scenery, great views of the Windhoek area and up close animal viewing.  Our first sighting of an animal was a warthog as we were driving to the reception area of the park.  As we were hiking up a hill we heard a grunting type sound.  We knew there was something nearby but kept hiking.  We kept hearing this low grunting sound and as we turned the corner we saw a rather large baboon run off.  I thought that was cool.  We hike a bit more up hill and heard more of the grunting sounds that went along with some screeching.  We recognized the baboon noises, and it was clear to us some baboons were not happy about us hiking so nearby.  We stayed on the path, kept moving and I grabbed a stick just in case. 
 We passed by 3 different baboon families—I am sure the presence of adorable babies created the commotion and cacophony of screeching and grunting.  I was in the lead and Lindsey relates  how “terrifying” the climb was for her—she was sure she was going to be attacked.  I know baboons can be vicious but I felt they moved away as we approached their trees, or just stared.  We were committed to the full 9K+ loop, because Lindsey was not going back. We made it past that group of baboons and a little later on in our hike I was able to stop and take pictures of baboons perched on a rock.  Lindsey refers to them as the “nice group.”  Apparently they never felt a need to shout at us—probably because they felt safe perched above where we were hiking. 

The hiking trail had orange arrows so we followed those—it was hard to match anything to the map though so we never knew where we were.  We did feel we were hiking for quite a while.  At the top of one of the crests, we found a shady tree and ate lunch while making eye contact with a zebra across the way.  During our hike we also saw kudu, oryx, chameleons, lilac breasted roller birds, and other birds I don’t yet know the names of.  Lindsey also screamed and jumped when a thin brown snake crossed her path.  We were hiking for three and a half hours right in the heat of the day.  We started right at noon, and FINALLY got to the lodge restaurant at 3:30.  We had seen the “trails end” sign 30 minutes earlier, so by the time we got to the restaurant we were desperate for ice cold orange Fanta soda. 

Leaping Kudo captured on Lindsey's phone

 This was the best drink I have had and I am guessing this will remain a highlight for some time.  After this hike I have learned to always carry more water than you think you need, make sure to pack the sunscreen, not just apply at home, and always bring the camera.  We have found a great spot to hike with visitors, and we know we will go again—the experience will always be different.
2nd round of Orange Fanta

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