Posted February 26, 2013 in Oxx Tales, Red Oxx Overlanding by Jim Markel
“Thinking back on your own life, can you point to a critical influence or chance meeting that made a lasting impact? The catalyst may not have realized the effect they had upon the course of your life. Yet the seeds of hope and inspiration are very fertile, for they take only a drop of human kindness to grow.”
My friendship with Dave Lundin goes back 17 years when the big Texan moved in across the alley. Spotting my Harley he wandered over and we began a conversation that lasted to this day. It was Dave who was there for me in those early years when I gave up a radical lifestyle to pursue the outdoors. Over the intervening years Dave and I would experience many an adventure from the scorching plains of eastern Montana to the frozen valleys around Yellowstone. At the time I didn’t realize Dave had also had someone there for him at almost the exact point in his life.
In the intervening years I would get to know Dave’s mentor and eventually come to call him friend as well. With a generation separating each of us we have our own place in time. Our adventures would lead us all the way to Africa and along the way we’d discover something about ourselves. I would be inspired to break new ground.
6 years have passed since my last visit to Africa. On that journey two courses of action were inspired. One took my friend Dave on a multi-year odyssey to bring medical relief to some of the remotest parts of Zambia. The other course took me to Guatemala where Red Oxx would bring some economic change to an impoverished corner of the world. Here where the need is greatest, the task can seem overwhelming to the point of hopelessness, yet I’ve found that hope can be delivered in small doses.
When it comes to getting stuff done Dave has a force of will that sometimes puts people off. Of course behind that sometimes gruff exterior is an award-winning humanitarian. The other half of our medical team was composed of Wade Stein, small business owner and volunteer EMT from the little burg of Lewistown, MT. Yours truly would be handling on site filming and basically getting in the way. Our in-country host and guide was Professional Hunter Hamma Diekmann of Omborrokko Safaris. Hamma would be taking time away from his business and family to volunteer as our host and show us the real Namibia.
Our mission in Namibia was one of prevention; diseases like malaria and trachoma are best treated before you get them. The Trachoma infection is spread by flies and unsanitary conditions but is easily treated with a single dose of Zithromax once a year.
At a cost of .87 cents per patient it’s hard to fathom that human beings are still going blind from this easily treatable disease. Malaria is best prevented with the use of mosquito nets or “Mossi Nets” which cost around $6 each. With these low costs is it that easy to treat? Well maybe not, someone has to go out there and make it happen and that’s where our crew comes in.
Rolling across Namibia
Once Trachoma and Malaria become active you’re behind the curve and playing catch-up. The Mossi Nets (Mosquito Nets) project was conceived by Dave as an easy way to get traction against malaria by distributing the nets directly in person.
The direct approach is something I understand well since the Red Oxx business model is the same. By eliminating the middle man you put more nets in the hands of the people with a direct cost savings. We’ve eliminated the middle man with the Internet here at the Oxx but Africa is a whole different proposition. While these nets are inexpensive by U.S. standards, they represent some serious money for the average person living in the bush.
Another parallel advantage is purchasing the nets in-country thereby making another positive impact by putting the locals to work adding value. Manufacturing is at the heart of any growing or stable economy, yet local manufacturers like Mossi Nets still seem to be left behind in favor of subsidized producers like China. As a believer in a global economy I seek to point out that we are in competition with a government entity in partnership with private industry. Maybe I’m stubborn about my commitment to making our gear here in the US. But to me and my crew here at Red Oxx we have our place in the world economy, hard fought and well deserved. The China bandwagon has its place as well; we need stuff to keep the guys at the landfill working!
Rare Bateleur eagle
Red Oxx does not have to be the largest bag company in the world; just the best at what we do. For those that value dependability and the heart and soul that are sewn into every Red Oxx piece of gear, there’s no other choice. Whether it’s our packing style or design of the products that just keep kicking long after the competition is left split and broken on some foreign shore. The global economy is a good thing for the world. In general one must be aware of where your dollars are going.
More specifically, if you want to create the biggest impact for humanity you must inform yourself to the options at hand. Determine where your dollars are going to make the most impact and act according to your own inner compass. While on the surface this may appear to cost a little more, it’s the multiplier “Butterfly” effect that can generate a far reaching and lasting impact. This philosophy has been the guiding hand of Red Oxx and our loyal customers the world over. As the Mossi net project was coming together I could envision a whole slew of economic factors that could contribute to making this a very impacting and positive project as well.
Getting organized for a trip is always an exciting time for me, over the years I have come to rely on a regimented set of carry on bags and personal items. While I rarely check a bag, it really depends on the mission at hand. Still one becomes familiar with a certain travel style and bag selection based on the particular episode of travel. My downstairs closet is well stocked with Red Oxx gear, and I was contemplating not taking my safari luggage and trying something new. The thought of going on safari without my PR 5 Safari Beano was causing me some angst but it was time to take some of my own change medicine. While carry on travel rules the day here at Red Oxx, we have many options available.
There’s often a fair amount of inquires on what is our best carry on piece and personal item. Word had gotten back to me that many a C-Ruck had been spotted in the Johannesburg airport. So in preparing for my safari I decided it was time for a change. My companions Dave and Wade would be running with our proven trio of the compiled safari carry-on luggage. These 3 bags work in concert together, facilitating efficient packing and transport of your essential equipment.
The award winning PR5 Safari Beanos has been a perennial favorite with our safari travelers as well as yours truly. Toiletries are managed with the Tri-fold shave kit that fits snugly into an end pocket. Dealing with the optics is simplified by the Gator, which easily swallows a Binocular Case. It’s the perfect day trip bag as well as qualifying as personal item carry on luggage.
The tradition of greeting fellow Red Oxx owners was started in some of the remotest corners of the world. Two bags passing on a float plane dock in Alaska. From there the rumors of chance encounters on airport trains and taxi stands have trickled in. This coming together around our brand has been a truly humbling experience. The unexpected side effect has been a vindication of the Red Oxx business model as well as driving force behind our continued success. I’ve experienced this in person and have come to appreciate the greetings and sometimes the quick exchange of travel conditions or an informed tip about what lies ahead. So remember to keep your eyes peeled for a fellow member of the herd, you never know who you might meet at the crossroads.
Mossi Nets Group Photo
I was curious to see what it would be like to go the back pack route on safari. But first things first, selecting a color can pose a problem when you have a dozen to choose from. Colors can represent many things or just be something about the way you express yourself at a particular time in your life. When it comes to representing humanitarian relief then Mariner blue is the color of choice of the Safari Club International Blue Bag program.
In keeping with the humanitarian aspect of this trip I opted to run with the Mariner Blue C-Ruck Rucksack and matching Gator. My Bordeaux Tri-Fold complemented well and stowed smartly into the side pocket of the Ruck. A static bunk display will allow you to see all your gear on one plane. Then by process of elimination you can sort down till you have your gear at the minimum allowable yet be equipped to travel comfortably.
To organize your digital accessories a Lil Roy Packing Cube is just the ticket for the voltage converter, iPod and assorted camera cords, chargers. Once full, the Lil Roy makes a nice support pillow for your DSLR Camera inside the Gator bag. The pack sequence for a C-Ruck was pretty straightforward with the main compartment dealing with the bulk of the clothing and outer side pockets were perfect for the Tri-fold toiletry kit and a light Kavu canvas jacket on the opposite side. The top flap of the pack has a handy map pocket that will easily accommodate a paperback novel for passing time in transit. To deal with the TSA rules about liquids I simply put my 1 quart Ziploc plastic bag on top of my Tri Fold in the exterior pocket.
With my carry on bags taking care of all my in-country needs I was left with plenty of cargo allowance to pack some extra items for the village kids. With a two bag allowance for the flight to Africa I was going to get my money’s worth out of the airlines. It was time to pull out my 2 Expedition Duffel bags the Sherpa Jr. and the Big Oxx Outfitters Bag. The Sherpa Jr. is suitable for most of checked luggage concerns at 15x15x27 inches and is my usual go-to check bag. But when you decide to check the largest allowable piece of luggage we make, it’s time to go Big Oxx style at 16x16x36 inches.
I hear lots of questions about wheels and why doesn’t Red Oxx make a wheeled bag? The short answer is weight; simply put, a quality frame and wheel system is going to add 10 to 15 pounds. With only 50 pounds allowed for your checked luggage without incurring a serious overcharge on your baggage. So it makes sense for us to build functional pieces that meet the stringent airline requirements rather than setting you up for a nasty charge at the ticket counter. While this may not sit well with some potential customers, I would much rather say no to the whole concept and run with the convertible back pack straps that make the Expedition Duffels unique and well suited to this type of travel.
The Great Continental Rift
Rooting through my closets it was time to begrudgingly clear out some old clothes. As a natural born pack-rat I’ve a tendency to hold onto stuff way past expiration. It didn’t take long to gather up 50 kilos of well worn solid clothes. Probably considered “vintage” by some 20 year old hipster, it was time to pass these treasures on down the line to someone more in need. I used an over-sized vacuum bag to condense them all into a solid bricks. I had plans for filling them up on the return home with native handicrafts.
I try to seek out unique items that are representative of local artisan’s skills. Each piece has a story and creates jobs where they are needed most with sustainable manufacturing processes gaining favor in the some very surprising places.
The jet age brought travelers into contact rather expeditiously, now the Internet is breaking down the communications barrier between the continents. The synchronicity of the two has opened up some really great opportunities for the traveler. Here in cyberspace we have direct access to information and people with incredible efficiency: viewing your hotel rooms before you ever set foot in them or strolling down a street via Google Maps. Language will continue to be the major barrier between cultures, yet I imagine that someday that barrier will be eroded as well as we all become wired into the World Wide Web.
The prospect of facing a 14 hour layover in the airport wasn’t my idea of fun. Yet sometimes you just have to wing it and see what the day brings. Germany is known as the home of some of the finest motor vehicles so we figured to kill the day by checking out a couple of the Mercedes Benz dealerships. We stashed our carry on bags in the paid storage area conveniently located just outside of customs and stepped outside into the muggy air and hailed a cab. After some spirited negotiating, we had a private car for the day with our self described “Black German” Rani Khan, originally from India.
My interest in Mercedes has gone from mild to becoming an owner. Red Oxx has recently acquired a 1 Ton Sprinter as our new trade show rig, while the factory badges said Dodge this vehicle runs a very fuel efficient Mercedes diesel engine boasting over 20 mpg. Before long Dave and Rani were getting into a heated discussion over what to have for breakfast, Rani was insisting on taking us to McCafe while the crew wanted some authentic German cuisine. “No, No, you must see, very nice” Despite a chorus of protest we rolled into the McCafe much chagrined but hungry none the less. After a surprisingly good breakfast we struck out across the city to visit some of the larger dealerships.
Wandering through the massive modern architecture I was not accosted once by a sales person. Checking my reflection in the mirror of a quarter million dollar car, I guess I looked a bit too scruffy after a long flight. Still the offerings were in some ways quite different from the standard Mercedes fair in the United States. With a heavy representation of industry and economy being the primary market of their domestic offerings, while in the states they appear to be all about luxury. After a fun day of tearing about Frankfurt with Rani it was time to head back to the airport and grab a shower and a nap in the Priority Lounge before catching the red eye to Namibia.
Arriving in a new country for the first time can mean a lot, as first impressions have a tendency to stick with you. Still I try not to let these impressions determine the outcome of my trip as I have found that some of the best things are found well past the cities. Windhoek on the other hand is a beautiful city with a prosperous feel about it. Construction cranes and a vibrant downtown atmosphere are telltale signs of a thriving economy and general good order by African standards. Checking out the cacti gardens abounding around the colorful homes that dotted the hillsides I kept having to remind myself that I was actually in Africa.
They pride themselves on keeping Namibia a clean country and they’ve been winning the war on the ubiquitous plastic trash bag, our modern day tumble weed. These things are the scourge of the developing world with most of them ending up blowing around for years until they eventually make their way to the sea. Worldwide plastic bag consumption numbers are staggering and we here at Red Oxx have a simple solution. The Market Tote will haul piles of groceries and save even more trash output over a lifetime of use.
I’d brought a couple along as gifts for the Diekmann family and we were already using them in our efforts to get ready for the expedition. After stowing the Toyota we started out on foot to visit some of the outfitting shops like Cymot and gather up some last minute supplies, exchange currency and grab some groceries. One thing I’ve found recently in my travels is that credit cards and travelers checks have become harder to use along the way. So it’s always a good idea to prepay by wire for what you can then bring a fat stack of cash on your adventure for incidentals.
With all of our last minute acquisitions made it was time to head for the family ranch in Otjiwarongo to gather up the rest of our kit and get organized for our overland travels. Our highly customized Toyota Landcruiser from the Offroad Centre in Windhoek had been generously donated by another great Montanan and Safari Club member the late Bob Wischenfelter. Bob’s generous gift has given the team the mobility to cover thousands of kilometers in some of the most inhospitable terrain in Africa. Our host Hamma Diekmann is a 4th generation Namibian whose ancestors were pioneers and early entrepreneurs. The Diekmann family has been working their land for over 4 generations and the ranch has the all the components of a well run operation.
Out here you need to be self sufficient and as a rule nothing goes to waste. Vehicles are repaired and rebuilt in a continuous cycle of renewal. Learning your way around a shop and having the mindset to fix or rig just about anything is what it takes to make it out here. After a traditional braai we gathered around the maps to figure out our next course of action. First thing in the morning we would head to Otavi and pick up our Mossi Nets and then strike out to the Kaokaland.
After nearly a year in the planning we were finally trundling our way towards the outer edge of civilization. Nets piled high on the roof, camping kit and 4 grown men made for a serious load on the “Baake” or truck. Rocking and rolling down the sweeping gravel roads with the windows down I made sure to slip my seat belt on. Dave has a bit of a lead foot and a nasty case of ADD. Conversation was practically impossible due to road noise and wind whipping through the cabin. It was time to settle back with my iPod, crank up Ali Farka Toure’ and watch the terrain change.
Coming to the top of a long pass we spy a sign for the Grootberg Lodge and decided to check it out. Situated at the head of a huge continental rift, it boasts spectacular views and some cool rock huts for accommodations. The crew was tempted to pitch up here for the night but we still had some daylight left so we decided to keep rolling towards Palmwag. This lodge is wholly owned by the conservancy and was made possible by funding from the European Union, making it the first of its kind in Namibia.
Finally arriving in Palmwag only to discover that all the camping spots had been taken up for the night. Time to push on, by now an epic African sunset was painting the sky orange as we sped off in a cloud of dust in search of a suitable campsite.
Finding a small stream crossing the road we side tracked along the ridge and found a great spot with an outcropping that would make the perfect back stop for our fire. Hamma discovered a fresh leopard kill not more than 50 feet from our encampment. Mr. Leopard would have to share, since we were not moving out in the dark.
I was busy making the evening meal as the crew set up our cots and laid out the bedrolls. With Namibia not seeing any rain this time of the year we would be sleeping under the stars. Soon a full belly and the desert chill drove us one by one to our bedrolls to stare up into the crystal-clear night sky. With my ears peeled for the sound of our furry friend I had a hard time getting to sleep.
Soon the desert wind came sweeping out of the south, at first it was more of a slight stirring but before long it felt as if someone had opened a door to a cool box. Hunkering into my bedroll I felt as if was actually sailing through the night sky. I’ve always dreamed of living by the sound of water and for the moment I was living that dream beyond my wildest expectations. Eventually the slow burble of the stream lulled me to sleep as the leopard crept silently into camp and reclaimed his kill.
The history of colonialism in Africa depends on the point of view of the teller of the tale. Heroes and villains on both sides of the conflict have left their tracks across Africa. The history of Namibia is no different yet unique all the same, as it was known then as German Southwest Africa and was Germany’s place in the African sun.
In my travels I always try to learn something about the place I’m visiting whether in person or by reading something about a pivotal point in time. Effa Okupa’s “Carrying the Sun on Our Backs,” tells the tale from the native view point and paints the picture of German colonialism that is less than flattering. The book is full of interesting observations and if taken with the same grain of salt of most revisionist histories one can still glean a bit of knowledge.
The tales of Forts and battles fought seem to be an abstract thought until you’re actually standing on the ground where history was made. The book brings to life the events that crushed a pastoral way of life and laid the foundation for a piece of modern Africa. Along with this book I had also brought along a Bradt Travel guide that is full of current information about what to do and how to get there.
Arriving in Sesfontein we quickly established contact with the regional health officer and arranged a clinic for the morning at the school. With plans laid we had a time to grab some lunch at the old German fort before heading back to our camp at Ongongo Springs.
With our clinic at the primary school set up I stepped inside to check out what was passing for a classroom here in Sesfontein. 4 bare walls and an empty room is what I found, which is to say nothing more than a place to gather.
It’s here that you’ll find a new respect for the teachers who are able to carry out lessons with not so much as a blackboard. Before long a circus had formed around our portable clinic and the excitement was palpable. Under the direction of our local volunteers they had the line moving right along. Collecting weights and names Dave was all business with Wade handing out the Mossi nets at a rapid pace. The clothing I brought was a huge hit and vanished like a leopard in the bush. Before long it was all over, and with promises of a return the following year we set out in search of the famed desert elephants of Namibia.
Wheeling through the loose sand of the Hoanib River I scoured the bush for signs of the elusive pachyderms. After eating dust for several clicks I was beginning to wonder if this was a snipe hunt. The elephants have adapted to this sandy landscape with wider foot pads and have been known to cross incredible distances without water. Locating them can be spotty at best so finding water is the key. Extremely dry Namibia does have its springs and rivers that can become raging torrents during the rainy season.
A picture worth 2 sugar cubes
As luck would have it we encountered them right when we spotted the first signs of water. Hamma couldn’t believe our luck at finding them this easily. Not to be denied my choice photo op I bailed out and pursued on foot. After some killer snaps it was time to seek some shade. As this was the dry season we were able to wheel down the stream bed until we found an ancient tree under which we could have some lunch. Situated between two massive cliffs the river had carved a narrow pass into the mountain in its quest for the sea. Rolling out the camp chairs and firing up the stove for a spot of tea we had a quick lunch and then set out for our next camp site.
Vehicle dependent overland expeditions in Africa are extremely popular with the locals and tourists alike. In our last camp a rowdy group of Italians rolled in with 3 vehicles packed full. After stringing up lanterns and laying out a feast they drank wine and sang late into the evening. With high quality accessories like rooftop tents and gas powered stoves roughing it has never been more comfortable. My recent adventures with the Solihull Adventure Society whetted my appetite. Gone are the days of deprivation and hauling a heavy rucksack through the hills. Hot tea after a lunch of smoked Oryx and cheese is certainly more preferable to freeze dried fare. Our vehicle was equipped with an ingenious little refrigerator by National Luna that will even keep ice cream frozen.
In the U.S. the RV culture seems to defeat the purpose of convening with nature. Kids pile in watching television and playing video games scarcely noticing the passing tableaus. Accessing remote off the beaten path areas is what Overlanding is all about. Engaging your environment by sleeping under the stars and eating a little dust is good for the soul. While late coming to the overland scene, the U.S. is starting to embrace this style of travel. At the recent SEMA show overlanding accessories were all the rage with suppliers showing off the best of the South African offerings. This category has been a natural fit for our line of soft sided luggage. Soft side duffel bags pack easily into the nooks of the vehicle and color coding them makes organizing a breeze.
Making camp beneath the enormous boulders of Mowani mountain camp we were immediately set upon by Mopane flies. The experienced African traveler is sure not to swat at them, since killing one will bring about a swarming without mercy. Seeking shelter under our nets we waited for the sun to ease down as they go away after dark. The monochromatic landscape of rust colored rocks is on a scale that makes you feel like an ant lost in a Zen garden. The land just feels ancient and somehow little changed over millennia.
Fortunately our campsite was going be close to a World Heritage Site. The rock carvings of Twyfelfontein are home to some of the finest and best preserved petroglyphs in Africa. Testament to the unchanging landscape, one can almost envision a Neolithic hunter stalking his prey along the valley floor. Instead I see Wade vomiting in the parking lot, saying something about my cooking. Ungrateful bastard! Slave over a hot fire and this is how they repay you? Feeling no mercy we stuffed him in the truck and headed out for the Skeleton Coast. Maybe we could ditch his carcass there among sand dunes.
Winding our way down to the coast with great anticipation sun burned and sand sore. Hamma warned us that it could be bloody cold along the coast but us Montana boys scoffed at his version of cold. No ice, how cold can it be? Finally cresting that last hill we entered a blasted landscape of twisted rock and sand. If you’ve seen those pictures of Mars you get a pretty good idea of what it would be like to walk the red planet. Jumping onto the bonnet I rode the first few kilometers into the park while snapping photos and soaking up the onshore wind.
Many a shipwrecked sailor has met their end on this barren stretch of land. I could see why after driving most of the day we had seen no signs of human habitation until finally rolling up to some salt works down south around Meile located in the Skeleton Coast Park Recreation Area. Seeking to maximize revenue our host Om Dani had located some fishing shacks on his windswept property. Any port in a storm, and what a port, the proprietor was a classic “Jaape” or South African redneck. Complete with the prerequisite knee socks, jogging shorts and protruding belly he cut a fine figure of rugged individualism out here on the frontier.
We opted to have breakfast at the Cape Cross Lodge before rolling on to Swakopmund. Breakfast was outstanding and the lodge was extremely clean with a friendly staff. I would recommend staying here if you were heading into or out of, the Skeleton Coast Park. The lodge is located far enough away from the colony so the guests are not inundated with the smell of 80,000 seals. The masses of seals caterwauling to the backdrop of booming surf speak to a time before man started wiping out some of these wonders. The last two centuries have put most of the larger mammals in a tight spot when it comes to habitat. Here along this barren coast things are pretty much the way they’ve been for millennia and that’s a good thing to hear.
Swakopmund is one of those funky seasonal beach towns with a German flair. Each year thousands of Namibians descend on the town to escape the heat and gather for the holidays. We had a few days to kill before our next series of clinics. With all the major attractions being within walking distance it’s a great place to do a bit of shopping and sample some of the excellent local cuisine. After a couple of days the on the foggy coast I began to see how you could actually get cold in Africa. Just a few miles outside of town is Dune 7, one of Namibia’s tallest sand dunes.
Adrenaline seekers have started a new sport of sand boarding down the dunes. Looking up at the size of the monster dune I figured I would be good for one maybe two climbs and then I would be turning my board in. Instead of sand boarding I decided to take my chances with the sand vipers and climb a neighboring dune which was even taller. After days of freezing my tail off at the beach it was great to get out and soak up the sun. At the summit the views of the dune field contrasting with the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean made it well worth the effort.
The wildlife situation in Africa is really at a critical juncture with varying levels of conservation across the continent. Each country has its own set of needs and challenges when it comes to dealing with habitat degradation and conservation. At the moment Namibia is on the positive side mostly due to its relatively low population to land mass ratio. They have also established 2 unique parks like Skeleton Coast Park and Etosha National Park.
Africa is a place where things that have value tend to be saved while things that don’t are discarded. The value of these two national treasures alone makes Namibia an extremely wealthy country. An often overlooked steward of the land is the venerable farmer or rancher. They exist in that world between the cities and the truly wild places, working hard to pull substance from the earth for the rest of us. We would be running the next set of clinics at some of the ranches around Otjiwarongo and one in town as well. This would give us an opportunity to experience how each business model fits into the socio economic fabric that is modern Africa.
Our base of operations was going to be Hamma’s camp on the Great Waterburg. Hamma’s operation is very similar to the way things are here in Montana. Running cows and fixing fences with a bit of hunting on the side is a way to round out income for the ranch. The area around the Waterburg Plateau is still home to a varied assortment of wild game. It’s also home to the Cheetah Conservation Fund which was founded to work with local ranchers on finding ways to ensure that the Cheetah is able to coexist with them. When man and animal compete for the same resource it’s always the wild animal that loses. At one time in history cheetahs were kept as prized hunting companions by the nobility. After our clinic we were given an extensive tour of the facilities and a special close up experience with the cheetahs. It’s easy to see how one could fall in love with this beautiful animal.
At the other end of the spectrum is the game ranch like Mount Paresis. Here large sections of land are high fenced and stocked with game much like a fishing pond. While this has commoditized hunting it has insured that there is a value associated with running a strictly wild game ranch. While I may not agree with this personally, on the whole it is certainly a way to insure biodiversity based strictly on economic factors. Clinics at all the ranches were certainly appreciated by the workers who live on these remote ranches.
Still using the Waterburg as our base of operations we were able to run out in the mornings to our clinics in the Otjiwarongo area. One of our favorites was the Multipurpose Center for AIDS orphans. As luck would have it, our clinic happened to coincide with a visit from some government ministers. Dave was able to make some key connections here that would be most helpful for next year’s clinics.
The Waterburg Plateau is one of those special places on earth that has a tendency to make you sound a little whacked. It could be cosmic energy or light or maybe some event in history has occurred to make the place feel sacred. It’s like seeing Yellowstone for the first time, something about it just reaches into a deeper recess of the human experience.
Sitting under the thatch roof I gaze out across the pan and watch the Oryx grazing in the mirage. I could stay here an eternity or so it seemed, the perfect moment found in a bit of downtime, takes me by surprise. Inspired I spend the afternoon exploring the rocky edge of the plateau, hoping to catch a glimpse of a cape buffalo or even a rhino.
With the shadows getting long I turn towards the glow of the camp fire across the pan. Arriving I find a small party in full swing, the rest of the Diekmann family and friends had decided to join us. After an incredible “brai” or African barbecue, we gathered our chairs around the fire as an enormous moon rose over the Waterburg. Walking out onto the pan with a spotting scope I zeroed in on the International Space Station.
Seeing the solar panels reflecting the light of the sun from the other side of the world, it just made me wonder what it would be like to sit there gazing back towards earth. With the moonlight casting our shadows across the pan we talked about making one last run up north to Bushmanland. Loaded up again in the Toyota we were rolling like a bat out of hell as Dave kept the gas pedal to the metal with his size thirteen’s. This leg of the expedition we would be on the more traditional tourist route through Tsumeb and Etosha National Park. The Makalani Hotel in Tsumeb is a good place to overnight if you’re just passing through.
The mine produced 56 kinds of minerals, some of which are only found here. Be sure to visit the museum to learn more about this and see the amazing collection of German military arms recovered from Lake Otjikoto. Our last clinic was to be our most special. The Ombili Foundation was founded to help transition the Bushman into the modern world. Modern farming methods and schooling are helping to ease this transition from a nomadic way of life. The foundation is heavily supported by donations from Rotary International and other independent donors, mostly from Germany. The field skills of the Bushman are legendary and their skills as trackers are still highly valued. We spent the last day touring this outstanding operation and left the last of our Mossi nets there.
We are on our way to half way
Walking across the tarmac to board a plane home brings about a whole different experience to flying. The sights and sounds, even the smell of the jet fuel can trigger strong memories. Palm trees silhouetted against the yellow glow of sodium vapor lights. The high pitched whine of jet engines turning as the ground crew scampers about loading baggage. The weight of my Rucksack is somehow comforting as I mount the stairs to board the plane. We had actually done it, after an incredible 3 weeks we’re finally heading home. The mission had been a series of small wins, for we had not set out to change the world, just the small part that we came in contact with.
Jim Markel, Red Oxx CEO
Join Jim and his African exploring herd when they help distribute the Little Dresses for Africa in Part 2 of Red Oxx Rocks Africa – Kalahari Calling.