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krisek Opuwo - A travel report by Krys
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Opuwo,  Namibia - flag Namibia -  Kunene
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krisek's travel reports

Most beautiful woman in the world from Ova-Himba

  19 votes
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I heard about the Ova-Himba tribe from northern Namibia for the first time at the very end of the 20th century. When I travelled to Africa to visit them, I had no idea I would see the most beautiful woman in the world. report of the month contest
Oct 2008


Opuwo travelogue picture
There is a land in northern Namibia that is already legendary. It is the Kaokoveld. It is renowned for impassable roads, or rather a lack of roads, desert elephant and friendly, beautiful red people who live their traditional way – the Ova-Himba.

Well before the trip, I already wanted to take loads of pictures of these people as I saw their pictures in many publications about Namibia. When I was planning to come there by my own, I did not realise that I would need a secret weapon.

The weapon was an interpreter. Ova-Himba do not speak any other language but their own. So, had I gone there on my own I would have not enjoyed it like I actually did, and more importantly, the Ova-Himba would not have enjoyed it this much, either.

My actual secret weapon was a guide named Kenny. Kenny, as Herero, could converse with the Ova-Himba, because they are a tribe-branch of the Herero. Kenny provided for many various tricks which allowed for a closer approach to the tribe. This way I could also take loads and loads of pictures.

Favourite spots:
Opuwo travelogue picture
The visit to Ova-Himba was well planned beforehand. Kenny decided that we took to the village with two large sacks of maize, loads of sugar, salt, and household items. The idea was to give all these goods to the headmistress of the village, and then sit down and talk to others in the village for as long as we wanted.

Conversations was what the villagers wanted the most and appreciated very much. They were so happy to be in the centre of attention, be asked a lot of questions. They also wanted to ask us questions – to mingle. I heard that other tourists, who went to Kaokoveld, just passed by and took pictures from a distance or secretly 'from waist' without expressing any interest in the culture and life of Ova-Himba. They were usually not appreciated very much at all.

What's really great:
Opuwo travelogue picture
The Ova-Himba paint their bodies with a substance of brown-red colour. I cannot remember what exactly they are using, but I think it is mud mixed with Vaseline. They do it for two main reasons: a/ cosmetic purposes and decoration; and b/ protection from mosquitoes and other insects.

Only women and children are painted, though. This obviously makes sense because the women want to look beautiful and want to protect their children from insects. The men do not care that much, but I do not know for sure because I have not met any.

The villagers were all so excited that we were sitting so close with them, talking and joking that they made some of the paint and smeared a bit on our arms and legs. That was funny, but the funniest was a German guy in our group, who thought the paint would never go off and he would be partially red until the end of his life.

Sights:
Opuwo travelogue picture
So, after spending a few hours with the Ova-Himba I would like to say that they are sweet tooth people and that elderly women could be very bossy. They leave an impression of having strong personalities. They have lovely kids who would hold on to you grabbing your hand for the entire day and look straight in the eye.

The women are responsible for building the houses, which are made of wood, tree branches, mud and cow excrement. A man can have many wives and a woman can have children with many different men. Men stay away from village for many months to look after cattle.

Alcoholism unfortunately is increasingly becoming a problem amongst the Ova-Himba and the so-called traditional home brew beer is available and affordable almost for anyone, as it costs only one Namibian dollar.

When the men come back from looking after cattle after a very long time, they are so happy to be with their women that they tend to drink a lot.

Accommodations:
Campsite in Damaraland
Campsite in Damaraland
The land below Kaokoveld is called Damaraland after the name of the Damara people who live there. The area is famous for impressive mountain formations, the highest peak of Namibia, ancient rock engravings and strange pattern of people's behaviour, which could be perceived as condescending and possibly even rude.

The Aba Huab campsite is the place that I was fortunate to visit and even stay at. It is nicely located near the riverbed and in a convenient vicinity to the organ pipes rock formations. There was absolutely nothing else around, just bush and bush.

The service at the lodge's bar and restaurant was extremely rude, grumpy and very, very slow. They behaved like they were so unhappy that we were there and therefore they have to do a little work. Like we were disturbing them with their nothing-doing. They also happily ripped everyone off and expediently forgot to give back change.

Nightlife:
Orion
Orion
The bush around was the nightlife. The sounds of the animals in the hours of darkness truly stimulated imagination. Many predators in Africa, including the fascinating lion, are nocturnal. And on moonless night, the total darkness exacerbated the experience. I often slept in the bush in a tent or simply under the starry sky. Of course only when it was safe. The lack of light pollution meant that the faintest stars were visible. It was actually hard to distinguish one constellation from another. As for night activities... unless one brought their own entertainment, the bush did not offer much. It was therefore greater fun to travel in a group. Night stories by the fire under the sky, created great nightlife anywhere.

Hangouts:
Opuwo travelogue picture
That German in our group was actually very cheeky with the Ova-Himba asking them how they were managing to make so many children. Kenny was so embarrassed to translate these questions. Something told me however that such personal and maybe even intimate questions brought us close to the tribe and they had no problems with answering such queries. The woman-boss of the village was so exited and happy that we took so much time to spend with her village that she had tears in her eyes. She was quite old, I think over 90 years, and it made me ever so happy that I could provide for another pretty picture she would take with her to the 'next place'.

The village had a central area designated for hanging out. It was a sheltered platform in the exact centre of the village. It was positioned well so the main road passing by the village could be easily seen. And the kids could play on or in front of the platform.

Restaurants:
Opuwo travelogue picture
The Aba Huab had a great potential. The building itself was very interesting architecture-wise and situated in an attractive surrounding. There was one thing missing – a swimming pool. I later found out however that they would not be building swimming pools in the area because of the desert elephant.

The elephant can smell water from a huge distance and would definitely come to the lodge. The proximity of the riverbed was an additional factor. If the elephant found people in the water, it would have pulled everyone out and consequences of such an event could be, or worse, would certainly be tragic. The owners would therefore have to fence the property tightly and strongly to protect the guests from the animal and that would have negative impact on the attractiveness of the campsite.

The bush food always tasted great in Namibia. There was something in the spices used, I think. The restaurant had a basic menu, but everyone seemed to like the food. I did not try it. Kenny cooked on fire.

Other recommendations:
Opuwo travelogue picture
On the way to the village, we stopped to help some local people with petrol as they ran out of fuel. While we poured some gasoline to their car, the entire group of approximately fifteen people suddenly stepped out of the truck and started to sing. They definitely could sing! It lasted maybe ten minutes but the entire situation was surreal! They might have been a choir.

In Damaraland, there is Namibia's only UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, Twyfelfontein. It has one of the largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs in Africa. The engravings depict rhinoceroses, elephants, ostriches and giraffes, as well as drawings of human and animal footprints. They are well preserved. The objects date from the Late Stone Age. The rock engravings and rock paintings were left by the San people, who were, and still are, hunter-gatherers. They lived in the region ages before the influx of Damara herders. The San had since moved toward the eastern parts of Namibia.

Published on Sunday October 26th, 2008


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Wed, Nov 26 2008 - 02:38 PM rating by bineba

Well deserved report of the month!

Fri, Nov 21 2008 - 04:07 PM rating by danangib

This is a great story, youre so lucky to make such an interesting trip inside of a tribe life. Pics are beautiful !

Thu, Nov 13 2008 - 06:50 AM rating by yuliangpang

Great Report, Krys. I did read it very carefully and took note of some sentence that you put in a way better than I did. I did more work on it, and checked the website about more information about this interesting tribe, but I got something slightly different from your Swimming Pool Story. It said that the Ova-Himba took showers once every three or four months, in order to keep those things painted on their body. And then they became red.
Congraduations on your ROM.

Thu, Nov 06 2008 - 10:42 AM rating by rangutan

Beauty is relative but this is another excellent report. The "Orion" image is great when enlarged, I remember the stars in Africa very well.

Thu, Oct 30 2008 - 12:55 AM rating by aufgehts

Another fascinating report, Krys. These are truly beautiful people and you seem to have been very fortunate to have spent so much time with them. How will you top this? It might be difficult, even for you!!

Wed, Oct 29 2008 - 12:06 PM rating by basia

I saw these beautiful pictures already in Namibia and waiting for a report. Was worth waiting. Incredible report!

Tue, Oct 28 2008 - 08:16 AM rating by louis

It was a pleasure to read this report. I have just one word for it: excellent.

Mon, Oct 27 2008 - 05:41 PM rating by magsalex

An outstanding report! A pleasure to read and I loved the photographs.

Mon, Oct 27 2008 - 09:01 AM rating by tokyomike

Dude, this is one of the most amazing reports I've read on this site. Most reports (mind included) tend to read like train schedules. Yours, on the other hand, was all about people. With details that go so far as to tell us why they can't have a swimming pool (those pesky elephants, eh! lol). And the photographs. What more can I say except kudos and thanks for taking the time to share such an insightful report!

Sun, Oct 26 2008 - 05:54 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Yes, black is beautiful ! (I mean black women!)

Sun, Oct 26 2008 - 12:22 PM rating by gloriajames

Indeed one of your best amongst the best of your other reports (";). Brilliant! And when will your travel book be out??!

Sun, Oct 26 2008 - 11:47 AM rating by davidx

Even by your standards, this is wonderful.

Sun, Oct 26 2008 - 08:06 AM rating by mistybleu

Wow, what an insight into these people and a region of Namibia that many never see. Great report

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