It was our final day in this astonishing country, as today we were crossing the border from Fish River Canyon into Orange River, South Africa.
Before reaching the border we came across an Aloidendron dichotomum, or “quiver tree”, Namibia’s national tree. They grow for up to 100 years and their nickname comes from the San People’s practice of making quivers for their arrows out of the tree’s tubular branches.
We also noticed a Damaran Euphorbia shrub. Endemic to Namibia, this plant is poisonous to humans and animals (though oryx and black rhinoceros can eat it without a problem). The San People would put it on the tips of their arrows in order to poison their prey and would then boil their food to remove the toxins. We were told not to touch it as it would lead to an instant rash, and if the white latex inside the plant got into one’s skin, it would kill them immediately.
As we approached the crossing, we went for our final “bushy bushy” stop (using nature’s lavatory at the side of the road) and to our dismay, there seemed to be an immeasurable number of mosquitoes swarming towards us. They landed all over me and I tried to brush them off, but later that evening I saw that they had given me a very unwelcome goodbye present; I was absolutely covered in bites.
Luckily, border control were friendlier than the mosquitoes and we passed into South Africa in no time.
Upon crossing the border, we found ourselves in Vioolsdrif, a small village on the bank of the Orange River, the longest river in South Africa.
Our Chief Experience Officer, Wellington provided us with some general information on the country and described it as “the country with no name, just a geographic location”. South Africa is comprised of nine provinces with 11 official languages and around 57 million people. Interestingly, it has three capital cities; Pretoria is the administrative capital, Cape Town is the legislative capital and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital. This is because of a great dispute when the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, over the location of the new country’s capital city. A compromise was reached to spread a balance of power throughout the country, as many were unwilling to have one city holding all of the influence over the rest of South Africa.
We arrived into our campsite and were greeted by three adorable dogs and peaceful surroundings to spend the night, with a few of us even enjoying a self-led yoga workout.
After dinner, Wellington and Judah spoke to us about their upbringings in Zimbabwe, and it was lovely to hear their personal views and cultures.
The following morning we began our journey to Cederberg, stopping off in the town of Springbok (which is also South Africa’s national animal) and travelling past large plantations of rooibos (Afrikaans for “red bush”) tea and dramatic Western Cape scenery.
We also crossed Olifants River, which is a tributary of the larger Limpopo River and means “elephants” in Afrikaans.
There were some things that I would not miss about camping, but now that I reflect on my 40-day adventure, I shall certainly miss the overall experience I shared with my fellow campers. There had been endless card games; getting to know one another over campfire conversations; silly songs and dances; the excitement of meeting new people and learning other cultures with an open mind and a full heart; a mock competition on who had shared a shower with the most exotic insect; baboons stealing our food when our heads were turned for just a second; 12-hour drive days where we would basically sit in our own sweat, but would make entertainment capturing the most hideous sleeping photos of our poor unwitting campmates; stunning safaris where our natural surroundings stretched out for miles and we felt ridiculously lucky to be amongst them; insightful information from our CEOs on eight wonderfully diverse African countries; the chance to sample local cuisine; Planeterra’s many excellent enterprises, where we witnessed and contributed towards projects that were making such a difference for countless numbers of people; and so, so much more.
This was an incredible experience that bonded us quickly and I hope that this bond will last a lifetime.
For our final night of camping, we made sure to appreciate each other’s company and the excellent South African wine and cheese tasting certainly allowed for a state of merriment!
Our final day of the tour began with a drive through Citrusdal, known for its citrus plantations and Darling, a small farming town.
We were heading to Cape Town, but stopped en route at !Khwa ttu, a San Culture and Education Centre. This worthwhile enterprise enables the children of Bushmen and women to get an education so that they can support their parents, as well as showcasing San culture to the world.
We toured the herb garden, which displayed many plants that the San People would use for medicinal purposes. For example, wild wormwood was used for colds and fevers and mother-in-law’s tongue would relieve toothache. We also tasted a herbal, health tea which comprised of wormwood, cancer bush and wild marijuana, blended with rooibos. The feedback given by visitors was so good that they have started selling it in their shop. It was very bitter, but tasty when mixed with honey.
We learnt more about the Bushmen from our informative tour guide, who herself was the daughter of San People. She taught us some clicks used in the Khoesaan languages and we watched an informative video on !Khwa ttu’s goals, one of which involves sustainability. Everything found in their herb garden is sustainable and they even make compost out of their chickens’ waste. This is a microcosm of their ultimate aim; they are hopeful that the San People can teach humankind how to live in a more sustainable manner. !Khwa ttu indicates that thousands of years ago everybody would hunt and forage for their own food, but that our more recent methods of production are risking the end of humankind and our planet. The San People’s low impact lifestyles and lack of material goods in even the most challenging of environments should become a lesson to us all, on how to live within our means and help sustain this wonderful planet that we call home.
As we approached Cape Town, we could see Table Mountain looming above us. We stopped at Table View, named after its views of the mountain.
Once we had checked into our hostel for the final night of the tour, a few of us went for a walk to Bo-Kaap, which means “above the Cape” in Afrikaans due to its location. A former township known for its brightly coloured houses and cobble stoned streets, Bo-Kaap is a traditionally multicultural neighbourhood and historical centre of Cape Malay culture, a South African ethnic group originally from South East Asia.
Reluctant to be leaving the group, we had our final dinner all together, before everybody began to depart back to their home countries or onto further destinations. It was a delightful evening spent eating wonderful food, promising to stay in touch and tipping our deserving CEOs for their excellent knowledge, cooking, driving and leading.
Tomorrow I would be exploring Cape Town with those who were not yet departing and enjoying my last few days in the African continent.
Click here to view a sneak preview of next week’s blog post – my 360° virtual tour of the top of Lion’s Head mountain.
And watch this space for my twelfth and final blog on my amazing Africa tour before I fly to Australia!