Monday, September 03, 2007

Namibia Day 1 Windhoek

Arrived on what looked like a bush airstrip at 6.30 am and straight into the capital, Windhoek. Even on the way in we saw baboons and hornbills. The city has a colonial feel (in this case German) but the main drag has a couple of shopping centres and it seemed like a safe and relaxed sort of place.

Meteorites in mall
There’s an interesting set of meteorites set up in the Post Street mall. These are the famous Gibeon meteorites that fell over some 200 square miles on the east side of the Great Fish River in southern Namibia. As they cool at only one degree celcius per 1000 years in zero gravity they have a crystalline metallic structure not found on earth rocks. The original meteorite is estimated at roughly 4 by 4 by 1.5 meters and descended through the Earth's atmosphere along a northwesterly trajectory at a low angle of 10` to 20` from the horizon. It fragmented high in the atmosphere, and these fragments show thermal alteration by melting of the outer surface. This covered the fragments in smooth outer layers, or was pulled off in places by the drag of the atmosphere, leaving an uneven mass with deep, spherical cavities on the outer surface. These well-developed thermal alteration structures prove that the fragments had an extended flight through the atmosphere before being deposited.

Murray
We stocked up on supplies, bought some incredibly cheap S African wine, changed some money at £1 to N$14 and off we went to Arebusch Lodge n the outskirts of town. We went for a walk up the riverbed to spot birds. Lots to see especially the Cape Starlings and go-away birds. Had a cooked meal and were briefed for the trip. Murray Lewis, our guide for the trip, has spent two years in Kruger Park and some years in conservation in India. He seems very knowledgeable. He speaks to his aid in Africans, but both speak good English as well as two ‘click’ languages. These languages are interesting as they are the original languages of Southern Africa. Bantu expansion from the north and colonial expansion from the south and Germans from the coast, squeezed the local Khoisan people almost to extinction.

Books
I have a couple of books with me that give some insight into southern Africa, ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ by Jared Diamond and ‘The Lost World of the Kalahari’ by Laurens Van Der Post. I also bought ‘The Namid’ by Mary Seeley and ‘Birds of Southern Africa’ by Needham, in Windhoek.

Diamond’s books is a classic. His hypothesis is that Africa, having a N-S axis, developed much more slowly than Eurasia, with its E-W axis. There is little or no record of domestication of plants and animals south of the Sahara. So, despite man having originated in Africa, and been there the longest, development was slow. Africa’s 1500 languages give us the clues we need in terms of population movements. The Bantu moved down from the north and the click languages show that originally the Khoisan people existed as far north as Keyna, where remnants of these languages still exist. The sole domesticated animal from Africa was the Guinea Fowl.

Post’s book is his tale of seeking out the last of the bushmen with their unique culture. They existed in the harshest of environments by having adapted physically to their environment. Small, loose skinned, high boned, eyes slanted and Mongolian in appearance, they could run down antelope and store fat in a condition called steotopygia. Tales of hunting elephant by slicing through their back foot tendon, ostrich by holding a neck/head on a stick, hippos in staked pits, birds by glue and the thrilling chase of an eland across the desert make the book a vivid read when you’re in the desert. Brilliant botanists and chemists they made extensive use of pant and animal poisons for hunting (careful not to coat the tip as they could be scratched). Their games, music, dance, painting (we were to see these later), water sources from sip wells and storage in ostrich eggs was fascinating.

Seeley’s The Namid, is a detailed account of the flora and fauna of this region with its unique beetles, succulents, birds, reptiles and desert elephants. I decided to do a bit of bird-watching on this trip as Namibia is famous for being so very different. So it proved.

5 Comments:

At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Rob Alton said...

I found your blog on Namibia really interesting. I'm off to SA/Kruger in November and just wondered why you chose Namibia over SA? Was it that you'd been before, thought it dangerous, better viewings in Namibia, cost.

I also read your elearning blog.

Keep up the good work.

 
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