Sunday, 13 November 2011

Keetmanshoop and Fish River Canyon

A group of volunteers from Catholic AIDS Action in Keetmanshoop, who do Home-Based Care for the sick in their community. Most of their clients are HIV+

Last week, we were in the South of Namibia, in a town called Keetmanshoop, for the gender research project, interviewing more groups of carers involved in community and home-based care, around what motivates men to be involved in CHBC and how to get them involved. We brought along juice, water and biscuits which was cheered by the group, especially by one couple who, we discovered, were married that morning. We couldn't believe they'd made time to come to speak with us, especially as it wasn't even a 'usual' supervision time (we usually join the Catholic AIDS Action coordinators when they visit their groups for supervision and to collect data, but as CAA had already finished all their supervision for the month, they called in this group especially to talk to us). After our discussion meeting, we took photos of the group and then of the happy couple, which we had printed out in the town as a small wedding gift, and dropped off copies at their house in the township.

Married that morning!

Alex cooking dinner

Alex and I enjoyed the free braai (barbecue to you and me) facilities at the hotel, bought some veggie burgers and salad, and made our own dinner at the hotel. It's much easier starting a fire in Namibia than it is in the UK - the air and the wood is so much drier here, the sparks light up quite easily.

The next day, we visited some more groups in the smaller villages around Keetmanshoop. Here's a picture of one group we visited that has one male volunteer: as he's a village elder and active in the church, he's instrumental in getting men to listen to him.

This group spent a long time deciding how well men could cook when volunteering in home-based care. Not very well, was the end decision.

After two days of driving around to villages and meeting NGO and government workers, we decided to extend our trip by one day over the weekend and go to see the Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world (apparently, although there is debate over the size of the canyon in Ethiopia). The Canyon was just two hours from Keetmanshoop, so we drove down, picking up a hitch-hiker along the way. Her Dad pushed her into the car with us, saying 'don't worry, the white people will take care of you', but she was so terrified of us she didn't utter a single word the whole journey, just squeaked occasionally whenever we tried to involve her in the conversation.

The beautiful scenery in Southern Namibia

Finally, we arrived at Ai-Ais, which means 'burning water' or something like that. Basically, the name refers to the hot springs that come up from the ground, and the lodge channels into pools inside and outside the main buildings. Having erected our 'new' two-man tent (the tent saga continues, for those of you at home) and seen that it does stand and can fit the two of us, we decided to do a 10km hike along the bottom of the Fish River Canyon itself. There's a five day hike that is possible to do along the Canyon, where you carry your own food etc, which starts from the north end of the canyon and goes 90km to the southern end - we were already at the southern end of the canyon, and just walked 5km up and 5km back to get a taster of what the 5-day hike might be like.

Birds on the water of Fish River

Hiking along...

We saw snakes along the side of the water, who reared up when they realised we were there, but let us quietly pass.

It was really, really hot. We only went as far as half our water could take us, and drank the other half on the way back. 10km in 3 hours...

We then enjoyed the outside pool and the thermal water, which was delicious in the cooler evening air. Another veggie-burger braai, and we reconciled ourselves to the tent with a glass of wine as the French couple 50m over argued over putting their tent up and stared longingly at our alcohol. Who says camping isn't fun?

The next day we packed up and drove along the road by the top of the Canyon to the northern end where the famous 'viewpoint' is, enjoying the scenery along the way.

Yes, it's an ostrich warning sign. And we saw a lot of them by the road too!

We arrived at the viewpoint just before noon to see the famous 'devil's bend', the most commonly depicted photo of the canyon on postcards here.

A lovely group of French tourists took this photo of us.

Driving over to 'Hiker's Point', we stopped for some lunch and a cup of Earl Grey.

And then headed back to Windhoek, spotting lots of Ostriches on the way to the main road.

It took 7 hours to get back to Windhoek, arriving just after nightfall. We decided to have dinner at Luigi and the Fish in Windhoek as we had nothing in the cupboard, and finished off the work trip and weekend with veggie enchilladas covered with melted cheese, followed by sticky toffee pudding and wine. Not a bad life, volunteering, eh?

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