A Wet Weekend at Ruacana Falls
26 March 2004
I hope you all had a happy Independence Day last
weekend. Thatís right;
Namibia hit the big one-four on the 21st of March.
I didnít see too much fanfare but I did take advantage of the four-day
weekend with a trip up to Ruacana Falls, which is up on the border with Angola.
I bolted to Ondangwa on Thursday after school and met up with some other
volunteers. After some dinner we
left for Tsandi where another volunteer has a site; the next morning we left early for
Ruacana. Our plan was to make it to
a campground and then go and see the falls.
We were very lucky to get a taxi in Tsandi that took us all the way to
our campsite. The site was really
cool; it had a giant tree right in the middle of it and was on the bank of the
Kunene River. Just to provide some
perspective on this volunteer stuff, the campsite was equipped with showers and toilet
facilities, which makes the amenities at this campground better than
those at most of the volunteers sites (the ones that donít live in government
noon (Díoh) we set off for the falls on foot and in less than two hours we
were there (we walked along a nice but hilly road).
At the falls we were greeted with an impressive sight.
They werenít as big as Niagara Falls, but then again, the fact that
there was absolutely none of the development that accompanies every tourist trap
in the States (and Canada in this case) did lend it some exotic third-world
charm. We had the lookout spot all
to ourselves and after taking lots of photos we went down to the bottom of the
falls. After searching for and
finding the way down (see, lots of charm: no
guide signs) we started descending the 400 or so narrow stairs to the bottom.
The air quickly became humid and then drenched as we entered the spray
zone. Adding to the wetness was the
leaky four-foot pipe full of rushing water that ran adjacent to the stairs.
The stairs were wet and muddy but, to be fair, there was a dilapidated
and slimy handrail to help (so much charm that itís a health hazard!)
The view at the bottom was wonderful and the misty water droplets in the
air were refreshing (although we were all hoping our cameras would come out
alive). Anyway, the giant pipe full
of water ended up running into a small derelict building that used to have
something to do with hydroelectric power. While
most of the group decided to go back to the campsite via the stairs and the
road, I, Seth and Robby decided to
demonstrate why, exactly, this place would be closed in a heartbeat if it were
on US soil. We walked through the
derelict building full of water, over the walkway, down the ladder and across
the chasm to the get to the rocky shore so we could walk back to the campsite
along the river. The hike along the
river was a lot of fun and, although we didnít really know it before hand,
quite a bit shorter that the route along the road.
We didnít see any snakes or crocodiles; the only tricky part involved a
really hot boulder and its proximity to the water.
The next day was the day
that we had been planning to see some Himba people.
The Himba are a tribe of Namibia that has avoided westernization.
Most apparent, and unlike the Owambo, their dress is completely
traditional. Because of their dress
(or lack there of) they are very ďAfricanĒ and are sought after to be
subjects in photos. They want money
for taking a picture of them and to tour a village you need to bring ďgiftsĒ
including a load of sugar and meal, and money for tobacco.
We had met a guide at the campsite who was going to give us a tour of a
nearby village but when we found out that he had gone home for the weekend that
plan fell through. We had seen some
of the Himba at a nearby cuca shop but if we wanted to tour a proper village we
would have to hitchhike all the way to Opuwo.
Our group split up at this point because some people wanted to go to
Opuwo and some people wanted to stay at the campsite, which is what I chose to
do. The idea of going to goggle at
people and pay to take their picture wasnít overly appealing to me.
(I know how it feels to be gawked at!)
Additionally, Opuwo is in the middle of nowhere and there was the
possibility that it would be difficult to make it back to Ekulo on Monday.
Besides, I didnít want to pass up the opportunity to jump off of a
cliff! Yes indeed, we had heard
rumors of a secret pool somewhere down the road where, if one was so inclined,
one could do some cliff jumping. We
left, inevitably, at noon and it took us a good three hours to walk 10k down the
road and then find the place. It
was way out in the bush and we almost didnít find it.
While we were wandering around we saw a troop of monkeys, which I thought
was really cool. They were small
and kept their distance from us but it was amazing to see how swiftly they could
cross the rugged landscape. With
the wild animals and the exotic terrain it felt like I was inside a zoo exhibit.
We eventually found the spot and (after checking the depth) we took the
plunge. There was a small cliff
about the height of a high dive, which we did first and then we graduated to the
big one. The only other time I have
attempted this sort of thing was when I was in fifth grade and was with my
family was on the Spanish island of Minorca.
I went up to the jumping spot with my Dad and then I chickened out.
As I stood on Saturday looking down at the water forty or so feet below I
rediscovered that fear. Itís a
long way down! I jumped anyway and
the only thing bad that happened was that my feet hurt from hitting the water.
Also, my watch was almost lost on the second jump as the water caught the
Velcro band and undid it. After we
had our fill of the pool we decided to take a ďshortcutĒ back to the road.
After wandering through the bush in the rain semi-lost some more we made
it back to the road and then back to the campsite. The whole trip took seven hours; we had had plenty of water
but not enough food so we were pretty hungry.
It felt great to get some good exercise.
The next day we let some VSO volunteers borrow one of our pots (they had
three coolers but no pot?) in exchange for a lift to the nearest cuca shop where
we could get a lift back to town. When
we made it back to town we all had lunch at Nandos (Portuguese fast food
chicken) and then spent the night at another volunteerís site.
I returned home on Monday morning. Over
the whole trip I was in at least fourteen different lifts of various kinds and
spent about 500 Namibian dollars. I crossed the checkpoint to leave Namibia but I was
disappointed that I never made it to Angola proper, although I could have thrown
a rock into it.
Well that about sums up my holiday weekend.
I hope the weather is warming up for everyone.
The rains here have slowly tapered off.
The legions of flies are dwindling and the SUV crickets are wreaking
havoc on the mahangu. Those 11 eggs
still havenít hatched yet. The
hen is still sitting on them but I am beginning to wonder if they are viable.
Have a good weekend.
here for more photos of Raucana Falls