Bicycles on the African savanna
The bike can be a great means of transportation not only in the vicinity of the city, but on a journey through a strange and beautiful country. About the African race four Russian cyclists tells Krasnoyarsk photographer and traveler, Dmitry Orlagen.
In 2006 I joined the Krasnoyarsk belorusova. Gradually began to acquire relations and friends, there met his future wife Oksana. Began a trip planned. First on the edge, then in Russia and Crimea. And once notorious among Krasnoyarsk bikers titled IronMan OYA grickova offered us to go to South Africa – South Africa and Namibia. The last go around on bicycles. Of course, we gladly agreed.
Because of flights between Russia and Namibia no, it was decided to fly to Johannesburg. Especially in South Africa OYA and another of our companion Konstantin Stolyarov (by the way, is also the bearer of the title IronMan) was going to participate in the next stage of the competition.
The route was to fly to South Africa there be separated (HHS and Kostya to Cape town, we Oksana rent a car and go to Namibia) – to connect the capital of Namibia – make a route away from the main road network is to return to Windhoek – separated again and get to South Africa (HHS with Bones on the plane, we Oksana by car).
Namibia by car
On arrival in Johannesburg we’re right at the airport rented a car and the next day went to the side of Namibia. I should note, in South Africa, excellent roads: perfectly laid asphalt or even primer, absolutely everywhere road barriers, no matter where you go – Savannah or through mountain ranges. Our machine is everywhere behaved equally well. However, you should be ready that can accidentally run over an animal. Personally, I was lucky enough to stay at two meters from the giraffe, which ran out one day to meet us at dusk on the headlights. Then local residents reported that as usual. On the roads in Namibia everywhere warning signs about the “sudden” animals.
As in South Africa, with the passage of the border? Just as in South America?
No! There is everything as it should be: a roadblock, men with guns and dogs, dozens of receipts and forms. Life in Namibia slow: communication with the border guards, we spent an hour and a half. Indeed, nowhere to hurry with a population of 2 people per square kilometre? At the entrance we had to pay the transport tax in 200 Namibian dollars (1n$ 4 roubles), and we had yarkie the Rand. I’m on my bad English tried to explain that bucks not: “Can we Rand pay?”. During this time, my aunt, border guard never eyes on me not raised. I’m not even sure was, she listens to me or not. In a word, the woman broke my sentimental speech and gave a long moan: “Relaa-a-ax, mate!” (“Raska-and-ABSA, man!”). You know, I really became easier! After registration of securities and the visas of the car was searched by a team of six people. All this time our car was standing in the border gate, the rest of the people who come after us, and waited patiently. Why should I fill a heap of papers, I did not understand, because on the way back they had not even looked.
What were your plans?
The first item on our trips on Namibia was the fish river Canyon (Fish River Canyon), something vaguely resembling the Colorado Canyon in the USA. In General, Namibia is one big national Park. There are indeed many unique and unspoilt scenery, and the state makes money on this. To get to the Park, you need to pay a certain amount. Somewhere it fixed, somewhere there. For example, to visit the attraction of Namibia – reservations himba tribe, we need to agree with them “bodyguards”, and each has its own fee.
The indigenous people of Namibia?
Not really, it nomadic tribe. Himba settled in the territory of Namibia more than two hundred years ago. In the early 20th century they were subjected to genocide, and in the 80-ies of the last century their number has decreased to 20 000 people. Now himba – a few small settlements near the town of Opuwo. Residents reservations are almost the same lifestyle that 200 years ago. But the influence of civilization takes its toll. Now to every settlement surrounded by a number of agents that try to sell you a tour, as a rule, 450 Namibian dollars. Roughly speaking, it is a tourist circus. We never understood, fall to something by the himba and why should we pay a lot of money. The saddest thing is that in some of these settlements do not represent the life without visiting tourists, without the “candy” and other gifts. We spent half a day searching the reservation with an adequate price for visiting. We managed to find a place where the agents asked from us a small sum for the entrance (100 n$), it is, strictly forbade anything to feed and something to give. And also to go into the hut.
Tell us about the life of the tribe.
Now in one settlement himba live up to 60 people. This mostly women and children. Men almost no – they are at work in the cities. The himba are gaiters from animal skin, decorated with all the man-made “bijouterie”. The body they are covered with a mixture of ochre, fat and ash to protect themselves from the sun. This mask gives the skin a reddish clay color that symbolizes the blood that, in turn, symbolizes life. The practical function of the mix – hygiene and, of course, beauty. Paint replaces soap. When she scraped from the body, with her peels and dirt. Women braid each other’s hair and cover them with this mixture. Hair himba you can determine their marital status and gender. Girls wear two plaits hanging down, boys one or do they have no hair.
Every morning the women go for water. But recently, the government has taken care of that, and now near settlements performed well. However, the range of women’s responsibilities don’t stop there. Women and fuel prepare and order is maintained, and gathering are doing. For days they combing her in search of food. They require a lot of effort and time to find all sorts of edible roots and berries. Without them the diet tribe would be extremely scarce – milk. Meat himba eat rare, despite the fact that possess large herds. Livestock rather the capital, not the means of subsistence. If you eat meat, just pre-dried it in the sun. Housing himba is all shack made out of poles and stones and animal manure. Inside the earthen floor, furniture no, sleep on the floor, dirty bed mattresses. Such primitive exotic.
And the African fauna in its “classic” lineup was able to see?
Yes, in another national Park – Etosha. There a few metres from us walked herd of elephants. When I saw them, even about the camera forgot. Elephants lifted the trunks straight over the machine, almost visited us in the open. Will always remember trembling voice Oksana: “Dima, let’s go away from here, but!.. Please, let’s go, I’m so scared!”. But we did nothing bad to them not wanted, so I decided to hope for reciprocity, turned the engine off and asked favorite to speak in a whisper. After some time, when a swarm passed by us, I shook himself, and made a dozen shots in the end.
Namibia on bicycles
After several days spent traveling by car, we are United with our friends in the capital of Namibia – Windhoek. There we left the car and hopped onto the bike. Our way led into the desert, the Namib, more precisely, in its Central part – valley Sossusvlei. This is also a national Park, the Kingdom of sand and dry valleys. Sand dunes are one of the main attractions Sossusvlei. Interestingly, Sands appeared here thanks to the winds that brought them here from Eastern Namibia. We were interested in the valley called Dadley (Dead valley) – the place where 800 years ago dune blocked the river, the trees withered and petrified. It seems that time has stopped in this place. The natural setting for any kind of “Star wars”. The days spent in Sossusvlei, I will never forget! I enjoyed every moment and could not believe what you see with your own eyes this incredible sandy beauty. And how many there were the photos, I’m still not counted! By the way, I can proudly say that we were the first Russians to cyclists, reached Dedulia!
Here’s how! And for entrance to the Park with you too took the money?
Yes, but it happened to us a funny story. It so happened that before sunset we managed to get only one side of the Park, so I decided to sleep in tents, which have always been in our backpacks, one of the dunes, to us it was not visible from the road. The next morning we took the time to look at Dadley, and in the evening there was a pleasant conversation with her aunt at a checkpoint:
– You guys did a very bad thing, having spent the night in the Park. Here you are, what’s your name?
– Yes, exactly, Dmitry! Do you remember me? Remember, I told you yesterday that the gates are closed at six in the evening and you need to go back to this time? Remember you affirmatively shook his head? Okay, nothing special. After all, you, bikers, ever go and sleep wherever you want. Remove the documents, and went with me, I’ll be fine you to write.
But the devil is not so black as he is painted. The amount of the fine is less than we wondered. Initially it was expected to grow by 1200 local dollars, but our naive face and a cute smile helped to lower it to $ 300 from across the company.
Right country of paradoxes…
Yes, and there in so many ways. For example, it seemed to me that in Africa we never will freeze, even at night. There it was! In the dark in Sossusvlei extremely cold. After the Namib we went to the ocean. The closer we got to the coast, the more I felt the cold wind. Was worth a stop off from the hot sun in the shade, immediately on the body ran invigorating chills. And it’s broad daylight.