Travel Notes from a Vagabond

Balanced Birders
April 24, 2019
The magic of an Outpost
April 30, 2019
By Willie Olivier

Willie Olivier is a veteran journalist and travel writer. He has been compiling guides and travel directories for visitors to Namibia since before independence. In this new series for Travel News Namibia, Willie compiles notes, thoughts and take-aways from his travels. Interesting facts, little-known happenings and anecdotes of the adventures of this vagabond.

Black-Faced Impala

On the journey from Opuwo to Epupa Falls the road crosses the Omuhonga River. In September 1969 this spot served as the base camp for capturing the first group of black-faced impala for translocation to Etosha National Park. Game capture techniques were very rudimentary in those early days: before nets were used the animals were dazzled with spotlights at night and caught by hand. Two other capture operations were subsequently conducted at Enyandi and along the Kunene River. The black-faced impala, characterised by its distinctive facial blaze, is a common species in Etosha. But the story

Nkasa Rupara – An Ever-Changing Ecosystem

During years of high floods in the Kwando River up to 80% of Nkasa Rupara National Park is inundated and the wetlands are transformed into a microcosm of the Okavango Delta. The rhythm of the wetlands is primarily dictated by the flow in the Kwando-Linyanti-Chobe system, and wet cycles are inevitably followed by dry cycles. Complex tectonic, climatic and hydrological events have shaped and reshaped the wetlands over countless aeons. No two seasons are the same. Blockages caused by sedimentation, dense reed beds or floating vegetation divert water into channels that have been waterless for decades, while channels that flowed only recently dry up unexpectedly. Hippos also play a part in the constantly changing waterways by keeping channels open, while a termite mound built in a channel during a dry cycle can force the water to find another course.

SWARTBOOISDRIFT

Originally known as Otjimuhaka in Otjiherero, this shallow ford was named after Petrus Swartbooi, a Nama Chief who died there from wounds sustained in a crocodile attack. This was where the Dorslandtrekkers crossed into Angola in the early 1880s. A police post was established at Swartbooisdrift in 1925, but it was closed 14 years later after a Constable van Eck died of malaria. When some 350 Dorslandtrek families returned from Angola in 1928/9, they crossed into what was then South West Africa at Swartbooisdrift.

of its capture, relocation and release has largely been forgotten and would most probably have been lost for future generations, had it not been for Peter Bridgeford’s recently published book Conservation pioneers in Namibia and stories by game rangers. This monumental work is a compilation of 110 first-hand accounts of former conservation officials, long-forgotten articles in newsletters and reports by 55 authors.

RUSPLAAS

Sometimes it’s easy to get to the destinations on your list, but one place that eluded me for a full 27 years is Rusplaas.

Finally, late last year, I decided to take a detour to this almost forgotten piece of history of the Dorslandtrekkers’ journey to southern Angola. It was declared a national monument way back in 1951. But it is not signposted and had it not been for the perseverance and enthusiasm of my travel companions and Tracks4Africa, I might have given up.

The track alternated between powdery dust and pieces of bone-jarring calcrete rock. Directions provided by the locals sent us in various ways, but eventually we got to the rather dilapidated ruins of a two-roomed cottage built by a Dorslandtrekker in about 1878.

After leaving Etosha, the Dorslandtrekkers continued to Kaokoland in smaller groups and on arrival at the artesian springs at Otjitunda split into four groups. One group of about 300 people remained in the vicinity of the springs and named their temporary abode Rusplaas, which means resting farm. Two groups settled at springs in the surrounding area, while the fourth group continued to Kaoko Otavi. After obtaining permission from the Portuguese authorities, the trekkers set off to their new home, Humpata, in southern Angola in October 1880.

Although the site was less than impressive, it certainly reminded me of the incredible hardships and unbearable suffering the Dorslandtrekkers endured. And one more piece of their journey through Namibia fell into place.

This article was first published in the Autumn 2019 issue of Travel News Namibia.

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