by Sven-Eric Kanzler
Looking around attentively, we follow a dusty trail through dry bush. Suddenly one of our guides drops to his knees and starts jabbing away at the dry earth with his digging stick. Curious, we stop and watch. We can see nothing but a shrivelled, dry stalk. Yet, a few seconds later, we are handed a piece of root and motioned to chew it. Warily we sniff it and then nibble at it gingerly… Hmm! Tastes a bit like nuts, and it’s moist and refreshing.
Exploring the Kalahari bush in eastern Namibia is an intriguing experience – especially when accompanied by a few Naro San (Bushmen) who introduce us to living off nature. Zelda Guest Farm, situated almost 300 km east of Windhoek along the road to Botswana, offers the so-called Bushman walks. Our San guides live in a traditional village on the farm and earn money by guiding trails of about 60 minutes’ duration. Thus their ancestral knowledge of nature’s secrets gains a fresh significance, and is saved from oblivion into the bargain.
Kortman Saubek, headman of the little village, two young men and two women familiarise us with basic bushlore along the Bushman walk. As we do not understand the click-intermingled language, Bianca van Niekerk, manageress of the guest farm, accompanies us. “These are the tracks and droppings of a steenbok,” she translates. One of the women digs up an ostrich egg, which serves as a water container. Its opening is sealed with grass that is swollen with moisture, which keeps the water fresh for months, even years. Here is a root whose juices make leather pliable, there a bulb with an aromatic sap with which men anoint themselves when they wish to conquer the heart of a woman – the bush is their supermarket.
In the evening we visit the nearby village to experience traditional singing and dancing. The women sit in a semicircle near the fire, singing and clapping their hands, while the men move around them, also singing and stamping their feet. Before each dance starts Bianca explains its meaning. The theme is always related to nature – rain, wild animals, the hunt. The atmosphere is relaxed and easygoing; we don’t feel like intruders on an intimate ritual at all, but rather like observers of a performance with which the inhabitants of the village wish to convey an impression of their world.
In addition to Bushman walks and culture, Zelda Guest Farm offers game drives of between 60 and 90 minutes’ duration in a game camp of about 5 000 ha, where giraffe, kudu, springbok, gemsbok, zebra and other animals abound. About 800 m from the guest rooms there is a hide for watching a large variety of birds. Two captive cheetah and a leopard may be photographed at close quarters during feeding times. Zelda has 12 double rooms and four family rooms, a lapa, bar, swimming pool and playground. There also is a conference room for up to 20 delegates, and facilities for campers.
This article appeared in the Feb/March ‘05 edition of Travel News Namibia.