Namushasha River Lodge near Kongola has an expansive bar and dining area on a deck with three levels. It has shady trees and lovely views down onto the river. It was a perfect place to go cruising down the Kwando River in northeastern Namibia.
A waterbuck gazed at us intently. We switched off the engine and drifted nearer in silence, the buck not startling for a good five minutes. Other water-loving buck that occur here along the Kwando River are sitatunga and red lechwe, which we saw the following day on our way to Bwabwata National Park.
In this riverine world, we learnt a lot about the water lilies that surrounded us. There are two distinct species – the mauve/white ones only open during the day and have smooth round leaves, while the yellow ones open only at night and the leaves have a slightly serrated edge.
Rector picked a dinner-plate-sized serrated leaf and turned it into a conical hat with the help of a piece of stiff grass that he used like a hat pin. Then he plucked an unopened water lily bud on a long stalk. He washed the soil off and began to create a necklace from it, using some skill to fashion ‘links’ from the long stem.
This kind of hands-on approach was a hallmark of Rector’s guiding style. For instance, he told us that the silver clusterleaf (terminalia) always grows in thick sand and its leaves can be chewed to stop diarrhoea. But instead of just saying that the bark can be stripped from young branches and twisted together to make rope, he rolled up his sleeves and made a piece of rope to show how it was done.
The bush holds a wealth of plants with such practical uses – if only you know about them. Leadwood can be used for a hair shampoo and conditioner for your hair. ‘If you burn it and make a paste of the ash mixed with water it makes a nice white paint for your house,’ he said.
A hippo honked far away and an African jacana led her two fluffy chicks along the edge of the river. As the reeds slid by and the sun started to sink into a band of clouds along the horizon, I thought how sad it was. All this age-old knowledge might be gone in another generation or two because youngsters nowadays are more interested in cell phones and smart running shoes than in their culture or the wisdom of their elders.
Note: I was a guest of Namushasha River Lodge for two nights, but had free rein to write what I chose. I paid for all travel costs, meals and drinks.
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