Most people have a picture of Namibia in their heads that’s all dry desert, strange-looking welwitschias and quiver trees. But if you venture northeast, above the veterinary cordon, you’ll find the rivers of Namibia – a different world.
To us it was strange to see people using mokoros as wagons over dry land, drag, drag, scrape along the sand. They carried firewood, thatching grass or barrels of water fetched from a water pump, and were pulled either by people or hooked up to a donkey. But in this land where you might be crossing a floodplain as often as a patch of dry land, it probably makes sense as a multi-purpose vehicle. For instance, guide Mathias Ndana at Hakusembe River Lodge told us that the road to the lodge was flooded in February and guests had to be ferried there in boats.
Hakusembe River Lodge
The Kavango forms the border between Namibia and Angola, just a five-minute swim across the river from Hakusembe River Lodge. As we settled into our chalet along the riverfront, we watched Angolan children on the far bank fishing and swimming naked or in their skivvies. Their mothers had done the washing and colourful clothes were lined up along a fence to dry. Four children came down to the water’s edge with a cart drawn by two oxen, to fetch water.
No wonder the food on Hakusembe’s buffet tables was delicious – fresh salads, a salmon tart with crisp pastry, oryx fillet with mushroom sauce, broccoli cheese, and my favourites, roast sweet potatoes with orange zest and fried cabbage with fennel seeds.
Late afternoon saw us out on the Kavango River with self-confessed bird nut, Mathias Ndana, the perfect river guide. He was content to cut the engine and drift slowly with the current to get closer to a fish eagle sitting on a branch in the sun or to a dozen black-crowned night herons roosting in a tree, before taking to the skies just after sunset.
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