Windhoek to Etosha (Okaukuejo)

On the road to Okaukuejo

We drove from Windhoek on the B1 to Okaukuejo at the western end of Etosha park. (Zooming in you can see the size and shape of the Etosha Pan.) The following is an excerpt from the park permit:

Etosha National Park is one of Southern Africa’s finest and most important Game Reserves. Etosha Game park was declared a National Park in 1907 and covering an area of 22 270 square km, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish. The Etosha Park is one of the first places on any itinerary designed for a holiday in Namibia.

Etosha, meaning “Great White Place”, is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.

A San legend about the formation of the Etosha Pan tells of how a village was raided and everyone but the women slaughtered. One woman was so upset about the death of her family she cried until her tears formed a massive lake. When the lake dried up nothing was left apart from a huge white pan.

When it was originally proclaimed at the turn of the century the Etosha Park consisted of an area of 100,000 square kilometres. This was the largest reserve on earth but in the 1960’s political pressure resulted in the Park being reduced to its current size.

The San people is in decline and number about 13,000; the language itself is dying out. UNESCO has undertaken a project to help preserve the San language.

We were able to see giraffes, kudu, zebra, rhinoceros, jackals, eagles. We heard the very load roar of a lion but did not see one. We saw an elephant train in the distance but none up close. We were advised not to get out of the car and to stay on the road. Thus, whatever photos I could grab depended on what we could find along the road. The photo with what looks like a lake in the distance is a mirage. As you can probably tell from the brightness of the light it was very hot, about 35 C. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to be here at all.

Holiday in Namibia

I will be taking a holiday of discovery here in Namibia and will be posting via my iPhone along the way. Here is the itinerary, basically wildlife and desert:

Windhoek – Etosha – Okakuejo, Halali, Namutoni
Namutoni – Otjiwarongo (Cheetah Conservation Fund)
Otjiwarongo – Waterberg
Waterberg – Windhoek
Rest a few days
Windhoek – Sossus Dune (Sossusvlei) – middle of the Namib desert
Sossus Dune – Windhoek through the Naukluft mountain range.

I rented a small Volkswagen Polo which should be adequate to the task. I hear there are a few gravel roads we will have to travel on but if I don’t go too fast, I’ll be ok.

Maputo

I’m here for nine days, attending a SADC education conference where I will make a presentation synthesizing what was learned about education data quality in seven SADC countries. I flew in from Nairobi on Air Mozambique. As in the United States, we had to land at the first port of entry in a small place called Pemba. We were required to get off the plane, with our carry-on luggage, go to customs and obtain an entry visa. Everyone had to pay a fee of $28 USD. I asked for a receipt for my expense claims but did not bother to check it. As required, I went through security and waited to board the plane. Total wait time was 1 hour for re-fueling and on-board security check. Once i arrived in Maputo, a seaside city on the Indian Ocean, I emptied my pockets in the hotel room and looked at my visa receipt. The amount was for $25 USD. It appears that the difference between what I paid and was able to claim was nothing more than an “administrative” fee levied by the customs officer! My first run-in with local “carrying fees”.
My presentation went quite well but the amount of last minute work we had to do to accommodate member countries’ concerns around some of the data quality assessments resulted in many late evenings prior to the presentation itself. Nevertheless, I had a chance to take some photos with my iPhone from time to time.
As a Lusophone country, I could not really talk to any of the locals while out shooting. One could see the residual effects of the long civil war and for such a large city, there are not that many cars. The hotel was beautifully located, perched high above the city and we were presented with a lovely panorama of the sea while enjoying the fresh fish at meal times.

Nairobi

Flight SA 182 to Nairobi from Joburg

After 7 hours from Johannesburg, I arrived late last night. Flights on SAA are good, comfortable and generally with good food. I was lucky to have two empty sears beside and so I could work on the laptop with relative ease.

On arrival I made my way to passport control and as usual there were several different lines: residents, non-residents, visas and quick pass. Looking over at the latter which is where international civil servants and diplomats pass I saw several colleagues waiting in line. I was certainly pleased to see them as I was expecting to see them only the following morning.

By the time I passed through passport control (where they also take your picture with a Logitech web cam) my luggage was circling on the carousel ready for pick up. It wasn’t long before I was able to fund someone from the hotel who would shuttle me there. As usual in the Africa I visited so far people are helpful and friendly. In any event when all was said and done there was an interval of several hours by the time I actually got to my room.
The next morning I took a taxi to my meeting location outside city center, about 30 min in good traffic. The complex is huge, with banks, shopping restaurants, monkeys roaming about, and long walkways all within a highly secured area.

The day before I left, I took the opportunity to wander from the hotel, iPhone in hand, to take pictures. Since every city in Africa has its own do’s and don’ts, the common being no pics of anyone in military or police uniform and certainly no military or police installations. Other than that, you just have to get a sense of what people will tolerate and how safe it is. It is impossible not to be conspicuous, first because of my skin color and second because of my camera. Fortunately, Nairobi is a city filled with tourists, so while conspicuous, I was generally ignored or viewed with idle curiousity. There were a few moments though when there were those who looked at me with more than passing interest, no doubt by my camera. But those moments were very shortlived. It was clear, that like most cities in Africa, Nairobi is not one where you would walk at night, and definitely not alone. A shame though because my guess is that night photography would be especially interesting. Coming back to my hotel by taxi late after a long day’s meeting, the streets were certainly lively and gay.

The manner however by which one takes pictures with the iPhone is you must hold it up in front of you, compared to a regular SLR camera where you bring it up to your eye and focus from there. Thus, although I hold on the camera tightly, it really would take very little for someone to run up and grab it from my hands. The result is that although picture-taking is common, it is difficult not to feel a certain tension in crowded areas with your camera held out in front of you. Eventually, I decided to ignore the issue and tried to be discrete and focus on taking interesting images. Some of these were taken just by walking around and others from my hotel window. The Autostich app is truly a wonderful piece of software and can be used as an expressive tool.

© Frederic Borgatta and Fredericsblog, 2009

Daylight Savings Time in Windhoek

Today, Namibia starts Daylight Savings Time. Starting the first Sunday in September, it ends six months later on the first Sunday in April. In Africa, only Namibia, the Canary Islands, Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco and Tunisia use DST.

From Wikipedia: “In Canada, time is under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, not federal. Since at least the 1970s, all provinces and territories have matched their DST start and end dates to those used in the United States, and when the U.S. Congress changed the rules effective 2007 the provinces and territories (except Saskatchewan) changed their time legislation to match. Since 2007, their DST starts on the second Sunday in March, and returns to standard time on the first Sunday of November, to coincide with the U.S. dates. [M]ost of Saskatchewan does not technically observe DST but rather observes a skewed ‘standard time’ that has been advanced one hour forward permanently (that is, observing what is sometimes known as ‘year-round DST’).”

Remember that? The idea was to save energy.

So, here is a table of time zone differences between Canada (EST) and Windhoek (West African Time) using a 24 hour clock:

Montreal Windhoek
2nd
Sunday
1st
Sunday
January February March April May June
Montreal 00:00 00:00 01:00 01:00 01:00 01:00
Windhoek 07:00 07:00 07:00 06:00 06:00 06:00
Difference +7 +7 +6 +5 +5 +5
Windhoek Montreal
1st
Sunday
1st
Sunday
July August September October November December
Montreal 01:00 01:00 01:00 01:00 00:00 00:00
Windhoek 06:00 06:00 07:00 07:00 07:00 07:00
Difference +5 +5 +6 +6 +7 +7

In Canada, the summer is winding down (although September is now becoming drier and warmer than (increasingly rainy) Eastern Canada in July and August. Here in Windhoek, spring is starting. And although for us Canadians the Namibian winter is equivalent to a cool summer day, Namibians behave like Canadians in winter: stay inside, dress warmly (toque, winter coat, boots). With spring, joggers have hit the streets and trails, people are out walking their dogs, the birds are back and chirping and flowers are starting to bloom.

The trees in my backyard, in particular the two grapefruit trees are starting to push beautiful white flowers, with a perfume very similar to lilac bushes. The tree itself has effectively stopped producing grapefruit. The lemon trees are still going strong however. The sun is definitively warmer and there is a more obvious dryness to the already dry air. The distinction between shade and sun is clear for the moment.

What a relief from the cold nights of July! I couldn’t believe how cold it got at night. There is no central heating, so for the first time I was going to bed with a sweater and socks.

Off to Nairobi, Maputo and then Montreal starting on Sept 8. In Nairobi, the hotel (Hilton) has internet access. Hopefully, I will be able to post something then. I don’t yet about Maputo.

Seven hour flight Windhoek-Joburg-Nairobi; 5 hours Nairobi-Maputo; 1.5 hours Maputo-Joburg; 16 hours Joburg-New York; 1.5 hours New York-Montreal. I’m not including airport travel and wait times. September is a killer from a travel point of view. I will be so glad to be in Montreal, even for a little bit!

© Frederic Borgatta and Fredericsblog, 2009

Temporariness

For now, I am interested in the idea of the state of being temporary. Or, maybe I should I call it the illusion of permanence. Africa and the life I have chosen for the moment has the effect of putting a lot of things into question.

I am here in Africa on contract for one year. Canada is 11,500 kms and 18 hours away (flying time only; 30 hours travel time). Thanks to the Internet, I am able to read (on my iPhone of course) the NYTimes, Le Monde, Bloomberg, the Globe and Mail, BBC World News. Can there be anything more temporary than the news? So I am here, but a grain of sand, in this huge continent, betwixt a past (at least as career and loves are concerned) and the future, occupying my little space (rented), always coming back from going away to going away again – the nature of my new career. This job has the effect of making me very conscious of leaving and returning, the people I deal with both as colleagues and ‘clients’ do the same; indeed, I think the toing and froing mutually reinforces a sense of occupying spaces in transition.

A pic of my temporary abode:

Music I’m listening to.

Every now and then I am possessed by a strong urge to listen to music I either haven’t heard in a long time or to something altogether new. Having now become a self-confessed addict of my iPod Classic and my iPhone (I’m writing these words in the garden on the iPhone in the late afternoon listening to the very beautiful Little Match Girl Passion. The iPod is docked onto the Bose Soundock portable and since it is the end of winter here in Namibia, the birds of spring accompany the Passion.)

So, this week, I went a little crazy in the iTunes store and got some really great rockin’ music, some more blues of course, and my beloved classical.

Sports : Huey Lewis and the News (I just had a huge urge to rock to this truly great bar band!)
Derek and the Dominos : Layla
East-West : Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Modern Times : Bob Dylan (I would be ready to bet a beer that the harmony in Chopin’s piano étude inspired Dylan)
Best of Blondie : Blondie (can we melt?)
Black Byrd : Donald Byrd

The Little match girl passion : David Lang; Theatre of Voices, Paul Hillier & Ars nova Copenhagen (soaring, glorious music to a very sad story)
Mozart, Berg: Gran Partita (the one with the floating clarinet at the start of the 3rd movement); Kammeramusik, Mitsuko Uchida
Lamenti : Emmanuelle Haïm & Le Concert d’Astrée
Song of songs : Stile Antico
Debussy, Ravel, Faure String Quartets : Quatuor Ebène
Beethoven piano sonatas, vol 4 : Paul Lewis (there is a warmth to his Beethoven and a such a clear sense of voice-leading)

All this beautiful music makes my spirit fly and fly into the sky!

© Frederic Borgatta and Fredericsblog, 2009

OK, we’re off …

I have been in Africa since June 4, 2009. While I certainly enjoy emailing I think it would be quite cool to put up a blog of impressions, photos, make it private so that my friends can contribute their own thoughts and reactions to what you read. Now that I have a 32GB iPhone 3Gs (how could I ever have conceived life without it) I can put down a thought, share a photo while on the go (which is often) from my iPhone. I downloaded the WordPress iPhone app and voilà : instant journaling.

© Frederic Borgatta and Fredericsblog, 2009