Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Eating Out in Damaraland

In Damaraland, the staff told us during the day we'd be eating "out" that night. Nobody would explain what that meant—only that we should have a sweater or a wrap on hand. Evening came and we met the lone other person staying in the camp. A Swiss man, he was going to lose his vacation time if he didn't take a few weeks before 2018. He and his wife decided he should go alone to Namibia. He was having a great time. He told us he hadn't and wouldn't take a single photo lest he hurt his wife's feelings.

Our guide led us to dinner along a difficult (for me) rocky path behind the huts and when we turned a corner, we found ourselves in a candlelit grotto. The setting was magical—I didn't pay very much attention to the food, I was so swept up in the candles, the grotto and the staff. They recited the menu in their clicking language, Khoekhoe—one speaking in clicks and the other translating in English. The sunset was stunning. 

Six or seven staff people waited on three guests plus our guide. 
It was a truly magnificent experience. After the food and wine, I wondered if I'd make my way back to hut on the rocky path. Not a day went by on this trip when I didn't lean up against the door once shut for the day and breathe a sigh of relief or satisfaction at having made the day and not twisted an ankle, wrenched a muscle or broken something.

During that day we'd spent five or six hours bouncing around in the jeep enjoying the fantastic landscape. Gorgeous rock formations and desert landscapes changed with every turn as we searched for and tracked the herd of desert-adapted elephants which roam the area. After we found them, we enjoyed watching fifty of the beasts, large and small, old and young walking along the dry river bed. Out of the jeep appeared a table, tablecloth, thermos of tea and biscuits. We enjoyed our snack with an incomparable view.

When we returned to our room, "bush buddies" were placed under the covers—hot water bottles. Nothing compares to these old-fashioned devices. Pshaw on the charmless electric blanket.  I discovered the delight of warming up pieces of your corpus individually rather than warming up the whole thing at once. I warmed my back, then my neck, then my legs. I slept for ten hours. And the bottle was still warmish in the morning.

Meeting Desert Rose was another highlight of the camp. 43 K of wit, spunk and talent, she made us comfortable and kept us entertained.

 A joint venture between a good safari company, Wilderness Safaris, and the people of the local Torra Conservancy, Damaraland Camp has proved hugely successful. It's a model of how community-based tourism can work – and is looked at by other camps in Africa for inspiration. The camp has a great atmosphere with friendly, happy staff who clearly love what they do and are devoted to making your stay as enjoyable and memorable as possible. 

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