Words and pictures by Antoinette Greenway
Antoinette Greenway and a friend, both feisty fifty-something widows, recently did the trip from Ruacana to Epupa along the river road: alone, and in a 1997 Pajero. Along the way the engine overheated, so they spent a night with a Himba family in the bush, did a makeshift repair, were towed the last 50 km… and so it went on.
Anne and I have been friends for more than 30 years. Our husbands were both intrepid explorers, but since we lived at opposite ends of the map, we seldom got to do much together; she and Jack had their adventures and Len and I had ours. But, at last, she was coming to visit me at my home in Katima Mulilo and we planned to have FUN while we still had the energy.
Our holiday started in Mudumu National Park, 160km from Katima. Mudumu is chicken soup for my soul.
As always, the stress and exhaustion of whatever had gone before melted away as we drove through the park, heading for the furthest campsite. The sun set as a family of elephants noisily slaked their thirst and then crossed the river with their snorkels up. Soon the fire was crackling cheerfully, the drinks were cold and the braai delicious. I left the fly sheet off my tent so that I could gaze at the Milky Way from my bed, and watched as a thin smile of moon rose in a black velvet diamond-studded sky. Sleep is never sound in the bush; one drifts in and out between night noises: ellies rumbling, hippos guffawing, scops owls prrrp-ing, lions grunting on their distant prowl.
Anne asked me how many times I’d been to Mudumu. As I tried to recall all the friends I’d shared the experience with, I wondered what the constant was that had kept me going back for almost 10 years. I decided it was in the wind that blows through the same trees, over the same plains, in the river that flows along the same route, year after year. It’s in the Southern Cross that appears in the same sky every night. Whatever upheavals happen in my life, Mudumu stays the same. Every time I visit, there is no trace of change; no witness to tell what has taken place since the last time.
Which falls were those…?
Our car troubles started when the sump cover rattled loose, dragged on the ground, and bent backwards. Fortunately, this happened just outside the police camp at Mudumu rangers’ station. The policemen and women and rangers had just come back from hunting poachers, so they all came out to help us armed with automatic rifles. However, they managed to remove the offending metal plate from under the car. At Kongola, a bush mechanic tried to straighten the plate using a forked tree as a vice, but we soon gave up on that one. We spent that night in a friend’s guest flat in Rundu and headed for Ongwediva the next day.
When we’d started planning this holiday, I’d asked Anne if there was any particular area of Namibia that she wanted to see. She replied that she had always wanted to see Popa Falls. I thought that was a bit tame, but didn’t say anything and started planning. After she’d arrived and I’d shown her the route, we discovered that she’d actually meant Epupa Falls.
Big difference. Very big difference…