please note all photos in this post can, and are encouraged to, be viewed larger by clicking and opening in a new tab
I love documenting travels from the car window ... just snapping pics of what we pass by randomly on the roads. In addition to the attractions that I came to a country to see, or the reasons for my visit, I find the everyday life I wiz by in the car similarly interesting, and these are the shots you don't see on the other travel blogs or in picture books and travel magazines ... those typically are nicely, patiently set up and composed, and are indubitably infinitely better than mine. However, I stick to my interest in the passing-by. All the photos in this post were taken from the window of a moving vehicle -- specifically the intrepid "Berrie Bus," which is what we named the passenger van Berrie rented and drove for the duration of filming for The African Witchfinder. Usually we were cruising along around 65 or 70 mph on the paved highways and maybe 50 on the rural dirt roads. So my photos are not well composed, they were snapped in a hurry as we zoomed by, and I just got what I got. But I love looking through them and seeing what turned up. I think they're very informative about typical life in Namibia. So I share some with you here. I'll point out some things to notice in some of them. For those pics in particular, you might enjoy viewing them larger in a new tab. For more roadside pics in Namibia, see my post, "The African Hair Salon," featuring roadside beauty salons.
Here is the Berrie Bus cruising down a typical stretch of road in Kaokoland, northern Namibia. Typical in that there is no one else around! (But atypical in that there is a curve in it!) We got out of the bus for Toby to film it driving down the road. But it required a few takes for him to get the footage he wanted, so it was kind of funny with Berrie driving back and forth and back and forth on this stretch of road. But no one was around to wonder at our antics.
Kaokoland is the land of the Himba. These are typical Himba homes ... the same design as homes all over Namibia, but with Kaokoland's signature red dirt and mud. Because we were there in the rainy season, much of the ground was carpeted in yellow flowers.
Did I mention it was the rainy season? In case you can't read the sign above the door on the little mud hut, it says "car wash."
The traditional homes of people in northern Namibia are round or square huts called rondevals made of sticks or of stones mortared with mud, with a conical thatched roof. Often a cluster of them will be surrounded by a tall stick fence, making a family compound.
Did you notice the chicken in the middle of the scene above? :) Rectangular houses of bricks or stone or cement are also common. Things to notice about this house below are the washing tubs outside and the pots full of plants against the stick building on the right. I actually particularly like this shot; it's one of my roadside favorites.
One thing I will never understand is the metal shack. The traditional rondeval style of hut with the cone-shaped thatched roof is airy, breezy, and lets in light. The tin sheds are stifling hot and dark. Look at these two pictures and compare the rondeval to the metal shacks. In a hot, arid climate, which would you rather be in??
Here's a reversal, where the metal hut seems preferable to the windowless stone hut.
Secondary to my fascination with beauty salon buildings, I also liked cataloging a lot of the shebeens ... these are basically the equivalent of a liquor store and neighborhood pub combined, but they are usually unlicensed and perhaps dens of ill repute, yet they are also a social hub for all the locals, as everyone from the elderly to children could often be seen lounging outside them, and often other stores were connected to them. We drove by this one a few times, and you can see that sometimes you could do some pretty comprehensive clothes shopping while picking up your beer.
Notice in the first photo below the lone man sitting against the side of the shebeen. Kind of a sad portrait. But the next shebeen was a lively, happening place.
But you don't need a shebeen to be social! Everywhere people are gathered together beneath trees and outside homes. (note the traditional hairstyles of the Himba men on the left in the first photo below)
But half the buildings along the roadsides look abandoned. I guess it can be hard to make a go of a business. Especially, of course, when witchcraft surrounds you and people are wishing you harm at every turn if you have become successful in your business, and you are blaming your failures on the witchcraft of others and spend your time seeking revenge. (See my post "Fear and Distrust - An Argument for Witchcraft as a Primary Economic Inhibitor" for more thoughts on that.) (And Tafel, by the way, is my favorite beer to drink in Namibia.)
Another common sight of abandonment is vehicles. Clearly once one breaks down or is crashed, it's saved for parts and slowly parted out until nothing remains. Ghostly shells of cars are all over the place.
It always seems so anachronistic to see a modern vehicle parked outside a mud hut or a stick fence. I noticed in this pic after looking at it on a large computer monitor that the fellow in it is missing his right arm.
Cows seem more appropriate for the roads here! It's something that feels comforting to me when I travel to other places where livestock shares the roads with cars. A lot of countries mix these two, and I always like the sight of it.
People laboring along the road ... with their cows and their own physical strength and balance (you might already know how much I respect the women who carry big loads on their head and wish I could emulate them.)
And then there are children walking home from school along the roadsides.
Below, another typical kind of scene you find at the outskirts of towns -- with billboard and metal shacks, disorganized randomness beneath. Here it looks like a cement-making lot for cinder blocks and such. (remember you can view all these pics larger by opening in a new tab)
Here is a much more tidy brick-making shop! For whatever reason (I don't really know why) I particularly like this pic. Maybe something about the way the lighting came out, with the shaded foreground and background, and the crisp, neatness of the building and the shadow of the window bars.
This place I wonder about! I think it just means it's a discount store (like a dollar store), however, in a country such as Namibia where witchcraft is so dominant and witchdoctors so prevalent, it could mean discounts on items used in magic! In Johannesburg, South Africa, we visited a witchcraft supply shop which sold all kinds of creepy, bizarre things for use in witchcraft and traditional healing. (see the post, "Hospitality - Local Folks Rock and Penguins Delight" for some pics)
And now for something completely different. A roadside flower. :)
Thatched huts are also used in the mahango (millet) fields to store the harvest. Often, driving along you will see these little tips like chocolate chips sticking up out of the fields.
This row of buildings seemed somehow a little whimsical to me. Different than the typical roadside huts.
Well, we have come to the end of our roadside journey through northern Namibia. Most of these were snapped near the town of Divundu in the northest near the Caprivi Strip. I hope (if you haven't been to Namibia yourself) that you now have an idea of the typical roadside homes and establishments, a window into rural Namibian life ... literally, since I took all the pics from the window of the Berrie Bus! The next time you're at a party and the guy next to you wonders aloud what the countryside of northern Namibia looks like and what people live in, you can regale him with a description! And I know the odds of this happening are very high, indeed. I think this is my favorite of all the roadside photos. I guess because of the huge tree and clouded sky and the people outside their store dwarfed beneath it. It looks like a benevolent tree to me.