After Etosha, our next stop was a more cultural destination. Over 40 years ago, my husband was conscripted into the South African Defence Force and spent a large part of his two years service in the Ovamboland region of what was then South West Africa. This trip gave him the opportunity to revisit this part of Namibia under much more pleasant circumstances. A “memory-lane” drive into the town of Oshakati was followed by a night at Ongula Village Homestead Lodge, where the local community share their traditional way of life while providing some very comfortable accommodation.
Our guide Erik showed us around the homestead (kraal or eumbo), introducing us to the women who spend some part of the day underground (for the cool/damp) making clay pots. He explained the significance of the layout of the different areas of the homestead, and we met another group of women who demonstrated how they grind the mahangu (millet) and crush marula fruit for oil (by hand with wooden implements).
The tour took us past the family’s lands where they grow and harvest their crops, and around the market with its cuca shops (small bars selling homemade beer) and other small stores selling food and clothes. As the sun began to sink, we returned to the homestead to be entertained by the dancing prowess of a group of very colourfully dressed young girls. Dinner was a selection of traditionally prepared dishes, including marathon chicken, bean stew and mahangu porridge, with mopane worms on the side. Some of it was delicious, while other dishes required a bit more intestinal fortitude (I did eat one mopane worm!) A fascinating insight into a traditional way of life that can hopefully hang on in the face of modernisation.