Saturday, June 9, 2012


veld: wide open rural spaces

17 may    this morning we leave mowani and head north for grootberg and the mountainous area of the etendeka plateau

we passed donkeys and sheep

at a checkpoint near palmwag, i saw some children

while chuck was occupied i waved at the children. and then gave them pockets.  :)

hee hee, happy curious children

namibia has the best signs

i didn't take photos driving up the grootberg pass. most of the time i was covering my eyes. we'd heard some horror stories about the road but truly, it was not as bad as we'd imagined. but. it was sketchy. it's fairly steep  and not as well graded as most of the dirt roads we'd been driving so far. even slow speeds would cause the tires to jump and slide and the road was not very wide. and the drop off was long. eeps. but it was spectacular...

the grootberg lodge

our verandah

our rock and thatch chalet

it is so quiet here the only sounds you hear are birds and at around three pm, the donkey boiler. (that's the fire place outside our door, it'll provide hot water for an evening shower.)

it's dizzingly beautiful up here. when we reached the lodge gate we had to park our truck and wait for someone to come collect us. the road up is so steep the guide book and car hire recommend (and forbid) you to drive it yourself. fine by me. double eeps. chuck must have found a lizard to photograph.

morning view

the following day, we are on the way to kaokoland, and the ova himba. here is our translator, erenst. the drive took us even further north, and into serious 4 x 4 country. along the way we stopped at a herero town to pick up supplies for the himba. we learned that the herero and the himba were from the same tribe, the herero long ago separating and adopting the dress they have now, an old victorian style, long heavy dresses and hats.

here is our driver and guide, mesag. mesag is showing us the makalani nut, which grows in the makalani palm that lives here. and so exciting! this is the same nut that the buttons are carved from and the art by tsudi! and guess who loves to eat these? the cheeky little rosy-faced love bird! there were hundreds up in the palms.

we drove through many water crossings, mesag was careful to look for turtles (excuse us please)

after two hours, we are here, mesag said 'himba children' oh! erenst had taught us the proper way to greet the himba:  ngora - how are you?  nawa - fine.

and so it began, ngora, nawa. ngora, nawa, to each little one we met

and then the mamas

this is a moment i'd always hoped to have. meeting these fascinating people. this woman and i were able to communicate with the help of erenst and also through hand motion, touch and smiles. she is expecting her fifth child and was very pleased to know i have five children too

  i am inside her hut with curious children, and erenst to provide explanations

the maize bowl

 meal time

 we learned the girls hair is braided and brought to the front.

the ova himba women cover themselves in a mixture of ochre and butterfat which results in a beautiful reddish color on their skin and hair, and also serves a purpose. it helps to keep the skin conditioned and clean as they never bathe with water. it also repels insects and acts as sun protection.

we were led to another hut where we were given a demonstration of the women's skin care
i asked names, but honestly it was not in my head to remember during this time, i was
trying to stay in the moment, i was really thrilled to be here. as soon as this child finished nursing
his mama held him out to me

to hold

on the left is a container of butter fat and on the right the ground up ochre

the two ingredients were mixed together in her palm and then applied all over her skin

while she was doing this baby was eating the butter fat  :)

this is the red ochre, she is grinding it to a powder

and now i am getting the treatment

next she brought out some kind of flowers or herbs

and called to one of the children to bring an ember from the outside fire

more ingredients were added and the ember was placed in the middle. she nurtured this potion for a while until it was ready

for the next step, to perfume herself. the smells were earthy, strong

these bands on her leg signify she has two or more children. they are also used for protection from snake bites, they never come off

i thanked her for sharing this with me. she called her older son inside and motioned for me to take his photo too. she smiled

there was singing

and dancing

even the babies

and then it was time to give pockets. mesag had told me how this should be done

everyone was curious

there was much discussion over colors (i imagined)

the boys (and men) decided to wear them over the shoulder   :)

pens are always popular too

oh my

saying thank you: oku heba

we'd been here almost two hours and it was time to leave.

on our return we hardly spoke. thinking about this experience had filled the silence. it felt like a dream. mesag had given me a lesson in damara, his language. i told him gangans (thank you) very much. i gave him and erenst pockets to take home to their own children and wives. and later that evening when i took a shower and saw the ochre on my arm, i knew today had really happened

that evening, our last at grootberg, we took a game drive on the plateau, hoping to see the mountain zebra

we found many

and we saw springbok and a black-backed jackel


the plateau was stunning, it looked very much like the serengeti, an endless veld

until we came close to the edge again, and were reminded where we were. baby mountain zebra, sigh.

returning from the evening game drive

i bought the bracelets (pictured a few photos up) from this himba family

still smiling over this experience. thank you for coming along and letting me share with you  (apologies for this extra long post). etosha and big cats are next.


  1. absolutely speechless ~ for you to have an experience like this is beyond imagining for me and for me to be able to 'almost be there' eyes filled with tears and my goosebumps had goosebumps (and still do)

    thank you so much, Lori ♥

  2. ♥ the people are beautiful and so different from us, but sweet that you and that mother could bond in that you both have 5 children! The women's hair is amazing. I love the photo of her nursing and that she then handed her little one to you....I wish I was there with you!!!

  3. It was not too long Lori, it was magical and I love it, thank you!

  4. What a magical look into another world! I actually saw one of the pockets I sent around one of the children's was exciting that you let us be part of this experience.
    Your photos are breathtaking and even some without words, told a story that brought some tears to my eyes with their smiles. Thank you, XOXO

  5. Lori, Its so incredible you not only witnessed the porcedure of how a woman protects and decorates her body with butterfat and ocrhe, but that you were treated yourself! seeing the beautiful pot with the maise in it, imagining the smells, the friendliness and openess of your hosts, there just aren't words to express how much it moved me.
    Oku Heba!

  6. i have never been so brief in commenting on your blog. i am speechless. i mean speechless!

    even more than this being so educational, what affects me most is your honest reverence for people and children and animals and birds and a culture that you so earnestly appreciate.

    incredible, my dearest lori graham


  7. Incredible. Surreal. Thank you!

  8. Oh Lori. This was just amazing. I can't even imagine having actually experienced it. Wow!

    I shared these pictures with my whole family. It was just that amazing. I think I recognize one of those pockets. I knew I was sending them to you to take to Africa. But seeing them around the necks (and shoulders!) of such precious children is just too much. I have a serious lack of words here. The world is such a vast, and yet very small, place.

    My oldest son was quite amazed that something I made is in a remote part of another country. It was beyond priceless to see the lights come on in his eyes. Thank you for helping to expand his world. (:

  9. Veld. Have you ever read "Cry the Beloved Country"?

    'Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire.'

    Your images capture that world so perfectly, Lori. (And that bird, did you identify it? It drives me crazy, I cannot find my book. Is it a shrike?)

  10. Oh my goodness. That is all so beautiful. I remember seeing a doco, on those beautiful woman and how they never bathed but used herbs to smoke themselves. How wonderful to see it in person!

  11. i have emma, i have a copy here somewhere. you've made me want to find it now. that passage describes it perfectly.

    we weren't sure about the bird, and we have roberts, newman's and ian sinclair books here! it's got to be a fiscal shrike though. as close as i've ever been. what a beauty!

  12. I am amazed and in awe. What an experience to see this. I never knew about the ochre. I have goosebumps again. I could read these posts all day and look at your wonderful photos. I guess you could too. Xxxx

  13. I'm holding my breath....
    seeing each picture as I scroll down the blog...
    such a wonderful experience to watch unfold

    thank you Lori...

    I'm having a wonderful time

  14. wow lori i am speechless - what beautiful photos and an extraordinary visit. those coloured pouches must have been such a treat especially where everything they use and see is sort of red ochre coloured. you are a goodwill ambassador - the best! x

  15. Wow- totally captivating. Thank you for sharing that. It was so special to see inside the lives of those women.

  16. WOW - you did get to grootberg - whoop whoop whoop!
    love all the pics

  17. Dear Lori, your post is never too long! I was so much in Africa with you that I forgot I'm sitting in my garden in Greece! I got tears in my eyes when you wrote that in the evening seeing the ochre on your arm, you knew that day had really happened! xxx Teje

  18. Such traditions and ways of life you have learned. Thank you.

  19. Oh want an amazing experience. I am so amazed with the places you are staying they seem so unreal. I am looking forward to seeing more.

  20. More than amazing! I just love seeing you among the people. I can hear your heart beat in every photo!

    I was giggling at the young man who looked like a warrior with his turquoise pocket over his shoulder! tee hee :)

    All of the photos are spectacular. I adore the close-up of the children's faces. And the mom breast-feeding. Sigh. What an intimate moment.

    I imagine you're still there somewhat. Wow.

    Thanks so much for sharing.


  21. I can't get over those beautiful faces. I think about them long after reading your posts. I can't even begin to image how hard it was to leave all that beauty.

  22. I'm speechless. What an amazing experience! Fantastic photos!

    The book under my crocheted stone is "Creating Nature in Watercolor". I took art in middle school (33 years ago) :/ and used to draw and doodle all the time. Now I am finding it doesn't come quite so easy to me, but with all the art journaling I see out there, I would like to try again.

    Hope your day is great. Tammy

  23. Lori, This post swept me away. Everything, the people, animals, landscape, BEAUTIFL. The photos are award winning. So sweet to see them wearing the pockets and I laughed when the man put it on his shoulder :-). Thank you for this! xoxo

  24. thank you so much for the amazing post. what a wonderful experience. my boys LOVED looking at the pictures.

  25. oku heba!
    Thank you for sharing this amazingly beautiful post Lori.
    You have a big heart-
    I feel so inspired to have seen all this love and their way of life- a little sunshine!
    I guess love really does not need a spoken language.
    Happy Sunday.

  26. Dear Friend,you took not only me along for the journey,but it was to wonderful and so I just had to call my children to sit and read along side me.My Son Joshua 10 had some giggles but I think it was wonderful for them to see this world thru your beautiful eyes and words.
    Thank you for sharing this sweet Lori

  27. Wow! Double wow! Tripple WOW! I am lost for words, Lori. Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with us.


  28. Beautiful, beautiful pictures. I love the babies with their mamas, wonderful moments.
    And how lovely to see the pockets and their new owners!

  29. Now I have started this comment several times and still don't know how to start. Ok, so here it goes, long post, long comment...
    -I wish I would ever come a sign warning me for bypassing elephants
    - I am very scared of the African roads. I got car sick so many time on European roads that even talking about raodtrips in Africa make me slightly nauseous...
    - have you been in that pool?
    - fantastic those two tortoises making amore
    - every single picture of children show how much you love them, I wonder how you do it. Breathtaking the one of the baby foot in the carrier.
    - how did that ochre make your skin feel?
    - I wish that mama could be my friend she seems like a very amazing woman.
    - I love zebras!

    Thank you so much for sharing Lori, again, and again, thank you!
    Now I have to go annd show Nathan your post, Aaron is already sleeping so he will see it tomorrow...

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. "come ACROSS a sign" I wanted to say
      And I forgot several "s" sorry!

    3. my dear gesche,
      ~ the elephant sign was just one of many, there were also signs for warthog, oryx, leopard, cheetah, wilddog...we took photos of them all. amazing. we only ever saw warthog in the road though. :)
      ~ roads in namibia are excellent, even if they are dirt. and i think everywhere else (as long as it hasn't recently rained) there is nothing to fear, and there is much to be distracted by looking out the window.
      ~ yes
      ~ and they were not even bothered by us :)
      ~ i wish we would have adopted there when i was younger.
      ~ very gritty, almost like sandpaper. it took two days before it
      began to fade, even with showers.
      ~ i think she was the matriarch of the group, yes, amazing, did you see that smile?
      ~ i love them too. these mountain zebra are very different than the ones found in east africa, the plains zebra, or burchell's (there are more). they were so huge! and gorgeous.

      thank you for your long comment. i hope nathan enjoys too!

  30. Another fabulous post - Thank you Lori ♥ Each photo so lovely but I especially loved the photo of the sweet babies foot next to his Mum. Precious ♥

  31. I saw my pockets!!!!!! I can't tell you how excited we were to see these pictures. What a great idea you had. To know something was shared from the USA to their world....Wow.

  32. Wow!!!! Thank you so much for sharing your amazing trip Lori. I can't read enough about it :D

  33. oh my oh my oh my. I have so many questions. I am just amazed. it's all gorgeous. wow

  34. What a beautiful experience! there's really too much to take in all at once....

  35. Lori, Gangans! Such a treat to come home after a busy, happy day and find these photos! A world away in such a different place and culture and yet I remember so many times giving a just breast fed baby to grandma or aunty or a friend to hold so I could tend to a chore or another child. There is so much we all share in our big human family! I showed my boys the photos and they really enjoyed seeing the children. They also loved seeing the man with the pocket over one shoulder.

    As I look at all the wonderful smiles in these photos I can't help but think that they are reflecting the warmth and kindness that they are seeing from you.

  36. Amazing images Lori. What a privileged experience you had to be part of these Himba people's lives even if only for a very short time. Thank you so much for sharing this insight with us all.

  37. What an amazing experience the entire trip must have been, but the lady sharing her beauty routine with awesome that must have been. And the contact you have with all those beautiful children!!! How funny that the men folk chose to wear their pockets over their shoulders!
    Looking forward to seeing the 'big cats'.

  38. I so enjoy your posts...can't wait for next post. :)

  39. I have tears in my eyes reading your post. How wonderful to be able to share the lives of those people for 2hours. It is all so breathtaking.

  40. Hans and I looked at the pictures, of the beautiful children with their smiles, and the mothers and fathers, and the pockets over their shoulders and necks, knitted by women all over the world, and we both thought, how wonderful! You are the best ambassador of love and kindness I know!

  41. How wonderful and fascinating this post is, Lori! Not too long at all, you make it all so interesting and informative but with such heart too.....I loved the glimpse into a culture so different from ours.... seeing the details like the maize bowl, and the baby with the pot of butter fat. The pockets are such a huge success, what a good idea you had! I love seeing all the children wearing them and the amazing photo of the warrior like young man with one over his shoulder :)
    It is a real education visiting you...and I loved your knitting on the last post too.
    Wishing you a wonderful week.
    Helen x

  42. This is one of the best blog posts I've ever read or seen. Absolutely breathtaking. Thank you so much for sharing this experience with all of us!

  43. beautiful photos lori. and the skincare routine is fascinating. so you know where they get the ochre from? and the butterfat? and the children, so precious - i would've had to hug every little neck and whisper sweet words in their ears ;-)

    1. thank you amanda, the ochre is bought or bartered for (that was the best I could understand) and they have their own cows and goats. most people rely heavily on their livestock.

  44. I love how you describe and show your experiences. I found myself literally holding my breath from the beauty of it all. I guess that's what breathtaking really means :-)

  45. Breathtaking. It's all so...expansive. Even in just *viewing* the photos. It must have been staggering to *be* there in that expanse of land, of people. Such beauty.

    Oku heba. Gangans. Truly, your sharing these postcards is a gift. My littlest loved seeing the zebras. Full of giggles.

  46. Oh, Lori! What an experience. The skin treatment....fascinating (and it obviously works well---just look at her skin!!)--the children!!! beautiful.

  47. so maybe i am asking a question that maybe others have thought about too:

    what was it like to be in the presence of women with bare breasts and others without clothes? was it uncomfortable at all? for a time?

    when i was a kid i used to stare and stare at the national geographic magazines that showed naked or scantily covered people from remote places. i had that reaction again, and this time it was even deeper when you explained about the skin care. how did you come to choose and visit this particular village, lori? do they meet other visitors as well, or was this as unique for them as it was for you?

    i love this post. every word. every photo. you look like this could be your life's work. do you know that?


    1. kj, i think i read those same n.g. magazines, and i've been dreaming of being in a himba village since. this village was chosen by the guide at the lodge, and we chose the lodge because of this. with considerable cultural sensitivity, visitors are taken into the kunene region and kaokoveld, where the ovahimba live. the village benefits from visits when crafts (the bracelets i bought) and the mealie-meal we picked up along the way (organized by our guide) (we bought also, you can see the white bags in the last photo of the village).

      to answer the rest of your question, when you are so far from home, traveling even farther, into one of the most remote areas of africa, in 100 degree heat, you don't notice. i really never noticed, or felt uncomfortable. that may have had more to do with them though than me, this is the way they are. it was more important to me to remember the greetings and be completely conscious of the fact that they were allowing us a glimpse into their homes and lives.

      i love questions, thank you for yours!

  48. I love seeing Africa through your eyes Lori!!! Truly truly beautiful and life changing. I will honestly tell you that my first thought of visiting there didn't occur until about 2 years ago when I met someone that had gone there and loved it as much as you do. And now, with your words, experience and photos, I believe that you have sealed the deal for me. I must go one day...thank you so much for sharing everything with us...

  49. I have feasted (several times) on every photo, every word of this awesome post!
    Thank you for the effort Lori,,,of putting the adventure of your life and theirs where we can all share in the joy of it all.
    I've sat here fascinated,,,,,so much better than National Geographic! ☺

    Although not at all involved in the making of the pockets, I was still thrilled to watch them receive those works of love from all over the world.
    What an inspiring outreach!

  50. Every bit of this post was a privilege to see and to read, Lori. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  51. Such an enjoyable post, thankyou very much for sharing. Your photos are quite spectacular. Can't wait for the next one.
    Sue, Australia.

  52. This is one of the most beautiful posts I´ve read, Lori. The photographs are so amazing and we have the privilege of "being" with you , looking through your lens and your words. Thank you , everything is breathtaking.
    with muc love,

  53. I hope you never stop posting about Africa...I can't get enough. Can you believe what beautiful skin those mothers had? I guess ochre and butterfat really does work. I was intrigued by the braids as well. The pockets are such a wonderful way to bridge cultures...I only wish there had been time for me to make/send you some before you left. Your pictures are warm and thoughtful. xoxo

  54. Lori, you have has some magical experiences. Your photos are nothing short of magnificent. I can only imagine the pride you must have felt seeing your pockets slung over the shoulders of the children and people in the village. FANTASTIC! Thank you for sharing each and every word and image. Love it all.

  55. oh lori.... i have been savoring this post all afternoon and just finishing it now. (thank you for your sweet message by the way) i am a multi tasking mama here. : ) what amazing experiences you had. so touching. so real. so different from our own everyday. i feel a part of your experience just knowing you. how special. thank you.

  56. Lori, I have loved reading about your trip to Africa.
    Amazing and wonderful photos!
    Thank you!
    xo xo

  57. I loved reading this post, beautiful photos, a glimpse into another world. Looking forward to seeing some more : )

  58. What amazing pictures!!! And what an experience!


  59. I know I have missed all these posts lately....
    So today I came here to have a better look and to read the posts I have glanced at previous times. I have been busy then ill and later was nursing Sjimmie, so haven't blogged much :(

    This is another amazing post Lori!
    It looks like you have been there for ages, guess it feels like that too.
    And all those kids with your pockets!!!! What a great idea this was! So light to take with you and you can bring so many so you can make so many happy.
    And the wildlife is just amaziong. Love this lodge! My just like paradise!

  60. Goodness me, what an incredible life changing adventure you have experienced.Thank you so much for sharing it.The photos are more than wonderful Lori !


xoxo lori