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A PLACE WHERE TIME STOOD STILL

10/10/2010

After traveling across miles and miles of gravel plains, Orupembe comes as a bit of a surprise.

You might blink in disbelief, but all of a sudden it is there:  The police station on the hill, the wind-mill servicing the water trough at the bottom of the rise, a solitary shop to the side and further down the wash one or two huts with smoking cooking fires.

At first glance the place looks quite devoid of people. But as you linger, you might notice the herdsman leading his cattle to drink, yet another keeping his herd at bay, patiently awaiting his turn at the trough.  There too is a flock of goats greedily browsing under the watchful eye of a lean herding dog, while others lie panting in the scant shade of a bush.  Heading towards you is a youngster on a donkey.  Further down a group of women are wrestling with their washing, while a handful of squealing children spray each other with water dripping from an open tap under which a naked toddler sits in the cool mud.  A bit offside in the shade of a few scattered trees, men sit in rickety chairs and debate the business of life.  When you squint towards the plains, you can just make out the forms of women heading towards or coming from who knows where.

Just when you thought you stumbled on a place where time stood still, you notice the gravel airstrip and learn that it is not that out of place to come across the odd helicopter on a stop-over from airlifting crew from the oil rigs off Namibia’s coast en route to Opuwo.  To those of us used to highway traffic, the pace of life here may seem enviously slow, but don’t let that deceive you, like everywhere else, life in this harsh environment is about mastering the art of survival.

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