The Hoanib Vlley became the Hoarusib Valley. We continued south through more gorges, across stony gibber plains and into granite country with its distinctive round boulders strewn across the land, and crossed the now flowing river time and time again. The occasional isolated resort structure perched on a mountainside only seemed to make the place look more remote.
We eventually reached Puros, a sizeable town on the map, but in reality a dot on a dusty road. The campground there was run by the village and was terrific: beautifully neat and clean and with wonderful HOT showers and flushing toilets! What more could one want!
Once settled in with tents erected and bedding in place, we all piled into our trucks again to visit the local Himba village. The Himba prefer to keep their traditional lifestyle, living in compounds as they always have and dressing as they always have. Their village was once located on the river where water nourished the soil and palm trees and other greenery grew. However a while ago they had to relocate to a dry, dusty spot up the mountain a little - elephants had become a problem by the water and it was no longer safe to be living there! To supplement their income, tourists can visit and are shown various aspects of their lifestyle: how they make the red ochre that covers their bodies, how their houses are arranged, how they make their perfumes and jewellery, and clean their clothing of leather rubbed with ochre.
While there, we were asked if we had any medicine for a sick woman. Lyn, a nurse before retirement, donned some gloves and inspected the sore on her leg that had become infected and was causing her much pain as well as high temperature. Medicine is not readily available for these people and so life is still often precarious and simple things can take them away. We hunted out some antibiotics in our first aid kits and handed over some painkillers, ointments and bandages. We were pleased to hear that the next day she had been taken to a clinic by the operators of a nearby resort - otherwise her prognosis was not looking good.
The next morning we went into that dot on the map, Puros Village. The village was mostly mud walled houses in small compounds fenced by hand-hewn sticks. A shed with the painted sign "Manchester United Trading Bar" on its front was obviously the social centre of town! On the outskirts, a couple of fairly new buildings, each with a couple of rooms each, was the local school. We drove through two sticks in the ground denoting an entrance and were greeted by a teacher and kids peering out of their classrooms. We had saved some of our school supplies for this school and handed them over, though some Americans had taken the school under their wing and they had what seemed to be some reasonable school materials for the children. The older children in one room were taught in English and so we could talk to then a little and ask questions. They sang and danced for us in the room and seemed to thoroughly enjoy putting on the impromptu show. Two other classrooms of children were unsupervised - apparently their teachers were in the village on some other business. But they were amazing good for unsupervised youngsters, reading and writing in their books - imagine Australian kids getting on with their work if left on their own like this! Life is still hard though; some of the children were on 'water duty', ferrying large containers of drinking water to the school in wheelbarrows. And an indication of what school was like not so long ago was the tattered tent that served as the only classroom until the new classrooms were built.
We left the village and turned south again to travel a river valley that paralleled our previous journey north. This was uninhabited country - no villages or cultivation or domestic animals. We saw the occasional giraffe but not much else. Along this track we managed to rip the side of our tyre, probably on the sharp rocks covering the ground. With five tyre plugs filling the hole we continued on but it only lasted a few hours and went flat again. It was not as spectacular as the two tyres that others had completely shredded in the last few weeks but it still meant a stop to put on the spare.
We started to see the amazing Welwitchia plant in this dry, dry desert. This is one of the strangest plants in the world: the plant only has two leaves, though it looks like more as the ends divide up, and it can survive on only the moisture from the Atlantic sea mist which comes in at night. There are specimens that are estimated to be a thousand years old and still they are stunted, small things that hug the ground.
We were light years from anywhere and as dusk approached we looked for somewhere sheltered and cosy for the night. Alas, no such thing in this barren country and we settled on a dry river bed looking out to the horizon in all directions with nothing higher than a Welwitchia to break the uniformity of the vista. Still the night was dark and the sky studded with stars.Who needs 5-star accommodation - we had million-star.