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and the stony hills is an unforgettable way to drift asleep at the river’s edge. I bought a large hand-made Himba knife in a leather scabbard as a souvenir. At a garage near Ruacana I stopped to fill up and clean the grass seeds out of my radiator with my new knife. “You have a katana,” the attendant said to me with a smile, curious that I was using a local artefact. I felt an excited chill as he uttered the word ‘katana’. It is the Japanese name for the samurai sword; the word was brought to the Himba by the Portuguese explorers whose caravels landed in Namibia and Angola from the late-1400s onwards, fresh from their search for Marco Polo’s fabled Jipangu, or Japan. Our modern world is full of connections that are older and more complex than we know. I returned to Windhoek for a much-needed rest. It has a population of just 250,000 or so, but there is a cosmopolitan feel to its streets that blends Namibian, European and South African influences in equal measure. Curio stalls selling anything from ostrich eggs to copper bracelets stand alongside old buildings which would look at home in Bavaria or on the banks of the Rhine. Kwaito music mingles with African gospel. Tourists and locals sip coffee or lager at pavement cafes while traditionally-clad Herero women stroll past in magnificent wide-skirted dresses and pointed headgear. Etosha is an easy day’s drive north of Windhoek. It’s one of the largest game parks in Africa, with huge, flat open spaces which make for perfect game-viewing. Better opportunities for photographing wildlife are hard to find. It was founded in March 1907 by the German governor von Lindequist. In only two days in Etosha I managed to see the usual zebra, warthogs, ostriches and so on, plus three lions, two of them mating, a herd of elephant coming down to drink at a waterhole in the late afternoon, two male impala fighting and a herd of giraffe galloping across the dusty pan against the backdrop of a scarlet and bronze sunset – a perfect African moment. The Beau Geste-like ramparts of the old colonial Fort Namutoni shimmer in the heat across Etosha’s famous salt pan, which at nearly 5000 square kilometres is a sight in itself. Driving along its edges, the contrast between the dry salt depressions and the last of the shallow puddles left over from 14 Travel Namibia TOP: Etosha National Park at dusk: a herd of giraffes kick up the dust MIDDLE: Lion drink at an Etosha waterhole ABOVE: Epupa Falls Freewheeling Namibia Tourism Board Ute von Ludwiger NAMIBIA TOURISM

Travel Namibia 15 “Dry and undulating, the horizon stretched out for miles in every direction” Laureen Middley / Getty