Africa Namibia

Climbing Big Mamma in Namibia

There are sand dunes and then there are sand dunes, but I had never seen a sand dune  like “Big Mamma” in Sossusvlei, Namibia, in Africa, home of the world’s tallest sand dunes. Located in the Sesriem-Sossusvlei National Park in the Namib Dessert, I knew how tall the sand dunes were when I started to climb the ridge and had trouble seeing the top. I made it to “Big Mamma” but I could barely walk with each foot sinking 6 inches into the sand.

So, I sat on the sandstone boulder at the base of “Big Momma” and watched the others huff and puff to the top.  Climbing the 1069-foot 45-degree angle sand dune caused group members to stop to rest several times during the 15-minute climb. At the top, wind-made red star dunes were seen everywhere. After 15 minutes of walking the crest, the guide, now barefooted after removing his shoes and socks, said it was time to go down.

“How”? Each one asked.”  “Slide down barefooted” was the answer and all replied, “No way”. But the guide persisted with his fast, easy and quick decent method.  So, all slid down standing up and barefooted on the other side of the dune in one minute flat. And they landed beside the dry, white vlei, the flat clay pan (lake) next to Big Mamma.

“It was like flying,” one said.  The early morning dark shadows, plus the sun shining on the red sand dune sea, were a priceless scene. Still on that Big Mamma “flying high”, all was able to walk to the champagne brunch awaiting them underneath an Acacia tree, compliments of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises tour. And 360 degrees around that breakfast were the greatest and tallest sand dunes in the world and dozens of hungry desert cape sparrows waiting for their morning snacks.

Africa Togo

Pleasing the Gods by Voodoo in Togo

When I arrived at the Voodoo ceremony in Togo in West Africa, two white powdered-faced women in grass skirts shuffled around and around to the beat of pulsating African drums.

In progress was a traditional Voodoo ceremony and hundreds watched the 10 participants performing in 3-ring circus style. Fifty million world-wide voodoo followers believe in one immensely powerful supreme god beyond their reach, causing them to rely on hundreds of spirits to communicate with their god.

During a ceremony, the Voodoo followers ask the spirits for advice, protection or assistance. The followers show respect to their god by performing rituals, some in the form of animal sacrifice.

A live chicken was buried with a clay pot in a 2-foot deep hole. Ten minutes later, they dug the chicken out alive. Then, the chicken was put on the head of a young boy and a sling shot rock caused the chicken to fall limp. The chicken’s head hung down to the boy’s nose and a final shot was fired at the boy’s face, hitting the chicken. The sacrifice was complete.

Then a 2-year-old child was taken from its mother and put in a plastic basket by the chicken hole. Screaming and crying, the baby was rescued suddenly by the mother. After weaving vines into a 5-foot rope, 2 men hang the screaming and crying young boy on the rope and carry him, then let him go. In another ritual, a grass skirted man heated an orange liquid on a fire and rubbed it over his upper body. Color, food and plants are used to pay tribute to their god.

Another part of Voodoo is possession and participants fainted, fell to the ground rubbing their faces in dirt, and ran screaming waving arms in belligerent manner. Witnessing the cradle of Voodoo for hours in Togo, West Africa, with Regent Seven Seas Cruises almost put me in a possessive trance, without the white powdered face and grass skirt.