Part of visiting another country is understanding their culture, their roots. We ate home-cooked German-Namibian foods (not so good), obeyed their laws (car guards, squirt police), admired their dress, enjoyed their architecture, and experienced their traditions. Their traditions harken back to the San Peoples, one of the oldest cultures on earth. To get immersed int the San Peoples culture we visited a living museum, the Ju/’Hoansi-San in northeast Namibia, the furthest we could get from our normal creature comforts.

When we arrived at the living museum it was plainly obvious that we were stepping back in time. There was no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no running water, no bathrooms. Walking around I felt It could be hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

We met up with the interpreter who knows a modicum of English. None of the other San Peoples we met knew any English, just their native language of Khoekhoe. Khoekhoe is a Khoisan language which is best known for the use of click consonants. When one of them spoke, it sounded like grunting with a cricket in their mouth. Luckily we had an interpreter.

A group of San men and women took the three of us into the bush to teach us their ways, or a crash course in survival training in the bush. The most important of the San is the “Hunter” who served as leader, demonstrator, teacher, and hunter.

The Hunter, a lithe man in color or black & white. He is the ultimate San man.

This is me trying to blend in. [Photo by Ryan P.]

The hunter taught us what we could eat, including bush potatoes and nuts. The bush potatoes were expertly scouted and unearthed by the women.  We tried a raw one and a cooked one, the cooked one is much tastier. The nuts were acquired by throwing a spear up in a tree, catching the nuts as they fell. I caught a few off the top of my head. The nut was also good but numbed my mouth and tongue for 10 minutes. Everyone was happy about this – I think I was duped.

Then the hunter and the interpreter taught us how to make a fire from two sticks

They rub two stick together to generate a spark and then fire. I gave it a try and got a splinter.

It took only a couple of minutes to get a nice fire going.

The hunter taught us the medicinal value of the local plants; finding roots to ease intestinal distress, healing lung diseases and increasing fertility (I don’t need this).

The San made use of everything found in the bush including the bark of this tree.

If we were to have some meat, bow and arrows would be needed. We watched the hunter make a bow and arrow. The hunter then asked me to try my hand at firing an arrow. After numerous misfires, I was able to hit a bush. I guess I’m going hungry at dinner. The San meat of choice is the Springbok (small antelope). We tried Springbok a number of days earlier, quite tasty indeed. 

The Hunter made a bow and arrows in just 10 minutes.

The Hunter stalking his prey.

As he moved not a noise was made. The Springbok does not have a chance.

You can easily see the bow and arrow he made just minutes before.

After a couple of hours trekking through the bush, the hunter stopped and asked us which way was back to camp. I pointed in a direction to the side. Of course it was 180 degrees off. So much for my  survival chances. Kathryn had picked the correct way back – showoff.

The matriarch, perhaps 70-80 years old, though no-one knows for sure.

A the end of the bush walk they sang and danced for us.

It was mostly the women who sang and danced. They had good rhythm.

This youngish San woman was strikingly beautiful, as is their culture.

As the sun started to set, the hunter regaled us in one of his many stories from his childhood.

The San peoples are losing their ability to be themselves. The government has taken away their right to kill animals for food. Their ability to roam has been severely limited due to nearby “improved “ infrastructure. The young men prefer to acclimate with the current Namibian society eschewing their traditional living. It will not be long before the ways of the hunter are lost with actors taking over at the living museum. This hunter may be the last of his kind, extinct at his death. Perhaps I can be the next hunter?