Monday, 15 February 2016

Norotshama Resort and a Township Tour

I'm going to start things off by stating something that I thought was obvious: Bathrooms should have doors, especially if the toilet is visible from the front door of your room or your bed.  It's an awkward scenario when you're sharing a room.  

The next thing that struck me about Norotshama was its duality.  The facilities were nice, the pool had a magnificent view and the staff was friendly.  But Norotshama isn't just a resort, it's also a working farm.  So you'll get to enjoy the lush greens of grape vines during growing season, but you'll also get whiff of farm life every now and again.  And it is Namibia, so there's no shortage of sand. 

The buffet dinner at Norotshama, was less than impressive, but they do offer a canoe trip down the river with a picnic which I would've been inclined to try if I had had more time there.  I feel as though they have a better understanding of the outdoors than they do of a lavish resort.  

The resort has a bar which is a bit of a hangout for some of the more affluent locals and yours truly.  We had a good time learning drinking cheers and swapping stories.  And of course, the locals tricked us into saying some less than lady-like words in Afrikaans. 

The next day we got up nice and early and went on a tour of the farm and the temporary settlement. I guess I should define what that means first.  Norotshama is a grape farm.  This means that their need for labour changes in accordance with the growing season.  They require their greatest number of employees for the harvest.  Thousands of workers migrate into this "temporary settlement" during this time, stay for the season and then go back home.  

There are different cultures that live together in the same area and the way that they construct their shelters is derived from their traditional structures. Most of them are constructed out of tin and straw.  Because this is a desert area, they aren't very concerned with having to protect themselves from natural elements such as rain.  There is a post office, bank, grocery store and a school in the settlement area.  Within the communities they have also established bakeries, bars and food stands. The shelters are set up in a grid system and the streets are kept clean and orderly

We met some men who were hanging out playing cards and drinking their home brew called "tombo".  As you can see from the man taking my photo in the background, they were pretty surprised that I was so willing to jump in there and have a taste.  It was actually pretty good.  And even though we didn't speak the same language we were still able to share a giggle.  It was great.

I'm still struggling with the idea of tourism in these areas.  While I think it's important to experience local culture when you travel, I have difficulty with the idea that the locals are being exploited for the sake of tourism.  I think it's a fine balance between learning and gawking.  The most challenging part might be letting go of your western ideas of what a house is, what poverty is and what happiness looks like.  So prepare yourself.  A lot of what you thought you knew might not hold up after this experience.