The small gorge was partly shaded by the Mopani trees which grew on its banks. I sat down on the grainy sand, sweating and breathing heavily, exhausted from walking in the burning sun. I had no idea that the women must walk such long distances to bring water back to the village.
Twakohirwa sat silently next to me on a piece of cloth she had taken from around her hips. In the silence that surrounded us all I could hear was my own heavy breathing and the unstoppable buzzing of flies. I thought of the journey back to the village and I began to regret my decision to escort Twakohirwa in 45 degrees heat.
When she felt that I regained my breath Twakohirwa got up, went to the small water hole in the middle of the dry sandy gorge and with a hollow half-pumpkin she filled the empty water container that I had carried for her from the village. This took her a long time and I was pleased for that. Every few minutes the hole became empty and she had to wait for fresh water to gather at the bottom. Even though I already knew the answer, I wondered whether Twakohirwa would make it easier for herself and only half fill the water container. The sun stroked her bare back and red drops of sweat trickled down to her hips, leaving sparkling paths behind them. Himba women are proud and I knew it. Only after the container was full to the top did Takohirwa stand up, bind a cloth around her head and lifted the twenty five kilo container on her head.
Walking back to the village under the scorching Kaokoland sun took a full hour and was hell. The narrow white-hot pathway bended through dry bush, went up and down steep banks and caused me to stumble on sharp stones. Takohirwa walked in a slow unchanging pace in front of me, her leather skirt flinging from side to side. I watched her walking upright and barefoot in the burning heat, carrying the liquid of life back to the desperate village and I was filled with a strong sense of modesty.
Only when we arrived at the village and I helped her remove the heavy container from her head did she softly sigh in relief. After she had a few sips of water she invited me in and there, in the dimness of the hut, we rested in silence on the leather skins, her son back in her bosom.