Internal Affairs

OTJINUNGUA’S TOURISM LADY DREAMS BIG

Summary

There is an old adage that goes: ‘the sky’s the limit’, but this is not the case when it comes to Anna Paula Santos, a resident of Otjinungua, a dusty village in the extreme north of the Kunene Region.For Santos, who operates in the realm of the touris…

There is an old adage that goes: ‘the sky’s the limit’, but this is not the case when it comes to Anna Paula Santos, a resident of Otjinungua, a dusty village in the extreme north of the Kunene Region.

For Santos, who operates in the realm of the tourism sector, the sky is not the limit as she believes that it is greater “beyond the sky than it is within its limits.”

THE GENESIS

Born in Xangongo, a small town in neighbouring Angola’s Cunene province, Santos first came to Namibia in 1975.

Since then, life has not been the same. She now finds herself on the banks of the Kunene River, in Otjinungua, some 330 kilometres from the regional capital Opuwo, where she runs a community campsite.

Known as Camp Syncro, it is located at the northern end of Marienfluss valley, right at the edge of the Kunene River, and borders Angola where peace is found with the sounds of the water, birds and crickets in the background during the day and at night.

It is known as a remote paradise where recreation is found, far from civilisation-induced stress.

The camp comprises four campsites, each with an individual braai area.

During an interview with Nampa, Santos candidly took the agency down memory lane to where she is today and how she became the owner of the camp.

“I worked with the first owner of this camp for 25 years. After that, the owner left to start his business in Epupa and left me here. A couple came from Europe and I worked with them for three years. After the wife fell pregnant, they left. Initially, they wanted to sell the camp but later said the camp should become mine,” Santos explained.

PATHETIC ROADS

From the interview, one thing stood out - Santos’ sheer ambition in the face of an avalanche of challenges confronting Otjinungua’s residents.

“I want my business to grow so that I can buy my own vehicle and stop relying on others for transport. For a single trip to Opuwo, I pay around N.dollars 4 000. As we speak, I don’t even sell beverages here because of lack of transport,” she lamented.

She added: “When I sleep at night, I dream and look to God to assist me so that my business can grow to the level of the others, especially the whites. I always wonder why it is always the whites who are blessed while we as blacks continue languishing in poverty.”

According to Santos, her doors are open to potential business partners who would like to join her venture.

But with all her dreams come challenges, as Otjinungua is a place without network coverage for radio, television or cell phones and it has one of the worst road terrains in the country.

So bad is the road infrastructure that it takes about 10 hours of rough driving from Opuwo to Otjinungua, which is less than 350 kilometres away, and the wear and tear on vehicles is immeasurable.

“Our roads are really bad and we struggle with floods when it rains as we don’t receive any visitors for up to three months. Between January and March, we received no visitors. We are only beginning to receive them now,” she said.

Like many other businesses countrywide, Otjinungua’s tourism sector was not spared by the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged both lives and livelihoods.

NO CONNECTION

More so, she pleaded with the government, particularly the environment ministry, to introduce incentives for community-based tourism projects like hers.

At present, Santos employs two people from the community.

This, she said, would enable them to compete with big industry players on a level field.

“We also ask the government to bring us network coverage. It is our biggest challenge. Over the years, we have been promised that the network will come. But this remains a mere illusion,” she noted.

THE MOTHER

Santos is a mother of three. She also has two siblings.

On weekends or during her off days, the workaholic 53-year-old does some home chores which include baking, gardening and cleaning.

As a spiritual being, her Sundays are reserved for worship and prayer.

Despite the myriad of challenges, there is a silver lining, she said.

“The business helps a lot. I take my children to school with proceeds from it. I feed myself and my family. We are quite a tight-knit community where everyone looks out for everyone. So I also use this business to feed others who are less fortunate. People here are hungry,” she said.

Source: The Namibian Press Agency