Category Archives: Namibia

Botswana (BW)

Last night we had dinner at Joe’s Bierhaus in Windhoek, one of these places that are full of more or less original bar clutter and then some (bikes hanging from the ceiling, stuffed animals, Jaegermeister bottles everywhere etc), have mediocre food and a really slow service. It wasn’t bad, just not quite as good as it ought to be. As mentioned before I had the wild game platter with crocodile, kudu, zebra and ostrich and aside from the crocodile I could have not told that meat apart from each other. All very tasty though, but no specific flavor I would recognize.
The service was typical African – bored but not necessarily unfriendly waitresses who moved in the speed of snails, more staff than appropriate, however nobody interested in the actual or obvious needs of their guests. One thing I always find fascinating is how napkins seem to be a rarity here and of poor quality. Since we had mussels as a starter I asked for more napkins but never received them even though I was clearly struggling with dirty hands and sauces, and the two other people I asked within the course of 10 minutes all just said “of course” and then snailwalked back to the spot where they stood talking to other staff.
If you want a drink it is always better to go to the bar yourself as nobody will bother to ask if you want one with your meal or if they can sell you a refill.

In the afternoon we had lunch at a cafe inside a mall and again the service was so slow that I decided to go window shopping before my food arrived. When I got back I had a chicken panini in front of me and a person in my group was eating the roasted vegetable wrap I ordered and drowned my salad in vinegar. Evidently the waitress had insisted that the order was correct and she was now apologizing for the mistake, promising to bring me the second half of the wrap that had already been consumed after we switched plates again. Well, it never came, I got a bunch of apologies and when the bill came everything was on there as well, but when I asked for the rest of my meal the waitress responded that she thought “it was alright” because I had waved off her constant apologies as it was getting comical. What got me though was that she never offered to amend the bill either. I wound up paying in full for half a wrap and some soaked salad I didn’t enjoy and leaving with no time to get something else. These sort of situations happen occasionally and you have to be ready to accept them at face value as there will rarely be a courtesy alternative offer. You order fish and get chicken – tough for you if you’re hungry or in a rush, better eat what you get.

Back in our fancy hotel without the bathroom light or internet connection we had another drink at the empty bar. A slimy Indian dude tried to pick me and another girl up with the throwaway line “if you’re interested, 150 Namibian dollars for the two of you” as he walked out. He must have known that he had no chance as we were making fun of him the entire time and completely ignored him once some of our other guys had shown up. Still, the entire bar heard it including the bartender and the boss who were both offended for us. It was pretty comical, I hadn’t even registered it until everyone started talking about it.

We didn’t see much of Windhoek because the hotel was a bit further out and we only had 4 hours between arrival and dinner. I used it to wash my clothes and use the very fancy gym. I know!!!!
Anyway, what I saw out of the truck window was a fairly compact city with street names in 3 languages depending on street corner, i.e. every name is different and there seems to be no method at all. Plenty of German signs of course, beer ads everywhere. Huge malls as well…people must love their shopping. There is also an open deck tourist bus tour you can do, and evidently the Windhoek sun is brutal – as witnessed by our latest tour member who has festering blisters on his face and arms from really bad sunburns acquired on the bus yesterday. This guy looks like a freak show – not great for first impressions. He’s obviously very nice, and I just discovered that he lives in the same street in London now where I used to live when I first moved there.

Today we crossed the border into Botswana. As always we were warned that border crossing can take hours but again we were lucky and it took only a few minutes. I didn’t need a visa for Botswana (or Namibia) but both countries require you to fill out long immigration forms. The border offices are always very plain. Announcements are posted on walls, often in poor English but with many official stamps, often in poor quality Xerox copies, and often with notes and comments from bored people standing in line on them. Aside from not being allowed to take pictures the border crossings seem to have no rules. People walk in without shoes or shirts, cut lines, talk on the phone, eat or step out of the line repeatedly. It’s the polar opposite from an immigration line at a US airport where a frown can already get you in trouble.
Every border crossing has its fair share of HIV prevention campaigns. Free condoms are available at the toilets and sometimes even at the counter.

We are now at a very remote campground in Ghanzi, about 2 hours from the border. Here my tentmate and I “upgraded” from the tent into a basic straw hut. We will sleep under mosquito nets tonight as the huts are basically open.
The showers and toilets have no doors here, they are also in straw cubes and you can “lock” them with a simple chain that signifies that you are inside. It’s probably GAP’s way of easing us into the bushcamping in two days where we will have a shovel instead of a toilet flush, and no running water for showers.

Dinner was a traditional Botswana beef meal with cinnamon butternut squash, red beets, roasted veggies and pap. At 8 pm we sat around the campfire and saw a dance performance from the local bushmen. Four women sat around the campfire and provided the beats via clapping and humming and three men dressed only in loincloths and shells around their ankles were dancing around them and the fire in a circle.

The songs were very basic hums and moaning sounds, quite spooky really, and they sounded a bit like a record that gets played backwards. All songs had a meaning, some were healing songs for sick people, others lullabies, others entertaining songs about animals. I couldn’t make out any words really, when the language was spoken it sounded totally different and also had some of the clicking sounds. The three dancers were of three different generations, the oldest was probably around 60, and the youngest maybe 10. Neither of them had an ounce of body fat on them, the dance seemed pretty strenuous with all the stomping of their feet and bending over at an angle.
After the performance the men danced/stomped over to our smokers in the group to bum cigarettes. It took a while to understand that however.

We had a bit of rain again today. The delta will be full of bugs. We met another group on the campground and their tour guide is currently suffering through malaria. I can only hope that the Lariam works as I get bitten through my mosquito proof clothes despite tons of 100% Deet. In Zambia you can buy malaria testing kits in the pharmacy and I will stock up on that as well.

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Windhoek (NA)

I guess I should post an update before I lose internet connections indefinitely.

 

I’m in Windhoek. Namibia’s capital and center of everything. So German. Bierhauses everywhere. Kinda weird.
To be fair I didn’t see much of it – we are staying at some fancy resort a little towards Bumblefuck. We get wireless internet, but all interesting sites are restricted.
Anyway, we checked in, washed clothes and explored wild game menus. I ate zebra, kudu, crocodile and ostrich – couldn’t tell them apart to be honest but all were delicious.
At the bar now, up to no good.

 

Yesterday we camped at the Waterberg Plateau – very beautiful. Sangria at night because our ever rambling Spanish girl is leaving and somehow this makes sense. Mosquitoes butchered my ankles and feet at some point between 4 and 5 pm. I am sure of that, it was the time between getting off the truck and putting heavy socks and shoes on.

 

Today we have more rain. Some desert this is!

 

Namibia is beautiful – and I would like to see it again when it looks like it should…

 

Botswana tomorrow, sober updates when possible đŸ˜‰

Etosha day 2 (NA)

Once again we woke up to the sound of roaring lions (followed by my tent neighbors who are in their late 70s: “what time is it?” “4.30am” “What?” “4.30am” “Did you say something?” “I said it’s 4.30am” … etc) and after we had our breakfast in the rain we saw the lions as well. There was a huge male and a bunch of females with not so young cubs. They were casually strolling by and didn’t give us second looks.

 

For a long time after that we saw nothing anymore. The entire day was dedicated to game drives on the truck and compared to the private drives we had at Kruger the truck was not the best vehicle for animal spotting. Too many people in a small space were falling over each other to take pictures out of a particular window. It got tiring fast and because we didn’t see much in the morning many of us were asleep after a while.

 

We obviously spotted other, ‘not that exciting’ animals all the time. Kudus, squirrels, gnus, turtles, all kinds of birds, antilopes, impalas, springboks and other were everywhere. The real treat came at the end though, right before we pulled in to our new campsite. Pretty much all of the above were mingling with zebras, giraffes and even a rhino at the same spot. It was almost too good to be true.

 

We also drove to the Ethosha pan which is a ginormous salt plain where normally everything is either bright white or you can see the sky reflected on the ground. Unfortunately all we had was mud though due to the constant rain in previous weeks. In some places we were literally sinking and it was impossible to walk on the plain. A shame…those salt flats are fascinating – I loved them in Death Valley and in Bolivia.

More animals (NA)

We are in Etosha now, another National Park. Unlike at Kruger our first day here was only partially successful, in that we only saw animals from very far away. I don’t even bother to take pictures anymore…
We saw giraffes, a rhino, plenty of springboks, orynx, kudus, a chameleon, birds of all sizes and shapes and many jackals.

Jackal

There is a watering hole right by the campsite and I spent an hour in the evening watching but all I saw was an owl. Again, because of recent rains everything here is lush and green and the animals probably don’t need to drink much to quench their thirst. From what I hear on hotter and drier days the waterhole is a dead ringer for animal spotting otherwise.

 

What’s cool is that I can hear a lion roaring in my tent.

Double rainbow! (NA)

Every day we’ve had a double rainbow so far in Namibia (“I can’t believe it, it’s a double rainbow!” Lol). Tonight, for the first time, we even had rain. Only a quick downpour but enough to make me retreat to the tent and not sleep outside as originally intended.

 

We passed more women of the Herero tribe today, they are the ones dressed in Victorian clothing with funny triangle shaped hats. The half naked red clay people I saw yesterday were of the Damaru tribe.
We are now at Twyfelfontein which means doubtful fountain in Afrikaans. A South African farmer settled here and named the area after an unreliable natural water source by the huge red boulders that make up a lot of the stunning landscape. He also discovered 5,000 year old stone carvings of animals on the boulders. The land was eventually given back to the Damaru tribe and he left, and the place where he lived and where the carvings are is now a World Heritage site.

At the very remote camp site where we are once again the only guests the staff sang a bunch of traditional gospel songs to us and performed a number of dances of the shuffle and stomp variety. Surprisingly this time almost the entire group joined in which was pretty funny.

90s flashback (NA)

The 6 degrees of…
At dinner tonight I found out that the 3rd oldest person in our group
(68 years, then there’s nothing for a while and then I’m next) was old
friends with the late Eldridge Cleaver.
.
.
.

 

OMG! My 16 year old heart skipped a few beats. Eldridge Cleaver!
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eldridge_Cleaver). How long it took me
to find his book “Soul on ice”! This was before the internet, and it
required a special order at a London bookstore back then. At the time
I was on a mission to become the first white female European civil
rights movement activist or something like that, totally bonkers. I
soaked up everything I could find on the topic and eventually
specialized in Malcolm X. I am sparing you a half hour of stories
now…(some are good, like the one time I walked into the Nation of
Islam temple #7 on 126th street in Harlem to attend a televised Louis
Farrakhan speech…).
Anyway, I am fascinated by this fact, and it serves as perfect proof
that you meet the most interesting people when you travel.

 

The day was overshadowed by this but here’s what else I did today:
basically a whole lot of nothing. I checked out Swakopmund further –
it is tiny, 40k inhabitants only.

I went for another run along the
beach front, ate a lot (waffles and ice cream- that crazy African
food…) and had more Jaegermeister. At the market a Rastafari asked
me if I’m not exercising today, he must have missed me, but it was
still strange to be remembered already. I also saw two women in old
Victorian clothing, like extras from a movie – the whole town looks
like a movie set anyway. I am still fascinated by the German
influence, especially when the three practically naked women with red
clay on their bodies asked me how I am in accent free German and then
wanted me to buy some jewellery. You can order the classic German
wheat beer with your zebra steak and all that is missing is a local
waitress in a dirndl.

 

I took some pictures at a public notice board; only because the
handwritten ads were the equivalent to internet spam. You know the
type that goes ‘dear madam, I am Prince Escobar from Takatukaland and
I am asking you to kindly wire me 1 million dollars…’. Very
entertaining, it explains a lot why these spam messages are so poorly
written.

Solitaire, moon landscape, Walfis and Swakopmund (NA)

Had every night been like last night I would have a hard time camping. Last night we were attacked by bugs on a suicide mission. Not mosquitos luckily, but annoying beetles, flies and roaches of all sizes and aggression levels. I’m not sure what brought that on since last night was not different from any other. The same campground as the night before, we had a campfire going, the lights were largely off and there wasn’t a temperature or weather change of any kind. Yet the bugs started attacking the second dinner was ready. Those with headlamps had no chance of eating a bugfree meal, those without simply didn’t know. I definitely had at least one bug with my pap and it tasted pretty bitter.
The bugs did not let go at all. They buried themselves in the margarine pot and the tomato relish, arranged themselves on our plates or flew onto our forks the moment it was en route to our mouths. Various protein enriched beers were consumed and we didn’t even bother with tea or coffee after dinner. It wasn’t over once the food was gone either, bugs divebombed onto our legs, into our shirts and hair. The one light we had on on the side of the truck was black with them and they even flew directly into the fire.
The real horror show was the bathroom. By default the lights are on in bathrooms at campgrounds as there are usually no other lights after a certain time. Also, the bathrooms usually have straw roofs that are open underneath. At night there will always be a huge collection of critters running and flying around and you just have to ignore them. Last night though a contestant on Survivor would have not locked himself into a stall for money the way it creeped and buzzed in them. We collectively opted for the public facilities behind a bush where the only real problem were scorpions.
It was also a challenge to keep the bugs out of the tent, and unfortunately this morning the bathroom situation had not cleared up and I had to sacrifice my butt, surprisingly with little damage done to it. The truck also had its fair share of bugs inside. I did not stop itching until well after lunchtime.

 

Today we drove about 350 km further to Swakopmund. The landscape changed drastically from red dunes to green mountains to green and black hills and craters (again, these should have been black rock and grey pebbles and gravel, but due to the recent rains it all looked totally different), to white dunes at the end. It was stunning. Hours and hours of flat land and plain desert as well, we never once saw another vehicle. We passed a terrain that had small hills and valleys and is locally known as ‘moon valley’ (not sure of exact name) because of its usual non-green look.

Photo

We stopped at the smallest town in Namibia; Solitaire, that has a bakery, a convenience store, a car dealership (?) and a fenced in area where you can ride camels for some reason.

We had lunch at the beach front in Walfis, a city close to Swakopmund that until the 90s still belonged to South Africa. If you were born here you would not have been a Namibian citizen. South Africa gave it back though and now the city is contributing immensely to Namibia due to the harbor, beach front and general location. There are flamingos on the beach, and the houses by the beachfront look like million dollar Florida mansions. There is a lot of construction here still, they’re probably getting ready for more tourists.

Swakopmund is Namibia’s second biggest city and it looks a bit like a Northern German beach town. The architecture is a wild mix of really old and beautiful but artificial looking due to the newer and modern buildings.

So far we’ve only seen a bit, all I can say is that it’s pretty small here, the ocean smells, and it is funny to see this mix of Afrikaans, German and English signs. Most of the German signs look antiquated, using old handwriting or language nobody would use these days. We had dinner at a traditional German restaurant that had classic meals on the menu along with ostrich and springbok steaks. I had fried brie and a salad and followed my heavy meal up with a Jaegermeister shot, something I haven’t done since… well, ever, or certainly not since I discovered Ouzo.
The restaurant could have been anywhere in traditional parts of Germany, it had tons of framed pictures of German and Namibian landscapes as well as adverts for random German products such as Nivea body lotion, Maggi beef stock cubes or various beers. What threw me for a loop though were the first two huge posters I noticed as they looked familiar but were completely out of place at the same time. They were showing the techno group ‘Scooter’ who in the 90s annoyed the country with dimwitted songs like ‘hyper hyper’ or ‘how much is the fish’. They were to the techno scene what Vanilla Ice was to rap, and even if they sold a couple millions of records putting up two posters of them in a traditional looking gastro pub seemed like the interior decorator did his research on Wikipedia. Even a picture of David Hasselhoff would have given this wall a more authentic touch.

 

In Swakopmund you are primarily going to do adventure activities; skydiving, quad biking, dune surfing are the most popular ones. I may do the other popular activity tomorrow, internet surfing. I hear it’s less dangerous.