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.