We had to organize the next three weeks because 90% of the attractions are in the National Parks, so unless you are on a tour you have to book in advance any accommodation with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET) who manage the parks. There is of course plenty of private accommodation outside of these parks but the majority of these are expensive lodges close by or hotels, B&B’s and municipal camping grounds further afield.
The MET office was located in the centre of Windhoek and the moment you enter the office you have that initial despairing feeling of hopelessness as African bureaucracy oozes from every desk, wall and official.
We had the feeling that this could take all day.
In the end it took about an hour and the guy behind the counter was really helpful and patient as we shuffled and reshuffled to try and fit in with their vacancies. “We’re not world class yet” he said “but we are getting there slowly, so we please be patient with us” …………this guy was good!
Windhoek is pleasant enough, plenty of shops and the odd restaurant but strangely enough not many travel agencies that deal with budget trips to Botswana. We had been warned that it was probably not a good idea to wander around at night, so what do we do? Yes you’ve guessed it, walked back in darkness after a lengthy stint at the supermarket stocking up!
Our hire car was a little Chico, again.
I cannot stress the word ‘little’ enough. With all the camping gear, an additional mandatory spare wheel and our bags, it was touch and go whether we could actually get in ourselves. The biggest components were the two foam mattresses and a canvas tent similar to the one we had used in the Kalahari. On the back seat was a box full of camping gear like a single burner stove, gas bottle, cooking utensils etc. A sign that said in English and Bantu “Warning. Snake in Box” was stuck on both the side rear windows. I asked Werner, the Namibia Car Hire owner, manager and probably only employee, what that was about.
“The blacks are afraid of snakes, so they’ll think twice about breaking into the car” Nobody was that thick I thought at the time. And sure enough a few days later as I filled up the car at a service station a couple of “blacks” were standing near the car laughing and pointing at the sign.
Daan Viljoen Game Park was our first stop in this eighteen day self drive tour. It’s about 25 kilometres from Windhoek and it’s quite a peaceful place. Well it was when we first set up camp! But as is often the case a group of campers turned up and parked a few spots along deciding that we would all enjoy their ‘ghetto blaster’ playing rap and techno music as much as they would. Having just had to clean the tent of sand and dust, we weren’t impressed. Add that to the fact that the gas light jet was blocked (I nearly started a fire trying to get it to light) and we were really off to great start.
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