African shoestrings – Namibia Day Seventy five – Windhoek

In most African towns and cities there are plenty of curio and souvenir shops, a lot of them tacky and often overpriced and Windhoek was no exception, we did however find tucked away in an old renovated warehouse that once housed a brewery, the Namibia crafts centre. This place sold only artifacts and souvenirs made by local Namibian communities and the profits go back into the community. We bought some bits and pieces from the one of the Namibia women’s communities and came away with that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing that you have helped people who have so much less than you. After all a lot of souvenirs and curios are often mass produced by large wealthy companies and sold in markets and small shops with the pretense that they have been hand made by the seller themselves. In some of the instances, this is achieved by the use of nothing more than slave labour. So it’s good to see that places like the Namibia crafts Centre, are beginning to appear more and more. So to all you future travelers I urge you to seek out these places and buy!

Out last night at the Cardboard box was spent socialising. We met Andre, our driver for the Botswana tour that started the following day. Andre had only just started as a tour guide and as it turned out he remained with us for the all but the last day of the 6 day tour. A white Namibian he was a nice guy who like all novices made up for a lack of experience with lots of enthusiasm.

We also met Sharon an attractive girl from somewhere in Queensland who was travelling around southern Africa on her own. Somehow or other an American called Jed (aren’t they all?) got into the conversation. He was a young guy also travelling on his own and was heading south whilst we were heading north so we swapped notes for a time. He of course had done everything and in comparison to us was travelling a lot ‘rougher’. Within ten minutes of the conversation it became pretty obvious that these two were in the process of starting a ‘romantic’ relationship and we were in the way. Sue, of course, spotted this first and tried to drag me away. I wasn’t going until I had extracted as much info as possible from Jed. Eventually we left our two lovebirds and made our way over to a young German bloke who bored us with tales of his travels in Australia.

We set off at 6.30 am to start our tour of Botswana. Its run by a crowd called Audi camp who are basically logistics experts. They seem to take a bit of a tour here and another one there and make a complete package. I guess we had four components to our trip, the transport to Audi’s main camp Ngepi in Caprivi in the far north of Namibia, the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and transport to Livingstone in Zambia. All these components could be purchased separately but as we needed transportation to Zimbabwe (Livingstone is about 10 kilometres from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.), it suited our purpose to do it this way.

We were actually an hour and a half late setting off because Andre had to pick up another traveler, Louise, from the station.

It’s a long ten and a half hour drive and the most notable point was crossing the ‘red line’ between Grootfontein and Rundu. It’s actually a veterinary control fence. Livestock bred north of this fence are banned from being moved south or being sold overseas in order to prevent any spread of disease to the rich cattle farms of the south. But it’s much more than that. Namibia like most of South Africa is fairly westernised and I suppose could almost be classified as a first world country.

Except for north of the red line.

The change is as dramatic as it is sudden. We went from large open spaces punctuated by population centres of varying sizes to a world of traditional and tribal villages that dot the roadside. Clusters of mud and thatch houses, surrounded by reed or bamboo fencing, were populated by cattle, goats and other livestock wandering aimlessly and feeding by the side of the road. Women were gathering wood or water and then returning with their pickings on their head.
This is the Africa most of us expect to see!

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The inhospitable Skelton Coast in Namibia

The inhospitable Skelton Coast in Namibia



African shoestrings – Namibia Day Seventy four – Windhoek

Spitkoppe is an attractively shaped mountain on the main drag between Swako and Windhoek (we were now heading back to Windhoek). Its been called the Matterhorn of Africa due to its similarity in shape. Well, maybe but it’s a bit like comparing Fish river Canyon with the Grand Canyon, once you’ve seen the real thing comparisons aren’t helpful.

What was fascinating was the little community camp ground at the foot of the mountain. Run by the local women’s development corporation, it had a basic bar constructed of stone with a shady pergola attached and some half finished thatched chalets. The toilets were long drops stuck in the middle of the desert with shade cloth doors and hesian or bamboo walls, whilst the showers were similar in construction with gravity fed water. There were even some ‘natural’ camp sites quite away from the rest of the camp, which is why they must have been called ‘natural’; after all if you got up in the middle of the night for a pee only the most conscientious are likely to walk 200 metres to relieve themselves. We were tempted to stay there but decided against it, in order to make some time to our next destination, Gross-Barmen Hot Springs.

Gross-Barmen was a MET resort and we were a bit concerned that as we hadn’t booked anything, it might be full. Well we shouldn’t have worried, even though it was late in the afternoon and a Sunday there was only one other site in use. We had an ablution block and a kitchen for our own exclusive use for the two nights that we stayed there.

As the name suggests the main attractions were the baths. There were 2: one to put minerals into your body and the other to cook them out again and leave you looking like a red double decker London bus with skin as creviced as Mount Everest. Wow, that thermal bath was hot!

These baths, in fact were the only attractions. We had only selected it as was within striking distance of Windhoek and we decided that it was a good place to ‘veg’ for a day.

Our site was on the edge of the campsite and probably about 500 metres from the staff accommodation. On our second night, the staff decided to have a party, or at least that’s what it sounded like. So from about 10 pm till the early hours of the morning we treated to some popular African music, trouble was that it was all the same and I don’t mean it sounded all the same; it was the same! There was one particular song that was played over and over and over… We actually found out by hearing it again sometime later that it was Sum’Bulala by Brenda a smash hit in Southern Africa.

We spent the next 3 nights back at the Cardboard Box in Windhoek. Our camping tour through Botswana didn’t start until Friday and as it was Tuesday when we left Gross-Barmen we had to cool our heels for 3 days. Werner came and picked up the hire car and was pretty good about the bill from Hennie. He did however charge us for a small crack in the windscreen and a broken gas light glass, the former happened on the road back from Sossusvlei as a Landcruiser coming in the opposite direction rounded a bend and chucked up most of the loose gravel between us. We really didn’t have a problem with either and I think, in a weird sort of way, we were quite sad to hand back the little Chico that we had become quite attached to.

Apart from some sojourns into Windhoek we spent most of that time reading and deciding what we were going to do after the tour had finished.

We spent a couple of hours following the Hofmeyer walk on the outskirts of the city. At least we thought we followed the walk until we came across a sign towards the end, pointing in a different direction. It didn’t matter too much, the point of the walk is too see elevated views of the cityscape and its surrounds and we had achieved that. We finished that off with an indulgence trip to Gathemann’s, a colonial style café famous for its great terraced outdoor area and lots of mouth-watering cakes and pastries. Unfortunately neither the cakes nor the coffee lived up to its reputation and we just had to be content with the activity of people watching from the terrace.

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A Cape Fur Seal at Cape Cross Seal colony in Namibia

A Cape Fur Seal at Cape Cross Seal colony in Namibia