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

 

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African shoestrings – Namibia Day Sixty – Windhoek

We got our liquid back in the bar when we got back after cooling the bodies in the cool water of the pool.
There were three tour guides in there. They were actually running an overlander full of middle-aged Belgium and Dutch tourists. We got chatting and had a bit of banter. One of them was a South African and of course the up and coming Cricket and Rugby union world cups was the main topic of discussion.

“You know I’ve got a lot of time for you guys, but I’m afraid you’re going to come second in both comps to us mighty Aussies” I bravely predicted. Harmless banter followed and these guys then went on to giving us some great tips and info and where and what to see in Namibia and Zimbabwe where they were also heading.

One of the things I always desperately miss when we’re away from Australia is the dry laconic wit that is always tinged with a sense of irony. Nobody does it better than we do and often it just doesn’t work with people from other cultures even Anglo-Saxon ones. But on occasion we do strike people who have a similar sense of humour and meeting these guys were one of those times.

It was time to move on to our next port of call, Etosha National Park, nearly 800 kilometres away. We knew we would never be able to get there in one day, especially with 280 kilometres being on gravel and having a car that struggles at 80 kilometres an hour let alone 100 or 110. We did expect however to get further than Windhoek which was little over half way. …………..but that was not to be.

The gravel section seemed slower than ever and a puncture slowed us down even more. The irony of this was that it happened only half an hour after chuckling at our overlander friends who had stopped by the side of the road to also change a wheel. We now had the problem of getting the puncture repaired. The overlander drivers had given us the name of a place just near Windhoek but it was closed and a slow search eventually found us a place that seemed to take forever to repair it.

Another problem was rearing its head, that of cash. We had attempted to get some cash out of several ATM’s before heading out to Namib. For some reason none of them wanted to release any money, so we were now starting to get desperate and the ATM’s still weren’t working. A trip into a bank was necessary, something you try to avoid at all costs. It’s not that the bank tellers are unfriendly, it’s just that African banks are slow, disorganized and very bureaucratic. It usually takes three queues to find the right one, which will always be the longest. When it’s your turn the teller looks at you as if you had asked for the Prime Minister’s bank account number. On this particular occasion I got off lightly at only 40 minutes, which was a good job too as Sue was waiting in the car outside.

By the time we had restocked our food supplies, we just couldn’t be bothered to travel on. A bed at the Cardboard Box seemed a much better option.

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Deadvlei is a white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia.

Deadvlei is a white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia.