When it comes to fabulous weather and wildlife, there is no where like Namibia, says Adrienne. Over the next few weeks, she will be sharing her notes from Namibia – arguably Africa at its most authentic – exclusively with CD-Traveller readers.
This was my second trip to Africa, the first being Kenya in 2005. It had taken me about four months to decide on Namibia and another eight to book the trip. Key to my decision had been a lunchtime chat with a South African trainer whilst on a course. It had been a toss up between Tanzania and Namibia. The overall opinion was that Tanzania would be pretty much the same as Kenya, so it had to be Namibia.
Namibia, the driest country on earth, was a former German colony that was administrated by South Africa on behalf of the UN after WW2. It gained independence in 1990 and has developed strong industrial bases in fishing, diamonds and tourism. Although it covers some 800,000 sq km it only has a population of some 1.8 million, most of who live near the northern border with Angola. There are several tribes in Namibia – Herero, Owambo and Himba form the majority and the country, together with Botswana, hold the last populations of San – the Bushmen.
Namibia lies below the Equator and so the timing of this journey was the middle of winter. Whilst this meant day time temperatures were pleasantly in the mid-high 20s, the night time temperatures, especially in the Namib Desert could fall to around freezing.
The principle advantage of an overnight flight to its capital, Windhoek, was that getting to the airport was a much more relaxed affair. Flying direct to Namibia from Gatwick presented its own challenges, but these were easily solved really, thanks to the internet and a good value flight from Manchester.
The flight left on time, and my hopes for a smooth journey soared with the plane. Sadly at Gatwick the smooth start came to a sudden and shuddering halt. A 30 mile trek to baggage reclaim followed by a long wait meant that by the time I received my bag for transfer I needed to colour my hair again.
I was not travelling alone, having roped in a family friend (Cath) to accompany me. I managed to track her down, we checked in, and then wandered about for a couple of hours to enjoy the various retail opportunities that is the modern airport experience.
Once in the air, I sampled the film, but concentrated on trying to sleep. Not too well! We were almost grateful to be ‘woken’ for breakfast at 4am. As we should have been registered as vegetarians, we found ourselves again working our way around the bacon and sausage to the egg and beans.
A warm sunny Windhoek day greeted us on arrival; immigration went smoothly and we soon found our transfer vehicle which was driven by a very attractive Afrikaans guy. I sat at the back with a bloke who, it turned out, was fascinating. An independent traveller, he had hitched a lift with us for 50N$,(about £3.80) rather than paying the fixed local price of 180N$ (say £14) Formerly in the army, he had invested sensibly and now spent his life travelling. I felt a pinch of envy when he told me some of the places he’d been – two years cycling round Europe sounded like terrific fun. We dropped him off at a big car park near the Courts of Justice and he disappeared into the city.
Next stop was safari HQ. Wild Dogs Safari is a locally owned and run company based in Eros on the north side of the city. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see electric gates and barbed-wire – it reminded me of a less dusty Nairobi. The people on our bus split into various different tour groups and we meet the first of our travelling companions – a Canadian girl called Ciara. We will meet the others tomorrow, so for now we are loaded into another minibus and transported to our guesthouse accommodation to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of the nation’s capital.
The guesthouse is very comfortable, with two large comfy looking beds and a great big en-suite shower room. We shower and rest for a while, but soon curiosity gets the better of us and we head out to explore Windhoek. Using a map provided by our hostess we navigate our way to the Namibia Craft Centre. The cafe is recommended, so we find our way up to it and select a very pretty and fantastically healthy lunch – wonderful seeded bread with exotic looking salad and fruit tea. The Arts centre houses a wonderful mixture of contemporary and traditional art, and has a great shop as well. However, we resist buying – at this stage of course we are just at the start of our trip and we don’t want to be burdened with extra weight. Not an easy decision though – there are some beautiful items!
Instead we decide to look further around the city. It’s not large and is very easy to get around on foot. We stop to look at the Lutheran Church (Christchurch) and visit a fascinating museum exhibition in the National Museum called ‘Tribes of Namibia’. It includes a full size reconstruction of the types of accommodation the different tribes use, plus hunting equipment and weapons, along with videos explaining more about lifestyle and beliefs. We watch the whole video about the Himba tribe as we will visit a Himba demonstration village as part of the trip.
The heat of the early afternoon is both welcome and sapping. We decide to head for Zoo Park and the Zoo Cafe for a little afternoon tea. Again we are not disappointed – rooibos tea and pancakes with fruit and ice cream, heaven! We ate on a lovely large shaded terrace where lush green plants soothed and cooled as we looked out over the park to a shopping street. Looking around us we could see several very fashionable ladies also enjoying a mid-afternoon break.
Rested, we visited a supermarket to buy a few provisions. Bottles of water are carried back to the guesthouse where we spend the evening repacking for the trip and then, hungry we ordered in. The delivery system is really good – several local takeaways band together and produce a single menu leaflet from which to order. A single phone number reduces any confusion and soon we receive the Namibian take on pizza. Unfortunately I don’t rate it. There’s no tomato sauce, so it tasted strange. I should have perhaps had something local after all. Still it is filling and with a couple of glasses of red wine inside me too it’s an early night and a deep, comfortable sleep.
To read the next part of Adrienne’s Namibian adventure, don’t forget to log onto the CD-Traveller website tomorrow.