A trip of a lifetime

Posts tagged “couch surfing

Goodbye Namibia… Hello Botswana!

As soon as I was able to move pretty normally again, we left Swakopmund planning to visit some touristic attractions in Northern Namibia, before heading to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

My friend wanted to see some wall paintings on the rocks, but it implied a long walk under the torrid Namibian sun at 40ºC/104ºF, so I decided to stay in the parking lot, reading and speaking with the workers, all of us trying to get some shade.

When my friend came back, we gave the guide a ride to his village and it was funny to drive almost to the door of his hut. After hitting on me – which was an advance of what would happen later in Tanzania, the country where any white girl can find a husband- he entered his house and we left with the intention of seeing some rock formations. But nightfall came while we were driving and we pulled over to sleep in the car.

 

The guide’s hut in Northern Namibia

One of the huts in Northern Namibia

 

The next morning we realized we didn’t have enough gas for all the places we wanted to see – and it’s difficult to find gas in Northern Namibia – so we just visited the Petrified Forest, which wasn’t that great. We gave another guide a lift , and we headed to Windhoek, where our Couch Surfing host was waiting for us.

In Windhoek we had a taste of civilization again; it’s a very interesting city with lots of different cultures. Apart from English, people speak a dialect that sounds like a mix of German and Afrikaans, although I think it also has some Ovambo and Bantu influences.

Our host took us to the local bar, Joe’s, where both black and white people enjoy good beer and meat. Namibians are very proud of their ‘Windhoek’ beer, which I have to admit was pretty good; it’s also pretty famous in Southern Africa. At Joe’s I tried Oryx meat, which was really tasty, although I couldn’t help thinking about the beautiful creature I had photographed in the desert a few days before.

 

Joe’s

Joe’s

 

And the time came to leave Namibia! After returning our rental car in Windhoek, it was a difficult mission to find transport to Botswana. Finally we found a 6 a.m. minibus that took us from Windhoek, across the border, and to Ghanzi, in Botswana. In the minibus we met ‘John John’ – I have no idea if that was his real name -, a white Ghanzian man. He offered to take us to town from the bus stop because it was in the middle of nowhere;  his father would be coming later to pick him up.

 

Bus stop in the middle of nowhere

Bus stop in the middle of nowhere

 

So they took us to Ghanzi and even offered to take us to Maun the next day, which was the place we needed to go to visit the Okavango Delta. Due to subsequent experiences, I’m not afraid to claim that offering rides in Botswana – especially to white people – appears to be customary, even if the person who offers a ride is not what you could consider very friendly, but that’s just how it is. Since accepting that ride meant having to sleep at this man’s farm away from the city, we kindly declined the offer and took a local bus to Maun. Of course, the bus had around 40 seats and there were more than 100 people. I was already used to that, it felt like being back in South Africa.

 

Camping in Maun (my little individual tent at the bottom right)

Camping in Maun (my little individual tent at the bottom right)

 

When we finally got to the camping site in Maun, a dip in the swimming pool was a taste of heaven after those 800km on that extremely hot day.  It also allowed us to relax a bit before our next adventure: the Okavango Delta!


Cape Town Strikes Again!

My second stop at Cape Town was going to be much longer than the previous one.

I arrived at the “commune” – that’s how my capetownian couch surfing friends called their house, and the word was simply perfect for it. What I liked most about them was that you never knew what could happen next, so that same night we ended up at a rock concert armed with our bandanas on our foreheads like a glam band from the eighties.

Apart from my life at the commune, I started sightseeing in Cape Town and its surroundings with some of the people I’d met in Hermanus.

Strelitzia, commonly known as “Bird of Paradise” or “Mandela’s Gold”

Strelitzia, commonly known as “Bird of Paradise” or “Mandela’s Gold”


I couldn’t leave Cape Town without paying a visit to Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of the total of 27 that he was imprisoned. This island is placed 12 kilometers away from Cape Town. Due to this isolation, it had previously been a hospital for people with leprosy and the mentally and chronically ill. In 1964, Nelson Mandela started his imprisonment years there, condemned because of his opposition to the racist apartheid regime. After more than 18 years in a tiny cell, he was transferred to two other different prisons until his release in 1990.

Cape Town view from Robben Island

Cape Town view from Robben Island

Nelson Mandela’s cell

Nelson Mandela’s cell

Nowadays Robben Island has turned into another tourist attraction. It receives many groups during the day, so it’s always full of people and the tour is not very long. But I was really interested in the history of this place, and the fact that the guide was an ex-convict of the male-only prison made it even more interesting. He recounted his prison experience with devastating realism, even if it sounded like if he was reading a paper, because it was obvious that he had told the same story too many times.

Two of the common cells, the Jesus version and the Santa Claus version:

One of our day trips was a road trip through Cape Peninsula, while we tried to explore it and find places without tourists – which was difficult.  But we discovered an empty beach with white sand dunes, it was magical. And of course, as is characteristic of the African continent, we saw many animals hanging around.

Baboons enjoying a family’s private playground

Baboons enjoying a family’s private playground

Penguin colony at Betty’s Bay

Penguin colony at Betty’s Bay

At the city we visited Bo-Kaap, formerly known as the Malay Quarter. It’s a Muslim neighborhood where the houses are painted with bright colors; the atmosphere was very peculiar. We had an amazingly tasty Malay dinner at a halal restaurant.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

After all this moving around I was already an expert taking the minibus taxis within the city. I entered the van, gave my 4 Rand (around 40 euro cents) to the “ticket guy” – he was the one who collected the money, opened the door, shouted the destination on the streets, and told the driver when to stop by a knock on the metal wall – and said where I wanted to stop. I felt capetownian! As I explained in another post, it is unusual for a white person to use this public transport, they usually go about in their cars.

After all this sightseeing I was ready to hike up Table Mountain, the number one on my list of favorite things in Cape Town!