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 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.
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.
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.
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!
Our trip through Namibia started really well. But the first catastrophe was waiting for us on the next turn (although Namibian roads don’thave many turns…)
Let’s start from the beginning.
Since we were told that the only way to visit Namibia was by private vehicle, we rented a small car in Cape Town, with the intention of giving it back in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Even though returning it in another country entails paying an extra amount to the car rental company, renting a car in Windhoek with the same company was much more expensive than in Cape Town, so this was the cheapest way.
The first day we did around 600 km -about 370 miles- and slept at a camping site in Springbok, a little town on the northwestern part of South Africa, close to the border with Namibia. That’s where we started to notice the change of weather; the night was so cold that after a few hours trying to sleep I had to leave my tent and sleep inside the car. This was the first of many car-sleeping nights, sometimes because of the cold, sometimes because we didn’t want to spend more money.
After crossing the border the next day, we drove through the dirt roads to Fish River Canyon. It is the largest canyon in Africa and the second largest in the world after Grand Canyon. The view was spectacular, being in a place like that you feel really, really small.
We watched a great sunset having a Windhoek (Namibian beer, quite tasty), and I convinced my friend to forget the camping site, stay there and make a bivouac under the starry Namibian sky. I have never seen as many starts as I saw there, and I doubt that I ever will.The night wasn’t as cold as in Springbok, and the sunrise was beautiful, although not as impressive as the sunset.
We continued our journey towards the North through the dirt roads (forget about finding many paved roads in that country) and enjoying the deserted view. Namibia is a country of long, long roads without seeing anyone but a bunch of springboks, kudus or impalas jumping onto the road. The territory is theirs, after all, so we proceed cautiously.
Everything was going great, but when we got to a burning hot paved road after hours of driving through the dirt roads… oh no. Yes. Flat tire. In the middle of nowhere. Ooook no worries, we have a spare one in the trunk. So let’s change it and continue the trip, we will go to the nearest town and try to buy another one.
We found a ‘town’ called Aus, a super small town with just a few houses, but surprisingly there was a hotel, and a garage! So far, so good.
We asked if they had tires for our car, but they didn’t have them that small (then we realized why generally people don’t use small cars in Namibia, because you can’t go anywhere with those tires), so it would take a day to order it from another town. We didn’t want to lose a whole day in that little village so we decided to go and pick up the tire from the ‘city’ where they would send it from, and later continue to the dunes. So we left Aus without a spare tire. Big mistake. We took the road that we had taken to Aus, back towards the East, and after 35 km we got another flat tire. More or less at the same point where we had had the previous one.
I couldn’t help but to burst into laughter, but my friend didn’t find it that funny. We were really in the middle of nowhere; the nearest town was 35km away; the desert sun was hitting hard; and we probably didn’t have more than 2 litres of water. But I was super calmed down (I guess my time in Africa had already affected me), and I decided to check out the Lonely Planet to see if I could find anything. Bingo! The phone number of the garage we had just been to. Thank God! And thank you Lonely Planet. So we called them and it was more or less like this: “Hey… do you remember the Europeans that just stopped by looking for a tire? Well… we have a situation here, could you come and pick us up?” They said yes, but you know, African time… so after a quite long nap in the car they finally arrived with a 4×4 turned into a tow truck, and we headed back to Aus… again.
This time we accepted our destiny and stayed there until our tire came the next day, but everything happens for a reason… I was able to have my first shower in three days!