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Windhoek, Namibia – Part 1

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

Visit to Windhoek – Part 1

October 2012

Departure

I always find it stressful when I have to get up early to fly.  This was no exception.  We had to get up before 04h00 to make it to Cape Town International Airport to catch the flight to Windhoek.

Cape Town to Windhoek

[Source:   Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

It’s a quiet morning.  Obviously, I mean,  it’s four-a-clock in the morning.  With virtually no traffic it’s a quick drive down to the airport.

We find Air Namibia’s check-in counter, and from there proceed to the passport control.  At last we get stamps in our fairly new (and unused) passports.

Arrival

Hosea Kutako airport outside Windhoek is not very busy.  Passport control and luggage collection take only minutes.  South African Rands are legal tender, which makes things rather simple.  But only if you have South African Rands with you.  Just before we left home we decided to rather leave the cash for the rest of the family staying behind. Drawing money should not be a problem.

Well, there is a slight problem.  The cash machines on the airport only takes Visa cards.  I don’t have a Visa card.  Fortunately the gentleman at the MTC cellphone shop is willing to put the R50 for an sim card and airtime through on my credit card.

I am in a hurry to get the phone to work so that the kids can contact us in case of emergency.  However, none of the text messages go through.  I later call the toll-free number for assistance.  After making four calls, each time trying another option, I listen to the menu long enough te learn that ‘option 9’ would be the one to speak to an operator.  The friendly operator suggest I make a call to get the number up and running.  I try making a few calls as well, with no success.

My wife later suggests that maybe now would be a good time to upload the airtime.   This turned out to be a splendid idea.  Shortly thereafter everything was working fine.

The 40km’s from the airport to Windhoek is a rather relaxing experience.  It feels like the beginning of a holiday.  No traffic, nuh?

Entering Windhoek it is clear that they missed the news that there is a slump in the property industry.  It is just amazing how much building work (houses and large office blocks) are in progress.

At the guest house we are welcomed with coffee.  This is my type of guest house.

Culture Centre

We attend the opening of the Namibian Childrens Book Fair at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre in Robert Mugabe drive.

It turns out to be quite a big deal, with ambassadors, reprentatives of ambassadors and the likes making speaches.  They are all dressed up for a social occasion in the European winter.  Only, this is Africa, and it is summer, with the temperatur reaching up to 38 degrees C.

Having watched The Pink Panther a few times with my kids I have difficulties taking the French ambassador seriously.  I find myself waiting for the punch line to come, but it does not happen.   The keynote address is done by the Namibian deputy minister of Home Affairs.  He also supports the idea that everyone should be able to read.

After the speaches two ladies entertain us on a short extract from Dr Zeuss.  They are extremely good and funny!

Thereafter follows the eating and drinking.  The space is slightly confined, so from time to time you need to shoulder an ambassador out of the way to get to the food.

In the tile floor there is one row of glass panels.  Under the floor are sculptures of people.  One gets the feeling of slaves being led away, looking upwards for help.  Above floor level, though, everyone goes about their business, pretty much ignoring them.

I found it remarkably striking and symbolic.

Part …

Windhoek, Namibia – Part 2

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

October 2012

Oktoberfest

Some four weeks ago we said our farewells to our friend leaving Riebeek-West for Windhoek.  Based on past experience we expected to see her again in ten years time.  However, our unexpected visit to Windhoek change this.

We alerted her to us coming to Windhoek.  Instead of fleeing off to Swakopmund for the weekend, she gave us the option to choose between a Friday night visit to Joe’s Beerhouse, or to attend the Oktoberfest with her.  As the Oktoberfest only comes around once a year, we opted for the latter.

It’s quite a big thing, this fest.  The Kirchdorfer is a Germany based band touring around the world.  Amongst others they play at the Brasilian summer festival and the Korean Octoberfest.  Oh, and at the United Emirates’ Octoberfest.  I didn’t know you’re allowed to drink beer there.

This oempa band is phenomenal.  Nine men and a lady.  They made music for some 5 hours with enormous energy.  The old man from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory should have had these oempa loempas around!

I’m told that of the 2,2 million people of Namibia, some 4% is German speaking.  And it would appear that 90% of them attended the Octoberfest.  OK, maybe not quite, but it was no desolate affair.

A lot of the men wear the knee pants (leather or not) with braces.  The ladies also wear traditional clothing.  I could not help but notice a few substantial bellies among the men folk.  And some ladies also sported enormous beer tankards.  You basically order your beer by the bucket.

This, of course, has certain predictable results.  At the bar counter a girl stumbles against me as she puts down two beer mugs (smaller versions were also available).  This was while I’m now trying to whisper in the bartender’s ear that I would actually like a Coke, rather than a beer.  Anyway, the girl’s mugs would not stand upstraight, regardless of her endeavours (the beer mugs, that is).  I assume it to be a design defect in the mugs.

The girl explains to me what the problem is.  Well, I think that is what she did.  I assume she was speaking either English, Afrikaans or German, but I could understand nothing of what she was saying; she sounded like Donald Duck on helium.  Maybe that was also due to a design defect, although I suspect that the beer might have something to do with it.

A good time was had by all.

Tourists

On Saturday we did the tourits thing and went walkabout.

I notice an attorney’s firm:  F Q P attorneys.  A rather interesting name, I thought.

On the topic of attorneys:  it would appear that the occupation of choice in Windhoek must be the manufacturing and installing of electric fences, barbed wire and burglar bars.  Oh, no, sorry, I’m not on the topic of attorneys anymore.

In spite of all these visible deterrents of criminals one does not feel unsafe.  Admittedly, it may have something to do with the fact that you are on the inside of the fencing.  But even outside those perimeters we did not feel unsafe.  Of course you should not be stupid and visit risky place, but it would appear that the crime here is property related, rather than violent crime.

The contrast between the old and the new is sriking.  The old colonial building of the Bank of Namibia now stands dwarfed by the new one right next to it.

The Bank of Namibia replaced the Namibian reserve bank in 1993.  Well, sort of.  The reserve bank never really came into existence.

The rider on his horse (Reiterdenkmal) had to move from his traditional spot to make way for the new North-Korean built Independence Memorial museum.  Reiterdenkmal now stands right in front of the old fort (Alte Feste).

On the picture a part of the Alte Feste can be seen.  …

Windhoek, Namibia – Part 3

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

The ceremony

Saturday night was the actual purpose of our visit to Windhoek.

We attended the Namibian Children’s Book Forum (NCBF) prize giving ceremony in the Goethe centre in Fidel Castro avenue.  My wife’s children’s book, “Wat is jy Kartoffel?” has been nominated for the prize in the category of illustrated children’s books.

Sandy Rudd, the master of ceremonies, kept the atmosphere light with a live wire approach.  A TV crew from (I assume) Nam TV was there, and a few photographers.  This contingent made it a bit difficult to take pictures from where I was seated.  The girls of the Greenwell Matongo Library Dance Group did their thing. Energetic, alive, loud, fun. The faces are alive;  it’s such a pleasure watching them.

Gcina Mhlope is a renowned South African story teller and playwright.  She does a story telling in which she involves everyone.  She has rythm in her whole being.  Amazing.

Mrs Kovambo Nujoma, wife of the erstwhile president of Namibia, has been the patron of the NCBF for years.  She presented the prizes.  She is an elegant lady.

My obervations not only at the evening, but also otherwise, are that the racial relationships in Namibia appear to be a lot more healthy than is the case south of the Orange river. This evening was no exception.  OK, Mrs Nujoma’s body guard was not unnecessarily friendly, but I assume that goes with the job description.

Of all the prizes handed out, my interest obviously was primarily with my wife’s award.  I was very proud of her when she was called forward to receive her award.  Well, now I can say I know somebody who shook the hand of the wife of the ersthwile president of Namibia.  This, of course, now makes me a bit of a celebrity myself.

Last social

After the proceedings there is a light meal and wine.  When everyone left, our hosts took us to the Hotel Thule for a drink.

Wow! This hotel /restaurant must be on the most prime real estate spot in Windhoek.  It sports a bird’s eye view to the North of the city.

It was an idyllic evening.  Probably still about 27 degrees, with only a slight wind cooling down the ambient temperature.

Going home

Sunday morning at six-o-clock we get picked up.  It is a nice drive out to the airport.  The sun is just rising over the Namibian plains.  OK, I’m lying about the plains; it’s a bit of poetic licence.  There are no plains here – that’s the reason why they had to go 40km’s outside Windhoek to get a big enough flat spot to build an airport.

At the check in counter the man attending to us check our passports, check his computer, check my printout of my electronic booking.  The frown between his eyes keep on deepening.

“I will be with you shortly,” he says.

He takes our passports and booking, and disappear through a door.  I’m sure I hear the theme from the 007-movies playing in the background.  After a while we become (more) concerned.  Even later I see the guy walking past, and follow him into an office where a security guard gives me a hostile look.

I explain to her that those are my papers, and that I just want to know what the problem is.

“No, there is no problem,” says the chap assisting us.  I walk with him back to the check in counter.

There is a slight problem, he says without explaining the nature thereof.  But it only means he has to issue us handwritten boarding passes.  A few minutes later we are sorted, and sit down for a nice coffee.

Over my coffee I peruse our boarding passess.  And choke in my coffee.

I grab my wife’s boarding pass and my booking papers and run back to the check-in counter.  The official looks disturbed when I bash in on …

Part 4 – The long road home

Friday, 2 July, 2010

[Also in Afrikaans @ http://pgjonker.co.za/?p=134]

BOTSWANA & ZAMBIA TOUR 2008

PART 4

 (by PG Jonker)

Katima Mulilo and Caprivi

Day 8

Today we will travel on the Zambian side of the river to enter Namibia at Katima Mulilo.   The borrowed Minus 40 in the back of my bakkie has stopped functioning, and I now have a huge ornamental box taking up space. 

But first we would like to have a look at the falls from a distance.  At the border post to Zimbabwe you receive a free pass, a little scrap paper with a number on it, indicating the number of people in your group.

Bridge between Zam & Zim

We walk halfway across the bridge to get a nice view of the Victoria Falls.  What strikes one is the lively trade apparently going on, with vehicles and people crossing the bridge with wares for sale.

 

 Two of our travel mates each buys themselves a Z$50 000 000 000.  They were advised that this would go a long way to purchase a hamburger and a cool drink.  Quiet, brothers, there goes my billionaire friends.

 Eventually we depart for Namibia.  As we exit Livingstone in a Westerly direction we get charged an exit fee of R30 each.  In Rand, nogal.  We aim for Sesheke, but the GPS voice insists that I should turn around and drive through Zimbabwe.  I ignore her.  When we pass the turn-off to the Kazungula ferry, the voice implores me to take the turn-off, but I ignore her. 

After each such turn-off that you miss, the GPS recalculates the remaining distance to your destination.  But once I passed the Kazungula turn-off the GPS now calculate my distance to Katima Mulilo as 1100km’s.  It bothers me slightly.  Surely the GPS should know there is a border crossing at Sesheke / Katima?  We enter Sesheke.  I do not see any border post.  As we travel through the town I can eventually see Katima getting smaller over my left shoulder, and still there is no border post.  I’m running out of fuel.  Could the GPS know something that I do not know?  For instance, like that there is no border crossing at Sesheke?

Eventually I give a sigh of relief when I find there is indeed a bridge across the river into Namibia!   

The control office is badly marked.  In fact, I don’t think it was marked at all.  A few locals, upon spotting vehicles with foreign number plates, give welcome unsolicited gestures in the direction of the building where you need to attend to when they see you aim for the border without stopping.

The officials on both sides are friendly.  They did confiscate our long life milk, though.  On the Namibia side there is another (unmarked) building where you need to pay your road tax before proceeding. 

Being back in Namibia it feels like back home again.  People speak Afrikaans, you pay in Rand, and the shops look the same as ours.  Ja nee, die Kaap is weer Hollands.

After replenishing our stock and refuelling we head for Namashushu lodge on the Kwando River. 

At the lodge you have the option of staying in luxury bungalows, or to camp.  The ablution to the camp site sports a notice that warns against hippo and elephant movement at night.

This is the last evening for the whole crowd together.  We have a nice potjie and braai, even a few speeches and some farewells.  Indeed, a nice tour was had by all.

Kwando, Rundu, Grootfontein Otavi

Day 9

After a nice breakfast in the lodge we depart the next morning as part of a three vehicle convoy.  We plan to fill up again at Divundu.  Arriving at Divundu there is no petrol station any more.  Eish!  Fortunately we find another petrol station not too far off.  Even a 24h service station.  Well, sort-of. 

 

Some local boys, clearly school going age, …