Country: Namibia View Africa Map
Dates Visited:
Mar 7-16, 2007
Distance Since Last Update: 6,081k
Total Distance: 41,045k
Population: 1.8 million
Capital: Windhoek
Languages: English, German, Afrikaans, Owambo, Herero, Kavango, Khoikhoi, San
Currency: Namibian dollar (US$1=N$7.4)
Borders: Angola, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe

 
  Oshikango, Namibia - March 7, 2007
(Jim Writes) We woke up this morning excited. Excited because we knew that there was a chance, with a little luck, just maybe, we could make it to the Namibian border. We were close enough that it was possible anyway, IF Angola’s shit roads would just cooperate. The possibility was all we needed to jumpstart our day and we wasted no time breaking camp and hitting the road. The roads were decent – by Angolan standards anyway– and we made good progress, passing columns of armored personale carriers and amphibious vehicles, casualties of war, now permanently marooned in a marshy graveyard that flanked both sides of the road.

By mid afternoon, after a dusty rough and tumble drive, we reached the town of Ondjiva and with it came the realization that, barring any unforeseen disasters, we’d make the border before dark. Namibia was now only 40K away. We were happy to say the least. So happy that we felt it necessary to have a brief pre-border celebration at a small roadside bar on the way out of town. Aside from the requisite assemblage of local men well into their daily bender, the tiny bar was empty. The music was nevertheless booming as if it was 2 a.m. in a Manchester club and the bar had plenty of cold beer on hand. Not across the border just yet, we had a more benign party in mind – arranging four plastic chairs along the side of the road where we sat under the shade of a tall tree long enough to down four Cokes and revel in our progress. To quote the villagers we’d met during our two week stay along one of Cameroon’s more terrible roads, indeed, “We were going!!” And soon we would be gone. Gone from Central Africa after 4 ½ very difficult months, in which this day seemed as if it would never come.

An hour and a half later we were at the border. A bustling place we’ve come all to used to over the past year, Ness and I retreated under a sliver of shade provided by a small lorry, while Pat and Sheri tackled the Angolan border formalities – an otherwise painless process prolonged by the absence of the chief customs officer. Eventually, he arrived, stamped our carnets, congratulated us on making it to Southern Africa, handed us an autographed portrait of the Angolan president as a token of the government’s appreciation for our visit to Angola and bid us farewell and safe travels. (Well, that was more or less how I remember it. I think technically he finally arrived, begrudgingly stamped our carnets, and walked off without a word. We were so excited, however, that the details made little difference. We were finally free to enter southern Africa.)

A few minutes later (read: about half an hour – as there was all manner of vehicular chaos at the gate), a soldier opened the large gate that marked the border and we passed through it without looking back. Ahead was a giant sign welcoming us to Namibia. We both read it together smiling from ear to ear. We were now in Namibia. We were now in Southern Africa! Like the border between Morocco and Mauritania 10 months earlier, entering Namibia seemed a million (no, make it a billion miles) away from Angola, Congo (Zaire), the rest of Central Africa, and all that we’d been through since we entered Nigeria. The roads were freshly paved. The border post, a modern building, filled with high tech computers, was manned by friendly officials fascinated by our journey not our money. And sitting on the fresh black tar, in an empty parking space denoted by clean white lines, was perhaps the biggest difference of all – an empty red and white box with large letters on the front that read KFC. Behind us was the adventure we’d come to Africa to undertake. Ahead, the Africa we originally fell in love with during our first visit seven years earlier.

Through the border in a flash, we headed for Ondangwa Rest Camp. A place reported to have hot water, electricity, working sit down toilets, a good restaurant, and even braai pits. In a word, everything we haven’t had. Unfortunately, the worst storm we’ve seen in Africa to date had other ideas. On the way out of Oshikango, the seedy crime ridden border town that the border officials warned us about, the sky around us turned black and ominous. Black to our right. Black in front of us. Black to our left. With lightning bolts striking down all around us, it was quite the welcome. A welcome that proved too much for Pat and Ness on their bike, who shared our assessment that it was as if we were entering the bowels of hell! Uncomfortable about going into the heart of the storm, they decided to turn back to a hotel we’d seen near the border. Unwilling to celebrate without the friends we’d had such a memorable ride through Congo, Congo (Zaire), and Angola with, we turned back too. Ondangwa could wait one more day.

Back at Oshikango, we settled into the small hotel. Had we not been so set on Ondangwa, it would have been perfect with hot water, working toilets, electricity, a pool, and good food. It was all we needed and far more than we’ve come to expect. Once settled, we showered! We gorged (devoured really)! We celebrated. We have arrived!

 
 

Oshikango-Keetmanshoop - March 8-16, 2007
(Jim Writes) Our visit to Namibia can best be described as brief. Just 10 days in a country that warrants several times that, we had little time to explore Namibia’s many highlights. With all the bad roads, rebel fighting, visa problems, and dodgy borders behind us, our focus shifted to my leg (knee) which, now badly atrophied, needed to be tended to as quickly as possible. That meant getting to South Africa as quickly as possible. The problem was that we were in Namibia. Finally in Namibia! And, as much as we needed to be in South Africa -like two months ago- what we wanted to do was relax, celebrate, go on safari, gorge on fast food, explore the fancy supermarkets, flush the flush toilets and stand under a hot shower. And we wanted to do it indefinitely. The problem was that indefinitely didn’t mesh well with my very definite knee problem, so we opted for a more sensible plan. We crammed as much relaxing and celebrating and gorging and flushing and shopping and showering and safari as we possibly could into 10 short days. It was a mini vacation. Not our “official” visit to Namibia (that will come after we fix my knee). Just a much-needed reward for all we’d been through over the past 4 ½ months.

After a wonderful first night in Namibia, we headed for Ondangwa Rest Camp. It was everything we’d been dreaming about. Hot water, working sit down toilets, good food, electricity at every campsite, drinkable water and even a duck pond. Once settled, we spent the next three days shopping at Ondangwa’s very modern, well stocked, and reasonably priced supermarkets, showering in very hot showers, flushing wonderfully reliable toilets, drinking water straight from the tap, and gorging on KFC. We enjoyed a proper celebration with Pat and Ness (only interrupted intermittently by two drunk Afrikaners from the campsite bar who insisted Sheri and Ness should join them for drinks) and another celebration the following night when Sharikay and Eric arrived, along with two other overland travelers, Steve and Sarah (a Kiwi investment banker and British doctor in a 60 series TLC).

Once we’d washed away a seemingly impenetrable layer of grime, flushed away everything we had to flush, resupplied, refueled, and recharged everything that needed supplying, fueling, or powering, eaten to the verge of a heart attack, and drank to the point of intoxication, we said our goodbyes to Pat and Ness, whom we very much enjoyed traveling with, but know we’ll see again soon, and left. Our destination: South Africa, by way of Etosha National Park – the one place we’d been dreaming about most when we dreamt about Namibia, which was often during the past few months. We could only spare three days for our initial visit. More of a scouting trip than anything, but our short stay in Etosha proved a wonderful introduction and got us excited about all we plan to see in Southern and East Africa in the months to come. Along with some excellent sightings of lions, giraffes, elephants, and other big game were some firsts: beautiful gemsbok wondering across the Etosha Pan; A black-necked spitting cobra that crossed the road just in front of us and then reared up, hood expanded, to stand its ground; rattels, trying to steel our food in camp, African scops owls in the trees above our tent; and secretary birds hunting on the open plains. We also had an intimate encounter with a large male leopard and his kill. The real highlights however were the zebras. Still raining, the plains were lush and green and covered with Chapman’s zebras. Among them were numerous foals, just born they were still wet and hardly able to stand. It was a wonderful visit and we could hardly pull ourselves away.

From Etosha we headed for South Africa. Like Angola, Namibia is a huge country. Unlike Angola, Namibia’s roads are excellent, by far the best we’ve seen so far in Africa and we were able to go the 1240K to the border in just 3 days. Along the way we stopped at Okahandja Lodge, just outside Windhoek, where we spent two nights making phone calls and sending emails to find a doctor in SA. Thanks to much help from Ralph and Angela (two wonderful Brits we met in Etosha), by Thursday we had an appointment with a highly recommended orthopedic surgeon in Durbanville (Cape Town) for the following Monday. Just enough time for us to get there if we hurried. Down the road from Stellenbosch, our favorite city in South Africa, Durbanville seemed perfect. With little time to spare, we departed Okahandja on Thursday afternoon for Stellenbosh.

The drive south was uneventful. Blissfully uneventful. Perfect tar. No livestock. Perfect all the way to the border. So perfect that the speed limit - not the road conditions, livestock, pedestrians, and other drivers -governed our rate of progress. The landscape was arid. Very similar to Arizona, USA. On the way to the border we stopped off at a horrible little camp ground in Keetmanshoop. Like something out of National Lampoons Vegas Vacation, Lafenis Lodge was the first and I hope only safari-world-meets-wild wild-west theme campsite we’d come across. Terrible. From Keetmanshoop was the border and then South Africa…(See South Africa Journal).