|German street names|
We spent some time this morning phoning around to look at different options for tours versus car hire. Tours we know would be possibly the more cost effective option but in a group like that you lose the flexibility to set your own agenda and vary it as you go along. The prospect of also ending up in a Lonely Planet back packer style group was also not a welcome one, perhaps twenty years ago but not now that we are that bit older. However we were prepared to accept this solution if needed as Lonely Planet also says that there are not many cars to hire in Namibia and that you need to book in advance.
A couple of calls in and we found that 7 day tours started on a Sunday so we had missed them and that shorter tours usually left mid week. With Windhoek being such a small place neither of us wanted to wait around for a few more days, let alone a week, so we quickly discounted that option. It was also helped by a couple of companies who had immediate availability for hiring transport. The way to go in Namibia seems to be to have a 4x4 truck with a tent on top of the roof.
We opted to go with Camping Car Hire because we got the best feeling from them on the phone. Before committing though we asked if we could come and have a look at what we would be getting and they sent a car round to pick us up. In some ways it was a bit of a wasted trip because all they did was show us and empty truck and say that it would be packed with this, that and the other. Even so it was good to meet the company face to face and the positive impression they had created on the phone was carried through in person, with the exception of the guy who picked us up and dropped us into town. He obviously is not the happiest if chaps at work and came close to telling us to go with a different company. Not very professional.
With the car hire sorted we then went in search of binoculars so that we could actually see the wildlife we hoped to pass along the way. The car hire place referred us to Rosenthal’s gun shop and dropped us off there. A metal gate guards the door so that customers have to be buzzed in and out. Like the gun shops we went into in Canada here they had all sorts of different rifles ranged up against the walls as well as the accessories you would need as a modern day hunter. A friendly chap helped us with some binoculars and we were soon heading back down into the centre of Windhoek again.
Whereas yesterday had been quiet, today there were people around town but it was still not a buzzing metropolis. We found an internet café and checked our mail and then wandered into a local bookshop to get some reference guides to birds and mammals in South Africa. Much as we’re not great wildlife spotters it’s useful to be able to look up what you’ve seen rather than just saying “it’s another bird but a different one to the one we saw earlier”. The shop also provided us with a more up to date map of Namibia than the one we bought in Canada and a guide to the Etosha National Park which is one of our early destinations.
With little local cash we went in search of a bank and were shocked by the cost of making a credit card withdrawal. All of the banking infrastructure seems to be in South Africa and the costs are incredible. At the Amex office they were going to charge us the equivalent of £72 for a cash advance and at the bank it would be £10 for a clearance phone call to South Africa before any commission charges etc were added on top. We’ve ended up using cash points but no doubt we’ll still get clobbered with high charges.
We stopped off at tourist information who gave a booklet of all the campsites in Namibia. At first sight it looked helpful but it’s only a list of names and contact numbers and with no map or address for the majority of the campsites it’s really of limited use unless you already know which one you are heading to. The Namibia Wildlife Resorts office told us about availability of site in the Etosha Park but here, as with Tourist Information, we found that we were only given information that directly responded to the question you asked. If you didn’t ask the right question you left none the wiser.
In the afternoon we went back to Camping Car Hire in the afternoon to sort out the paperwork and then headed for the Maerua Mall in search of a haircut for Stef. We found the hairdressers but frustratingly they are closed on Monday afternoons. Walking back out to the hotel though we passed a travel agent and decided to go in to ask about options for our onward travel to South Africa. AS a BA agent we knew we should be able to make changes to our round the world ticket rather than having to buy additional flights.
We were directed to Eugene, a man in his fifties tucked away at the back of the shop and spent a frustrating half an hour or so in there. He fits the mould of the RV dealers we came across in Canada. Very slow and methodical but really in the wrong job as paperwork is not his thing. We told him we had round the world tickets but for some reason he kept looking up flights for Ulula airlines, a BA franchise in Africa. AS it was already past closing we said we’d come back tomorrow which would also then give him time to look into options for us and to check the rules for changing our tickets.
Back at the hotel we asked Marita for some recommendations of where we could go for dinner. She told us about the Wine Bar on Garten Street, a good place for a sundowner and also Joe’s Beer house. As we’re not yet sure what other time we will have in Windhoek before we leave we decided to do both. We quickly dumped bits we’d acquired today in our room before heading out to the wine bar, me desperately trying to keep up with Stef who was on a quest to get there with as much of the sunset left to go as possible.
It’s a small bar on a hill overlooking Windhoek with an outside terrace giving good open views. There is no wine list as such, you just decide if you want red or white, taste the three that they are serving that day and decide which one you want to go for. It’s a clever idea but it was a very difficult choice to make. Common sense went out the window and I ordered a bottle instead of a glass forgetting that the sun would set quickly. We got chatting to a couple of young men at the table next to us, the first time we had seen a black person and a white person out together.
The black guy was Namibian and proud of it. He had been to London but definitely preferred the tranquility of life here. The white guy was from Johannesburg, here to open up a new branch of the family firm, and found the pace of life here frustratingly slow. As with Marita at the hotel, they both talked at the same time, one quietly, one loudly and it made it almost impossible to follow the conversation. Hopefully I nodded and ummed at the right times!
From the wine bar we took a taxi to Joe’s, somewhere I would like to go back to when I hadn’t had the better part of a bottle of wine in advance. It’s a large place with tables outside under thatch roofed shelters. The whole place seemed to be full of men swilling beer and eating big slabs of meat. Rather than going for beef we went for a mixed plate which had kudu, zebra, crocodile as well as more “normal” bits of meat. It was pretty tasty, not as unusual as I had expected it to be, but sat like a large lump in the bottom of my stomach.