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Spectacular sunrise over the Indian Ocean

Oh what a long day we have had, both in terms of the number of hours crammed into it and the journey we have actually done. We left Hong Kong a little before midnight on yet another Cathay Pacific flight. Our plane to Hong Kong had been a 2-4-2 seat formation so we had a row of two seats to our ourselves. This one was a 3-4-3 and someone was in the aisle seat next to us. Fortunately the flight wasn’t full and before take off they have moved to site somewhere else.

On this flight Stef seemed more comfy than me. After our second airline dinner of the night, and aided by a little red wine he was soon snoozing. I, on the other hand, just couldn’t get comfy. The leg room wasn’t great but that wasn’t really the problem. Everywhere I tried to put my feet they banged up against something, which I think is the problem Stef had on the last flight. In the end I worked out what the problem was. “Your life jacket is under your seat” doesn’t mean it is attached to the bottom of your seat but that it’s in a box on the floor just where the person behind you wants to put their feet. That’s what I kept kicking. The insides of planes are obviously designed by short people. What made it even more ludicrous was the in-flight video showing you the exercises you should do to prevent DVT. One was to sit in your seat and pull your knees up in front of you. There was absolutely no chance of being able to do this because there simply isn’t enough leg room unless you are very short.

With sleep not really being much of an option I while away the hours walking the aisles and watching films. I saw most of Harry Potter before sleep finally came but then woke a few hours later and couldn’t get back to sleep. This time I watched The North Country which had me captivated. It’s hard to believe that men could be so nasty to women they knew and sad that so many women simply had to put up with those conditions because they needed their job.

On this flight we follow the sun on its way round the world, playing catch up, so even thought the flight left at midnight and was over twelve hours long, we arrived at Johannesburg at 6:30am. It was odd seeing the crew spring to life at 4:30am local time and doing their rounds of opening windows and waking everyone up knowing that all people wanted was to stay asleep for a while longer.

At Johannesburg we had a stopover of just under six hours before our connecting flight to Windhoek in Namibia. We arrived so early that the check in desk at the transfer section was not yet open although, when I went back two hours later to check in, it was the same guy sitting behind the desk. No doubt he could have checked us in first time around if he could have been bothered to.

With such a long stopover we had both had the same idea to try and get into an airline lounge where as a minimum it would be quiet. First off we tried the transit hotel but at US$120 each we thought it was a very over priced option really ripping off and cashing in on tired travellers. The British Airways lounge turned us down because we don’t have silver Executive Club membership and unlike other of their lounges at this one you can’t pay to get in. But the very friendly lady there pointed us in the direction of the Premier Lounge which did the trick.

This and a quick stop at the Bureau de Change to get some local currency introduced us to the very high cost of changing money here. At the BDC, they told us that unless we absolutely needed local cash their charges were so high that we were better off waiting until we got to a cash point in Namibia. At the lounge, we ended up paying in Euros (thanks to the Dutch couple we’d helped out on the coast in Ecuador) which was a better exchange rate than either US dollars or pounds sterling.

First glimpse of big empty Namibia

The lounge lived up to expectations with great showers, a quiet environment and a relaxing way to wait out the time until our next flight. Stef looked OK, apart from having slightly blood shot eyes, and felt rejuvenated after his shower. For me though the lack of sleep the night before was taking its toll and tiredness was starting to wash over me.

Time dragged until our next flight and seemed to pass really slowly with me just sitting like a zombie while Stef was busily doing I don’t know what. Our flight to Windhoek was with BA and I had a few pangs of homesickness as we got on board and saw the familiar uniforms of the crew and livery of the plane. The flight was probably only about two thirds full and having booked our tickets a long time ago we had the comfy seats and loads of leg room. Two hours after taking off we were landing at Windhoek’s International Airport. It is about 40km or so out away from the capital and on the way in we saw nothing from the air but wide open space with patches of scrub like vegetation and the shadows of clouds. In many ways it reminded us both of the wide open spaces of Patagonia, vast tracts of empty space.

Arriving at Windhoek made me wonder if there is a relation between the size of the airport and the size of the national population. Even though in terms of land mass Namibia is a large country its population is less than two million and its International Airport is correspondingly small. Again it reminded me of South America and some of the small airports we have travelled through there. Stepping off the plane into the open air we both breathed in heavily, looked at each other, laughed and said “how lovely”. It was warm, with a warm wind blowing but none of the high humidity we had endured in Asia.

As we were waiting for our bags the electricity cut out, not once but twice, potentially a sign of things to come. With nowhere yet booked to stay we were hoping that the tourist information desk at the airport would have lots of up to date recommendations. Not so. It was open but was really nothing more than a stand where you could collect brochures. A woman scuttled across to “help” when she saw us go in but she was of little help. In the end we took an up to date accommodation guide and went and sat in the coffee shop next door to look at options. The first few we tried were ridiculously expensive and we settled on the Hotel Moni, still pricey compared to what we have paid in Asia.

A taxi whisked us off to our hotel where we were given a very friendly welcome by the owner Marita. We had a choice of rooms and settled for number 10 which has a large patio outside. The room itself was spacious and within minutes I was tucked up in bed for some much needed sleep. I had only expected to snooze for about an hour or so but woke up four hours later to find that it had already gone dark outside. The thirty one hours it had taken to get from Melaka to Windhoek had taken its toll and although I felt better for having had a nap I knew that I would sleep well tonight too.

We abandoned plans to start to explore Windhoek and instead phone a recommended (by Marita) pizza place who soon delivered a tasty meal which we ate tucked up in bed.