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Checking in at Windhoek

Today we were up and about early although we had loads of time to spare in the morning before our transfer to the airport. We were down at breakfast just after seven, so early that the fresh rolls hadn’t yet arrived, a major crisis that early in the day. We spent the morning packing up our stuff and just killing time until it was time to go. Marita was at reception when we checked out and we chatted about what we had seen and done during our stay. She seemed genuinely interested and when we said we were heading to South Africa she also told us they have a place in Cape Town that we could stay at if we want to. It has been a lovely hotel to stay at, making us both feel very much at home. It is certainly somewhere we would recommend and for Namibia it is good value for money.

Our car from Camping Car Hire turned up on time and a very chatty chap took us to the airport. On the way he talked about how most of the visitors here were from Germany and from him and others I was left with a distinct impression that the German visitors weren’t necessarily liked too much. More British and French people are coming now and even though we have seen few tourists based on the volumes we’ve seen elsewhere he said that there are now too many people coming to Namibia.

At the airport we checked in at the British Airways desk encountering yet another rude person behind the counter. Stef was doing his usual and taking snaps of us checking in which was met with a “why is he taking pictures of the screen?” snarled question from the check in woman. She was really off hand and rude, although not as bad as the one we had come across in town yesterday. She started to query our tickets seeing that they were originally from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg but I cut her off before she could create a problem.

We got our VAT receipt stamped so we could claim back the tax and headed through immigration and customs. The process of getting your VAT back is a bit of a joke. One person on the landside of the airport stamps your receipts. Once through immigration you then go to another office who double check the VAT calculation made by the shop you bought goods from. Not surprisingly they managed to find a way to reduce the VAT we were entitled to. They then deduct N$15 for their admin fee and then issue you with a check in South African Rand. Next door is a branch of Thomas Cook who for a healthy fee of N$28 convert your cheque into cash. The various different charges and commissions gobbled up almost 30% of our VAT refund, a staggering amount of charges.

With just N$6 left in our pockets (about 60p) we soon gave up trying to find something cheap enough in the shop to buy to use up our last coins. The staff joined in looking to see if we had enough for the cheapest bar of chocolate. As I write it has only just sunk in that a KitKat costs about 70p here, a bit pricey. The call soon came through to board the plane and again we were back in familiar BA territory.

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Lots of buildings, and roads, *with* cars - quite a change after Namibia!

A short two hours later and we were collecting our bags at Johannesburg airport. With our flight landing in the late afternoon we had decided we would stay somewhere close to the airport tonight as by the time we had sorted a rental car it would be dark and neither of us fancied driving in a new place at night not knowing where we were going. Tourist Information were sort of helpful in giving us a couple of guide books for different parts of South Africa but on the local hotel front they weren’t quite so helpful.

As you approach the Tourist Information desk people come up to you holding leaflets for their hotels trying to entice you to go with them. With our past experience behind us we politely said “no” and headed for the desk. There they can supply you with leaflets but they then just point around telling you which of the guys who had already approached you come from which hotel. They all seem to provide an airport pick up service and have someone on hand to book you in and get you to the hotel.

We really wanted somewhere with internet access in the room so that we could finish off uploading all our photos. Here though we drew a blank. Most places do have internet access but not in the room. The Intercontinental was the only option and although it was ridiculously priced we opted to go there anyway. We had a friendly welcome and were soon ensconced in a very smart, comfortable if small for the price room. We logged on to the internet service, paid for a few hours and then the problems began.

Stef accidentally erased the list of photos we needed to upload so we had to go back through the collection and redo the list, which took quite a while. When we did then log on the internet connection, which was meant to be a fast broadband service, was painfully slow. Stef checked the speed and it was a third of the speed of a normal dial up line. I phoned the help desk and got the expected “it’s the volume of users” story but when I said it was taking 5 minutes for a page to load he went off to reboot “a few things”. This didn’t help so I phoned down to talk to the hotel manager.

The following twenty minutes or so was a lengthy discussion about how we had only chosen their expensive hotel because of the internet service and the internet service was no good. We asked for a substantial discount on the room rate, which was not forthcoming, so we checked out. As we came back down to reception the manager was with another customer and his laptop so no doubt we weren’t the only ones having problems. If you stay at this hotel and want to use the internet make sure you also do so by buying vouchers from reception. We had charged the cost to our credit card and now have to chase down the ISP for a refund.

It was late, dark and we were both getting tired by this stage but we headed back again to the airport Tourist Information desk to have another look for a hotel. The first chap I talked to said they had internet but not in the rooms. The second one, a French guy from The Dove’s Nest, said they had internet in the rooms and a restaurant so we went with them. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t trust what a Frenchie says. Their restaurant was shut so we ended up with take out and there is no internet connection in the room. Not that we have a room. We really have a self catering flat for four people and for a sixth of the cost of the Intercontinental.

We had our take out dinner in the little restaurant area and then succumbed to the cold and headed back to our room. It also has the added benefit of a washing machine and tumble dryer so at least tomorrow we’ll move on with a full set of clean clothes, the first time in a while. It’s one of those little traveller’s luxuries!