First Impressions: Windhoek

Doors locked, windows up, gaps in traffic maintained, and eyes darting between mirrors and suspicious of any pedestrian coming too close. This was how we drove into Windhoek.

Most travelers to Namibia begin or end their trip in the capital city of Windhoek (windy corner). Having been warned that it is the location of the most crime in the country (as big cities tend to be), and assured that we wouldn’t be missing anything by skipping it, we had planned on avoiding it altogether, and managed to give it quite a wide berth up to that point.

B1 to Windhoek
Route to Windhoek…at least it was filled with warthogs.

Now we were rolling in despite ourselves to run some errands, and were rather weary of it. Actually, after the break-in that shocked our campsite earlier that morning, we were downright dreading it.

Coming off the highway, the city is big. It’s no Jo’burg, but it’s enough to remind us of the big city warnings.

But as we drive we begin to ease up a bit mentally. There are none of the throngs of loiterers that crowd the cities in South Africa, the other towns in Namibia. The people are dressed up, clean cut, relaxed. Most are on their way to or from something. They are busy, look occupied, have purpose.

Windhoek street
Entering deeper into Windhoek center….

As we get closer to the center, rich palms and luscious purple-flowered jacaranda trees neither of us have seen before burst out onto every street, splashing it with colour and making for an unexpectedly pleasant atmosphere. The city is actually kind of beautiful, kind of quaint.

Christus Kirche
Gorgeous jacarandas, lush trees, quirky center island choices….

A mechanic tells us that those that live here know Windhoek’s full of crime and they’re prepared for it: houses are compounds, guarded by tall fences and electrified wire reminiscent of Jo’burg. We keep our doors locked.

We sleep paranoid in a guarded campsite resort. In the morning we run errands.

Christ Church stands in the middle of a traffic circle. It is the only tourist attraction we actually see.

Week 9: Onwards and Upwards

As I write this, we are sitting on a grassy tall bank of the Okavango River, watching eight hippos occassionally peer out from the water, yawn, and honk their nasal bark about 50 meters from us. And then locals float by on some mokoros (wooden boats). And then the hippos grunt at them for coming too close…

It all feels a bit surreal. We’re in a completely different environment than we were even a few days ago.

Waiting at Walvis Bay

I was of course on a high most of the week coming off my birthday on Sunday, though the rest of the week went by quite uneventfully as we waited for the Landy to be checked over and to hear something – anything – about Moreno’s passport. There’s taking a time out to relax, and then there’s waiting around, and by the time we left Walvis Bay Thursday morning we were so ready for a change.

Passport Drama

By that evening we were back in the capital, and, after some more dramatic emails between the embassy in Pretoria, DHL, and the Consulate in Windhoek (the passport temporarily went ‘missing’), we were given the go ahead to come and pick it up Friday morning. Finally!! (*applause and cheers*)

So with that, we headed north east towards the Caprivi Strip, where we are now, bordered on the north and south by Angola/Zambia and Botswana respectively.

The Time Issue

Unfortunately, finally being able to work out the timing for the rest of the trip resulted in us calculating out how much time we in fact did not have. Consequently, we started doing exactly what we were trying to avoid – madly skimming through the guidebooks and maps all over again to determine how fast we could rush everything and/or what we were willing to cut out. We still don’t know anything for sure, and there’s a lot of dependent variables at play, but we now have three contingency plans based on various administrative limitations and differing timelines.

We’ll see.

Next up: Zambia!!!