Home > Uncategorized > Travels with a motorbike – Part 4 –Mariental to Windhoek

Travels with a motorbike – Part 4 –Mariental to Windhoek

Boy, was it cold; but not as bad as it could have been. The sleeping bag liners helped and I had a balaclava too. Nevertheless, there comes a moment when you wake in the middle of the night. You are cold and you need to take a leak. The problem is that it is even colder outside your sleeping bag than in and you are not really bursting, so with a bit of luck you will fall asleep again. You start to notice that what ever position you lie in is uncomfortable. You toss and turn with your eyes held firmly closed, worried that by opening them you will be officially awake and obliged to take action. Eventually it gets too much and you struggle out of your sleeping bag, unzip the tent and make your way to the motorbike to open a pannier and put on an extra fleece and a pair of jeans! Of course you open the wrong case first. But you knew that you would. Luckily you remember that you still need to have a pee, so you take care of that before climbing back into bed and eventually drifting off to sleep.

It was still early when I awoke in the half light. One can survive almost any hardship if at the end of the day, or the start of it, there is a hot shower to be had. In this case the shower water was both hot and plentiful. Having taken care of my ablutions, I set up my camp stove and put a mess tin full of water on to boil.

2009-09-24 010

There was no rush to get going as I only had about a 4 hour ride into Windohoek where I would be staying with friends. As they would be working, there was not much point getting there too early. Between mouthfuls of hot sweet tea and bites of a rusk, I unhurriedly went about the business of collapsing and packing my tent and sleeping bag. As I drank I pondered deep thoughts and eventually I came to the conclusion that tea stewed over a gas stove using powdered milk and drunk out of a tin mug, is better than any other you will find elsewhere on earth. God it tastes good. Funny thing is though, it’s a bit like drinking Ouzo in Greece. It tastes much better there than it does at home.

It was after 09.00 by the time I mounted up and left the camp site. I first needed to fill up with fuel and then I was on my way.

The terrain was beginning to change as I proceeded north. Hills with trees and grass growing, made a break from the flat, bad lands that I had been through the day before.  I had not been able to make contact with Andrew and Linda for a couple of days and I did not know where they lived, but I did have a work address. Luckily my atlas carried a map of central Windhoek.

It is not a big town, but a busy one and there was a fair amount of fast moving traffic. It is commonly observed by Zimbabwean visitors, that it bears a strong resemblance to Salisbury, pre 1980. It is clean and tidy and pretty without being spectacular. The big difference being perhaps that in Windhoek the cars are modern. Not a Renault 4 or a Datsun 120Y in sight. A large complicated road, i.e. one that suddenly prevents further access without warning, glorified under the name of Robert Mugabe Boulevard. I somehow had to cross this to get to my destination. When I did eventually walk into Andrew’s office, he was greatly surprised as he said none of the locals could ever find it. As he still had work to do, he said he would show me to his home and leave me to relax until he and Linda got home a bit later.

Andrew is an architect and a native of Namibia. His wife Linda is from SA and a teacher. They had been tenants of mine a year earlier in Cape Town and had suggested I visit them on my way through. Little did they know how readily I accept such invitations.

Later that evening over a couple of beers or more, Andrew told me 3 interesting facts about Namibia. Despite the recession elsewhere, the country was booming. There was such a lot of building going on that architects were being recruited from SA, where they could not find work. While Namibia is a source of much mineral wealth, so is Angola but the port of Luanda is not up to scratch so many goods come to Walvis Bay from where they are shipped around the world.

Secondly, the Chinese were flocking to the country like you would not believe. The population of Namibia was only 2 million, but there were 300,000 Chinese in the country. They were investing heavily in Uranium and copper. Apparently China is going electric. They build roads, dig mines, erect buildings and do it using all their own workers. No native Namibians are involved. Even the cleaners are Chinese.

The third fact, was that Namibia is the second biggest consumer of Jaegermeister in the world (after Germany, presumably). Actually, that in itself is not particularly interesting. Jaegermeister tastes like cough mixture. It is drinkable, but I would not want to make a habit of it. But what it does emphasise is the strong Germanic link between Namibia and its erstwhile colonial master, Germany. Much of the white population is German and many of the businesses are controlled by them. Their legendry efficiency helps explain why things work so well in Namibia compared to the rest of Africa. Things are not perfect, but it would be churlish to whinge too much.

Windhoek is located in central Namibia in the Khomas Highland plateau area around 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) above sea level. In early August the sun shines hot from a clear sky, but in the shade it is very cold. One is torn between wearing a warm jacket and then having to remove it once out in the sun.

Many of those who live there seem to have a connection with the countryside. They either own game farms or know people who do and spend much of their free time out in the bush. They know about driving in the desert and how and when to lower tyre pressures and other tricks of survival.

On Friday evening Andrew and I went to the ‘legendary’ hangout called Joe’s Beer Garden where we both had a couple too many beers and the inevitable Jaegermeister. From there, via a Steers Burger bar we went to join Linda and some friends for a few more beers. Goodness it was cold. They are quite rugged people these Namibians.

Next day, I had a bit of a tour of the place and they took me to see a building site that Andrew was working on; a home for some friends which they were building on a new development a few kms out of town;  pretty with some nice views.

Across

  1. General disgust when leader leaves the platform. (5)
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