The sun comes up as me and my friend Lesley step of the plane in Windhoek. After a whole night of flying we wake up in a different world. Namibia, there it is. After months of planning and dreaming our feet touch the soil of this African country. It’s a very small airport and we go through passport control – where Lesley is nearly stopped because of some problem with the arrival paper we had to fill in. In the arrival hall we mainly see people from travel organisations picking up groups. But we are all set to travel as a duo in our rental car. We queue to get our euros exchanged for Namibian dollars, and after about half an hour they tell us they don’t accept VISA, only cash. Oh well, this is Africa. We’ll try in Windhoek.
Next step is picking up the car. The guy at the counter copies our driving licenses, makes sure we sign some papers and he adds: “You have a big car. It’s like a bus.” He probably finds it strange that two women travel without men and on top of that manage to hire the biggest available car. It’s a Ford Ranger, 4x4. My little Mazda fits in nearly 3 times honestly! But we better get used to it. This is our loyal road companion for the next 3 weeks. Lesley is brave enough to take the first driving shift. But before we can leave the airport, the guy asks us to follow him to a nearby little center where they offer some education about driving in Namibia. There’s an obligatory video showing the dangers of being on the (gravel) roads in Namibia. Yes, speed kills, as we see on photos of car accidents. What a way to be welcomed ☺ We’re getting a tiny bit worried. But the guy says: “you’ll be fine!” Just ... don’t ... speed. And oh yes, drive on the left side of the road! That’s a lot to take in after a sleepless night on a plane. A bit shaky we hit the road. Lesley drives and I’m the navigator. Left, left, left, is my main advise. It’s about a 45 minute drive to the city of Windhoek where we’ll stay in a B&B before we really hit the road.
We don’t have a GPS, but the paper roadmap brings us exactly where we need to be: The Elegant Guesthouse, just outside the center in a quiet street. We are immediately welcomed by the lady at reception, offering us a cold drink, tips on visiting Windhoek, breakfast times, ... We immediately notice she’s very careful about safety guidelines in town. “During the day you should be fine in the main streets. But don’t take your big camera with you.” The guesthouse has a deal with a taxi driver, so we can call him later when we want to go into town. But first we put our bags in the room and take a moment to sit in the sunshine in the garden and take it all in. Our holiday begins. Three weeks on the road lie ahead of us! A fantastic feeling. After a simple brunch/lunch the taxi picks us up and brings us to perhaps Windhoek’s most ‘famous’ landmark: the Christus Kirche. For us Europeans a small and modest church. A man sits on the doorstep. Tries to sell us a key hanger. “Please, there is a lot of unemployment,” he tries to convince us. But I don’t even have a Namibian dollar in my pocket. He does have a top sales argument: “If you buy this one from me now, others will leave you alone!”. Hadn’t heard that one before. But still, he’s not too obtrusive and we manage to politely say goodbye.
We cross the street over to the Tintenpalast or Ink Palace, the Parliament building, surrounded by large gardens. Walking up the steps to the entrance we gaze at the Windhoek skyline. Though ‘skyline’ might be an overrated term. Namibia’s capital isn’t really what we came for. It doesn’t even feel like a real African city. The main street Independance Avenue is busy. We manage to get money from a cash machine and visit a giant super market to get some basic supplies. We also learn that the local fast food chain is called – appropiately – ‘The Hungry Lion”. After a quick lunch – some place else than the hungry lion though - we wait for our taxi driver again. But it’s African time, so 2 pm becomes nearly 2.30 pm. What matters is that we are in a trusted cab and back in the guesthouse we start to feel the consequences of a sleepless night. Time for a siesta.
Late afternoon we meet Elisabetta, an Italian women who works for Wild Africa Travel and comes to give us some last info before we really hit the road. Peculiar woman! Oh, how she loves the Belgians. They show so much interest and the women dress really nice!! For about 1,5 hour she keeps us entertained. What to do if a Namibian family stands in the middle of the road in a remote area? In any case, no hitchhiking! And what about the roadblocks? “Don’t be scared if the police officer asks you funny questions. When you’re in a remote area he probably just wants to make conversation because he hasn’t seen anyone in a long time.” She insists we message her every evening so she knows we are safe at destination. “You have to be at destination before dark! If you’re not there we start a search!” It’s a lot of info to take in, but we’re ready for the adventure to begin. We end our first day with dinner at Joe’s beerhouse, a very popular spot apparantly. Lesley tries a variety of meat (yes, even crocodile!). I stick to fish. Back at the guesthouse the security guy is on duty for the night shift at reception. It’s a young boy really. He tells us he goes to school during the day and then works at night. We offer him the fresh fruit from our room – a tip Elisabetta gave us “they will never ask for it, but a red apple is really appreciated.”