From door to door, leaving Dakar, Senegal to arriving at our apartment in Windhoek, Namibia took 35 long hours.
We flew the complete width of the African continent to Adis Ababa, Ethiopia and back again to Namibia. That was the only route available, otherwise, it was back via Europe.
We arrived in Namibia in the late afternoon and the skies were blue and the air was warm and dry. It was altogether very pleasant.
The small airport at Windhoek (the capital of Namibia) appeared very calm and clean.
As we entered the city. it showed all the makings of being German as indeed much of it was (look it up).
We had left Dakar, the capital of Senegal which is colourful, chaotic, noisy and let's face it, filthy and we had landed in this pristine clean and quiet world. It was completely alien to what we had been used to.
But as we settled in we found ourselves mesmerised by Windhoek, a leafy, calm manicured city with pristine buildings surrounded by huge walls with razor wire and what was going on? So many security cameras everywhere. Vehicles with ‘Armed response’ emblazoned on the side and containing beefy security guards sat on every street corner.
Wealth oozed from every corner.
Our rented apartment was modern and extremely western with all the mod cons we would expect from home. What was this country we had come to?
The next day after resting up, we walked a couple of Kilometers into the city and the real picture started to emerge.
We were staying in ‘Mayfair’ effectively and what we had seen was only part of the story.
The city had the usual array of fine shops, interesting architecture and an odd well-manicured park to look around. Just the sort of thing you would expect from a capital city.
But as we dug a little deeper into the suburbs, the mood changed and the emphasis was on discount supermarkets, Fast loan shops and a large number of amusement arcades, fancily called Casinos?
The reasons for the armed response guards and the high wire fences were becoming more evident.
Like a lot of Africa, Windhoek has two sides and the main difference to which side you belong to is mainly down to the colour of your skin and that is a fact and is evident throughout Namibia as we now know.
Moving on from Windhoek we headed to the coast to wait for our truck and we stayed in Namibia’s only real seaside town called Swakopmund. Another German-built town that even boasted many menus in German as well as German beer, German Sausage, German bread all being available at the local 7/11 and strangely the whole town backed out into the Namib desert and so we had the sea to our front and sand dunes top our back - very strange.
Our choice of accommodation in Swakopmund booked via Booking.com offered the usual array of Ikea style furniture, a clean kitchen to cook in etc, etc. We have done this a thousand times we know what to expect.
What Booking.com, or more to the point, the owners of the flat had failed to mention was that this brand new flat with all mod cons was situated in a gated compound, slap bang in the middle of a township.
The best way to describe our position is to use an old comedy catchphrase, of which the inference, if not the content is correct.
We were the only Gay’s in the village so to speak.
We wouldn't have been hauled up in an identity parade. That wouldn't of worked!
This was best-brought home to us when we went for a sundowner at the local hole in the wall bar just outside our compound. It was a pleasantly warm evening and we sat outside when we were approached by a guy whom we watched walk over to us from a neighbouring bar.
He introduced himself and said he owned the bar next door and that when we drank our drinks we should come and drink at his bar. He told us if we drank with him, he would look after us and he would make sure we were safe!
We drank up quickly and shuffled off back to our gated compound and only left by car thereafter.
Now the townships are controversial in every respect, but I want to point out a few facts as we see them.
They are 100% populated by Black or coloured people as far as we could see.
They are always on the outer edges of a city or town.
There are now some social housing mingled in that are at least a little more substantially built and the roads in the main towns and cities are predominantly sealed tarmac and as you arrive at the Townships they became dirt roads.
The Townships had walls surrounding them almost to hide them from the rest of the world and most interesting to me, Capitalism was evident as some of the rickety homes within the townships that are built from wooden pallets, Corrugated steel sheets and Taupaulin’s and some parts of the home structures had quite clearly sold off, or traded away to the people next door who had used the material to increase the size of their own homes.
The cost of living in Namibia is very low and as an example, for a pint of beer, we paid around a gentle £1.20ish and about the same for a glass of fine South African wine - Heaven!
Anyway, these prices gave us access to any establishment that took our fancy and it was good to see all establishments had a mix of Black and White clientele and so although the townships do exist and they do, there are opportunities for all to prosper and they do that too.
I spoke with a white Namibian guy who summed the position up like this.
Both Black and White people don’t really like each other but they tolerate each other as they realise they have to for both to prosper?
A black Namibian told me he was pleased to have a job as a handyman in a hotel full of white tourists. I asked if he minded serving a mainly white community and his answer was that he was proud to serve them as the alternative of unemployment was a lot worse.
An interesting take on a huge subject and neither statement reflect my own views.
Whilst waiting for the truck we had time to spare and we took a day out to visit the amazing sand dunes of the Namib desert and joined an organised and got to see the so-called little 5 (as opposed to the usual big 5 in Africa - Elephant, Lion etc).
Our guide drove us through the dunes and scoured the baron sand for various reptiles.
We saw a Camillion that could disguise itself by having half its body white and the other half Grey. We saw snakes that lived under the sand and learnt how to respect the desert by not walking without looking as there is life under the sand.
The highlight was when our guide dug down into the sand and found a Gecko. A young pregnant female whose beauty will stay with me for a long time.
Whilst driving through the dunes, I was reminded of watching Lawrence of Arabia when I was a kid, I imagined myself riding a camel through the dunes, having blistering skin from the intense heat and a lack of water and how I would be a hero when I finally made it back to camp ..… and then the guide called me and I got back into the Airconditioned Landrover and pulled a bottle of water from the icebox. Dream over I guess?
The dunes were enormous and although we were being taught about the right things to do to preserve the fragile lives that existed in the desert, we then got passed by a group of quad bikers who had no respect for anything in the pursuit of fun. It’s a strange world we live in, isn't it?
All these outings and visits were to pass time waiting for our truck to arrive and as the rest of the world counted the number of sleep’s to Christmas, we counted the sleep’s to our truck arriving.
We had invested in a great amount of extra security for the truck as we had been told of people having everything stolen from their vehicles whilst on the high seas.
We had also stripped the cab of radios, electronic equipment and speakers and all personal effects, we had stripped our motorbike and put it inside our truck along with everything from our external lockers.
Our hearts were in our mouths the whole time the truck was sailing but now as I write, I can say it arrived in one piece with no damage and with a myriad of countries ahead of us with no border closures we can now get on and do what we set out to do.
Today we realise how lucky we are as we do most days. Wild camping at the edge of the ocean, waves crashing in the background and just flamingo’s for the company and after writing this we are going walking along the shoreline that is deserted.
We have been here almost 24 hours and have seen no one. It's majestic.
Namibia still has a lot to show us and we are looking forward to the next chapter.