My Namibian Adventure: A guest Blog by Michael Mogamisi

The first time I travelled to Namibia, I had been quite young – only 12 years old. Back then, my experience had been for the most part through the eyes of the adults around me; through the influence of their tastes. But still, I remember how much I had been particularly enchanted by the ocean; that great and mighty expanse of water that albeit pleasant to see, terrified me to death. I do vividly remember being in awe of its massive waves, that crushed with such heaviness at the shore. Yes it is still fresh in my mind, even the feel of the cold stinging waters that chilled me to the very core. My mind still evokes memories of when I had sat at the beach and admired the brave folk who were ever so fearlessly surfing the waves. And that is almost just about it.

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Of course it cannot go without saying my uncle had made a huge impression on me: I can never forget how much my uncle had looked forward to experiencing the sun set. He had rubbed that off on all of us. Yes indeed, I can still remember how I had excitedly watched him point out at the horizon, to the point where the sun touches the sea, while explaining – rhetorically of course. That day, I learnt that the horizon is indefinite blah blah, and that it can never be touched or reached. That; although we can see it – what we see is basically the end of our line of vision and that, no matter how much one may try to approach the horizon, it can never be reached, because in essence, it does not exist.

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My brain like a porous sponge had tried to absorb as much as it could as he went on and on to explain many things about the earth; its round shape; its apparent flatness to the eye; its separation from the sky and how the two never meet even though they sometimes seem to meet. He had gushed on how beautiful it was to view the horizon at sea, without bushes or buildings in the way of one’s vision. After that lesson we had all stood still and gazed out at the sea, as the sun sunk into the waters. That beautiful slow dipping and sliding motion of the sun as it sets at sea!

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The following day I had woken up to a mighty hiss and feeling cold to the bone. The weather had completely changed; the sea was angry, like very angry. We could all hear its hiss from where we abode, and we were told (the children) not to dare go anywhere near. All we could hear was its mighty waves slap and crush at the shore, as it sent out a ghastly cold breeze that bit into our bodies. I had been shocked and extremely disappointed by the sudden change.  Even worse, it was decided (by the adults), that the trip was to be cut short. I was devastated.

On our way back I remember noting down all the names of the villages we drove through until my uncle had asked to find out what I was writing, only to be dismayed, for he had thought I had been calculating the distance we had travelled or doing something more clever……! “Sigh..!”

Fast forward 16 years later, and I sought to revive my memories. This time, having been invited by a friend to tug along.  We had planned to leave Kanye, my home town, around 0500, strategically aiming to avoid traffic. However, we ran half an hour behind time – my fault – leaving around 0530. We then drove for about 3 hours, covering roughly 300 kilometres, until we reached a village called Kang where we had hoped to top up our fuel, only to be told, “there is no petrol!”  Village things..! Not that we needed fuel that desperately though.

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Fortunately, the next service point, in Namibian lingo – because in Botswana we refer to petrol stations as filling stations – had petrol. While there, we warmed our bowels with a nicely brewed cuppa tea, served at the service station.

We then continued on to cover another three hundred or more kilometres. Along the way, we enjoyed a view of wild ostriches. There were plenty of them in pairs and some grazing solely but never in groups of more than three – I wonder, if it was just coincidental or whether there is a logic to it…

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The birds were so beautiful; some at the sound of approaching vehicles would crane out their long necks, and whenever we tried to slow down to take pictures, would take off lazily as if warming up for something boring. I kept wishing I could see them suddenly flap their wings wide out, curl their feet and just take off into the air.  Foolish, I know!

I also found the strength of an ostrich’s long feet somewhat fascinating. The way its legs sort of support its entire body mass while its neck runs long and away from the body. It’s amazing! Right? This makes one wonder how long it takes food to travel down its long stretch of an oesophagus and exactly how many peristaltic contractions would be involved.

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What I missed though, were the ostrich chicks; I remember that when I was younger and travelling that very same road, I had seen them trail behind the adult ostriches in an amazing straight line. Then, with the mind of a child, I had imagined them to be good students. I thought it was amazing how they could take instructions so well and order a perfect straight line.
We saw many other wild animals: guinea fowls, warthogs, impala and so on…..

The car was agreeable and naturally, we pressed down on the gas pedal, until just before we reached Charles’ Hill, we ran into the traffic police who gave us a ticket for over speeding. We were devastated but warned! Cautious not to repeat the same mistake again, we kept to under 120km/hr for the rest of the journey.
When we reached Charles’ Hill town center it was around noon. We stopped to fuel up again and had a short lunch break.  With regard to food, we had carried plenty.

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The drive to Mamuno border post from Charles Hill is less than five minutes. The crossing was quite smooth, save for one rather grumpy immigration officer who seemed to want to be pushed to do his job.  Under the impression that we were done we drove out, only to hear someone shriek, “o ya kae?!” (Where do you think you are going?!). Though tempted to break into laughter, surprised at being told off in Setswana, on Namibian soil, we held ourselves. Recalling it is still funny though. Apparently, we had to have paid for a road permit…!

By 1PM we were well on the Namibian road. The landscape isn’t much different from Botswana. It is just as dry and arid and with a hot, blazing sun.

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I could feel the sun streaming into the car through the window.  About an hour later, at Gobabis we stopped a young boy riding a bicycle to ask for directions, and he was like “askies…… Oh, that way” pointing out at the right direction. We found his tone and brief precise answer quite hilarious. So much, so that for the rest of the trip we adopted ‘askies’ (excuse me) as a new, fun word in our vocabulary. Not that the word was new to our ears, but it had been unexpected and made up for a funny memory to be kept.

In about two hours we passed through Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. The architecture appeals to the eye – The city is sort of nestled in between hills, so the roads wind in and out. Though a bit more compacted, in comparison to Gaborone, we found Windhoek far much nicer.

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Once again, we had to stop for directions and were immediately out of the city.

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Just outside the city we encountered a police road block, where an officer pulled us over to search and inspect our car et cetera et cetera. I thought he did it with such a stern bravado. I remember thinking, ‘does he even want visitors in his home country?’ The way he went about his job was just…. I wonder what he had hoped to discover.

We then resumed our journey and went through Okahandja. Just before you enter the town, there is a new settlement there. More like a squatter camp. The houses are made of corrugated iron sheets which shine in the afternoon sun. But the place is just too littered and dirty.

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We drove on, passed Karibib around 5pm, and my friend Bo-at (short for Boatametse) thought of switching on the radio. We tuned into a local station, Radio Wave which played really good music, I thought.  The radio sort of provided some good entertainment while giving us a little insight into Namibian current affairs. The female co-host claimed to have a friend whose mother in law is bothersome to the extent she invades her family space. The friend did not know what to do, she said. One listener called in and said that she as well, had once been in a similar situation. However, she then discovered her mother in law was allergic to cats and her problems got solved, she said. She decided to rear up 3 cats! We had a little chuckle to this. One has got to take the hat off for that innovative sister.
By the time we arrived in Swakopmund, night had set in and the road had gotten crowded by trucks. Some straddled the road, making it almost impossible to overtake them and some had drivers who were kind enough to keep the hard shoulder and allow other cars to pass. We continued along the coast, but in darkness, we saw nothing of the coast but the road ahead. After a good 17 hours on the road, we finally checked into our lodge at around 9 pm, at night. It was a nice place in the affluent area of Walvis Bay, run by a German couple who had apparently just received their Namibian citizenship after 10 years.

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Our cottage was very impressive. From the front door there was a little kitchenette that opened into a living room with white armed sofa chairs decorated with blue cushions, giving way to four comfortable looking single beds spread out at the corner of the room. I then quickly showered, flipped through the channels on the TV and having found nothing worth watching, reclined to bed. I slept soundly.
The next day we stepped out of the cottage into cold weather. We had of course checked the weather forecast before and all websites had predicted a partly cloudy weather. So, we had never expected to be met by full clouds!

The drive into town took less than 3 minutes. In fact we only turned two streets and we were on Sam Nujoma Avenue, a very long street. According to Bo-at, the town’s architectural style is significantly European. He happened to be more of an experienced traveller, so we used him for reference, “askies”.We also liked the fact that there was paving everywhere, which is a striking contrast to our dusty towns in Botswana.

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As Bo-at carried out the business he had come to do, we traversed the streets and did some window shopping. In one of the shops we met a really good Herero sales lady who made us feel at home at their store. She answered almost every enquiry we made on the products. At one point she asked about our nationality, to which we responded “Batswana…!” And she was like, “o yeah. That explains it. If it were some of our neighbours they would have said ‘ah my friend! Discount! My friend…!” We thought she was hilarious, especially the way she tried to mimic the different accents. With that in mind, later, when we went back to the shop, we did remember to ask for a discount! One has to learn the tricks of the industry…..

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We had lunch at a Pakistanese restaurant and enjoyed some of the most flavoursome Indian curries. I for one had some lamb; it was just so tender, and melted in my mouth. Bo-at being vegetarian, had a chick pea curry served with paratha bread. The food was so filling. The service was also great, even though it took a while for the food to arrive.

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Eventually, we wrapped up our business in town and went around the lagoon to see flamingos and the pelicans. We had hoped to also see seals but were told, for those we would need to take a boat trip and leave very early in the morning. But it was so cold and we dared not go into the sea waters, so we settled for watching the flamingos; with their long pinkish legs peeping out of the waters and their heads bowed down as if in reverence to the sun. They stood perfectly still; totally motionless. Not once did any fly off. I still don’t understand what could have been going on in their heads at that time, an evening prayer session maybe?

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Constrained by time, we then decided to go and feast our eyes on the world famous Dune 7. Bo-at had raved on about how it is the tallest sand dune in the whole wide world, so one could just imagine our excitement when we got there – the sight of the wind carrying up small billows of dust up and lining them into neat piles with sharp edges and straight sides… Beautiful!

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With Dune 7 done with and dusted, we returned to the cottage to get ready for our return.

The following day we left as early as three am and made several wrong turns in Swakopmund on the Sam Nojuma Avenue, until we had to approach an ATM security guard for directions. By dawn, we had approximately covered a good three hundred kilometers. Since we were travelling east, we could see the sun come out – a massive scarlet ball in the east. It emerged from behind the hills in all its majesty and illuminated the entire world before us.

The clock on the dashboard read 6:45, so Namibian time happens to be one hour behind, relative to Botswana time.

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One can imagine our excitement after we randomly caught Tirelo ya Setswana Namibian broadcast while flipping through the radio stations. Naturally, we squealed in excitement. It was nice to experience a little bit of home while away from home. We had never expected it. Over and above, we had tuned into the radio station just when the guest preacher was sharing on Romans 12: 1-2:

I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (king james version)

She admonished against intemperance, with more emphasis on ill dressing. She urged that, before we go anywhere else or out into the world, we should be absolutely sure that our bodies are well covered and thus, show that indeed our bodies are the temple of God. She went on to caution against letting our bodies to be hosts for the devil by failing to keep them sanctified.  Listening to that radio station was a real pleasure. More especially that it was a Friday. The music kept us both delighted, particularly because they played Setswana songs.

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On our return journey, not once, did we get stopped by anyone. Except occasionally, by cows and jackals crossing the road and sometimes antelopes strolling on the side of the road.

We arrived in Kanye around 4am the next day. I definitely look forward to more of such adventure………..until next time hasta la vista and God bless………………………!

 

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