Namibia’s capital city, though barely larger than a small town by other standards (and Wollongong is pretty low standards at just 300,000 people), is a bustling and rapidly developing city full of African charm. Still dotted with German relics from its colonial past, it is an interesting blend of old and new that I’m coming to recognise as distinctly Namibian. Other than its standing as the capital, though, Windhoek is probably most known for its thriving music and art scene, which has garnered international recognition and which I am quite excited to explore, even if it is only for a day.
All the information: Windhoek
Cost: Game platters at Joe’s Beerhouse run around N$140-190 and are definitely big enough to feed two. Drinks out are in the N$20-50 range.
Getting there: Fly into Hosea Kutako International Airport, located in Windhoek. Although this is the capital city, there is not much in the way of public transport, so I’d recommend hiring a car if you do decide to fly in.
Where to stay: Camp right in the middle of Windhoek at Urbancamp for N$170 (or for N$535 in a pre-erected tent). Facilities include a lively bar, pool, clean showers/toilets, and reasonable WIFI.
Top tip: Check out the city’s nightlife, which is a great opportunity to mingle with some of the locals and see a different side of Namibia. Windhoek is quite safe, but it’s still a good idea to go in a group.
By the next morning, we are all up and eating breakfast just after 5am, ready for an early start to what, at nearly 500km, will be our longest day of driving on the entire trip. Thankfully, it’s nice and cool in the morning, so Cal and I sleep pretty much the entire way to the border crossing where we swiftly get our exit stamp from Botswana and then drive a short distance to the Namibian border post. Unfortunately, we find ourselves at the back of a terribly slow-moving queue, so we all make bets on what time we think we will be done, some guessing as long as 2.5 hours. By the time the wheels start moving away from the border, it is 1030am on the dot, meaning that the others will be setting up and taking down my tent at our next camp. A priceless reward for a really lucky guess.
Even with the long wait at the border, we are ahead of schedule for the day and only have another 4-ish hours in the truck before reaching Windhoek, where we will be staying in an urban campsite near the city. All awake after our border crossing, we spend the majority of the remaining drive at the back tables as a group playing rather confusing card games, more rounds of Mafia, and a word game similar to Scattergories.
As we journey west through Namibia, the scenery begins to change, and, growing closer to the city, it’s clear that this country is far more developed than where we’ve just been in Botswana. Arriving at the campsite, we have a quick powwow before rushing off to put on swimmers and hop into the pool, which is alarmingly small and not all that cold, but still offers some much-needed relief from the heat. I have a poolside glass of red wine filled halfway with ice (very necessary and not as weird as it sounds) before heading off to get ready for our dinner outing. Most of the girls are crammed onto the truck tables, straightening hair and putting on makeup for the first time in weeks, and I happily join in. It feels surprisingly good to whip on my (moderately) clean jumpsuit, brush through freshly washed hair, not have feet caked in dirt and dust, and even to wear a bit of mascara. The effect is somewhat diminished by my blinding tanginess (burn-lines), but still.
Just before 7pm, a taxi comes to retrieve us (quite unnecessarilyy, it turns out, as the restaurant can’t be more than 500m away, but whatever). We have a booking at Joe’s Beerhouse, a local favourite that serves game meat, and everyone has been deliberating all day over their order. To accompany my many cocktails, I end up splitting a mixed sosatie with Nicole that has springbok, oryx, zebra, and kudu. Some of the meats are absolutely amazing while others just taste like pork. Still, exciting to try new things! Around 9pm, a few people peel off and return back to camp, but the bulk of the group is keen to stay out, so we move to a table closer to the bar and get into a few more drinks before catching taxis to a live music venue recommended by the barman, Chopsie’s.
Despite it being a Wednesday, the bar is overflowing with people as a band plays on stage and we spend several hours on the dance floor, enjoying our night out in Namibia and standing out miserably as the only white people in the venue. Quite a few locals are curious about our presence and come over to make conversation or dance with us, so we are all smiling over our wonderful night as we make our way outside to wait for a lift back to our camp (apparently from Chopsie’s cousin). Unfortunately, the truck has been locked by the time we return, so many of us sleep in our tents without pillows and sleeping bags (craftily using a sleeping mat as a blanket or trying to fashion a pillow out of a toiletry bag). No matter the uncomfortable sleep, though— it was a great night with great people and well-worth the discomfort.