Saturday July 23rd
Waking up was easy this morning……..there was so much noise and activity around the Sesreim camp but it was early. Poking our heads out of the tents we could see the line of lights sitting in readiness for the gates to the park to open. I’m guessing many were heading towards Dune 45 to view the sunrise. Apart from this earlier than normal start to the day it was groundhog day with our tour leader Andy kicking the good old T25 off at 06.30am. As we were camped close to the park gates there were a few stares from vehicles heading in watching us running on the spot and shadow boxing.
With the morning torture session over it was time for breakfast and the packing away of gear. We rolled up our tents for the last time and stored them in the truck. After finishing the breakfast dishes flapping we packed away the kitchen for the final time and took a group photo on the truck before heading out of camp around 08.30am. We had a 300km drive ahead of us to Windhoek which would take us back to Solitaire before heading inland.
The day like every other one we had was blue sky, sun and once the morning chill burnt off comfortable as the mercury headed towards the mid twenties again. Everything secured we headed off back towards Solitaire where we would turn right, head inland for a distance before joining the main road which would take us into the capital where we would have our final night of the tour as a group (we had extended for an extra night with our flight being at 6.30am on Monday morning..but that’s another story).
Some say the shortest distance between two points is a short cut and TK our driver was in possession of said shortcut knowledge however most say the longest distance between two points is a shortcut and it was around an hour and 80km later after bypassing Solitaire that there was a realization we were headed south instead of north. Those who had data and a signal for their phones (not many of us) soon conjured up a road via google maps we could turn onto that would take us to connect with a road that would get us heading in the right direction…another shortcut of sorts. This shortcut took us onto what seemed to be a farm access track which went past a property then narrowed and got rougher before coming to halt at a fence. The road may have existed on paper but reality was slightly removed. Another U turn made and the backtracking began. It wasn’t as though we were on a deadline today so having the T.I.A attitude we sat back and tried to enjoy our last travel over the graveled roads.
The mood on-board was a little quieter I guess with everyone in reflection mode as the km’s ticked over. Even the kids were subdued…….which for our lot was something different. Our late morning arrival in Windhoek turned into an afternoon arrival. We had arrived back in civilization again….. it was the biggest settlement we had been in since we had left Jo’burg some three weeks prior………and it was the home of the jersey sponsor of the Namibian Rugby Team and our staple beverage of recent times…Windhoek Lager.
Windhoek is located in central Namibia in the Khomas Highland plateau area, at around 1,700 m above sea level and almost exactly at the country’s geographical centre. The population of Windhoek is around 400 thousand. It’s the social, economic, political, and cultural centre of the country. Nearly every Namibian national enterprise, governmental body, educational and cultural institution is headquartered here.
A brief lesson for you history buffs……. (courtesy of City of Windhoek website)
The first recorded settlements were established because of the springs in the area. In about 1849, the Oorlam Captain, Jan Jonker Afrikaner, settled in at the strongest spring in the present Klein Windhoek. At the time, the place was called “/Ai-//Gams” (Fire Water) by the Namas, and “Otjomuise” (Place of Steam) by the Hereros, both names being references to the hot springs.
Historians differ on how Windhoek got its name. Some believe that Afrikaner named Windhoek after the Winterhoek Mountains near Tulbagh in South Africa, where Afrikaner’s ancestors had lived.
In those days Windhoek was the point of contact between the warring southern Namas, led by Jonker Afrikaner, and the Hereros to the north.
In Windhoek, Afrikaner built a stone church for 500 people, which was also used as a school. Two Rhenish missionaries, Hugo Hahn and Heinrich Kleinschmidt, started working there in the 1840s; they were later succeeded by two Wesleyan missionaries. Gardens were laid out, and for a while Windhoek prospered, but wars destroyed everything.
After a long absence, Hahn visited Windhoek again in 1873 and was dismayed to see that nothing had remained of the former prosperity. In June 1885, a Swiss botanist found only jackals and startled guinea-fowl amongst neglected fruit trees.
Britain annexed Walvis Bay in 1878 and subsequently incorporated it into the Cape of Good Hope, although it was not interested in extending its influence to the interior. Through German colonial expansion, land was acquired by merchants in Luderitzbucht. This was followed by the declaration of the South West Africa territory as a German protectorate in 1884. The German colony came into being with the determination of its borders in 1890. Germany sent a protective corps (the “Schutztruppe”) under Major Curt von Francois to maintain order; the garrison was stationed at Windhoek, where it was strategically situated as a buffer between the Namas and Hereros, while the twelve strong springs provided water for the cultivation of food.
The present Windhoek was founded on 18 October 1890 when Von Francois laid the foundation stone of the fort, which is known as the Alte Feste (Old Fortress).
Over the next fourteen years, Windhoek developed slowly, with only the most essential government and private buildings being erected. In Klein Windhoek, plots were allocated to settlers, who started small-scale farming with fruit, tobacco and dairy cattle.
After 1907, the town developed more rapidly, with more settlers arriving from Germany and South Africa. Businesses were erected in Kaiser Street (the present Independence Avenue), and house were built along the dominant ridge, including the three eye-catching castles.
The German colonial era came to an end during World War I, when South African troops occupied Windhoek on 12 May 1915 on behalf of Britain. For the next five years, South West Africa was administered by a military government, and development came to a standstill.
After World War II, Windhoek’s development gradually gained momentum as more money became available in the improving economic climate. Especially after 1955, large public projects were undertaken, such as the building of new schools and hospitals, the tarring of the town’s roads (this had already commenced in 1928), and the building of dams and pipelines to stabilise the water supply.
Since the mid-1980s, Windhoek has expanded consistently. Namibia’s Independence in 1990 brought considerable investment to the city centre, as well as expansion of the suburbs and a general upgrading of the infrastructure.
Arriving at our accommodation the appropriately named Roof Of Africa hotel http://www.roofofafrica.com ( ironically owned and run by a Malaysian lady Terri who we got on very well with )
We devanned the truck with our gear and found our appointed rooms. Given our late arrival arrangements were made for lunch in the bar where we found the Super Rugby quarter-final involving the Crusaders about to kickoff. We had had a Zambezi on the Zambezi now we enjoyed a Windhoek in Windhoek with the locals. What a way to finish what had been a spectacular trip…..but wait there’s more…………..
That evening Andy and Michael our guides were taking us out for dinner to probably Windhoek’s most famous eating establishment – Joe’s Beerhouse which was located about 5 minutes walk from the hotel. A bit of a shrine to the drink jagermeister this place was not only full and pumping but a venue that had various bars and eating areas scattered around it’s perimeter. The time spent waiting on the food was filled with banter and conversation from a group of “like minded” people who had enjoyed each others company(well there were no major disagreements) through some of the most beautiful and inhospitable places Namibia had to offer. A great way to end the evening and the trip. One family was leaving early the next morning, Andy and Charles our Cook were flying to Kenya the next morning to start another family overland that day, Michael was flying to somewhere in Southern Africa to also start another tour and TK was leaving around 6am to drive the truck to Lusaka in Zambia ( a journey of around 2000km & 2-3 days ).
As for us we were hanging around for another 24 hours to get our heads straight, sort out what we were leaving behind and enjoy a last day in Africa (even if we didn’t do much except eat and drink)
4am Monday morning 25th July saw us on the way to Windhoek International airport which is located some 40km out of the city to get checked in and prepare for our 06.30am flight to Jo’burg. In less than a week we would be back in Queenstown and life in the bubble but first we had a few days stopover in KL staying again with the Baker and Kylie (thanks guys) to tie up a few loose ends.
Departure at Windhoek International was a throwback to Queenstown in that you had to walk to the aircraft………that was parked about 300metres away on the runway. It was cold and they had issued two boarding passes for BB and nothing for me so it took some time to sort that (BB was long gone down the runway to the plane).
And so as we took off and climbed with the sun rising we bade farewell to Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe vowing that we would be returning. (already looking at plans for this).
This concludes this part of our adventure…………… We’ve still got more adventure stories to come. So watch this space every Tuesday.