Windhoek to Jo'burg

Wed, 30 Jul 2008 09:19:33 +0000

Windhoek Index Johannesburg Day 1

The flight was only going to leave at 2:00, which of course means that the entire day is still going to revolve around this flight. But getting up reasonably early, I still had time to walk into town to get some lunch and book that hostel bed I needed.

Windhoek is a lot more inviting at 9:00 in the morning than 5:00 in the evening. I found a nice call centre which was happy to let me make a phone call to Johannesburg for 50c or so, and I booked my bed for tonight. I posted my postcard, and had some nice scrambled eggs on toast with bacon from a cafe. All very easy and civilised.

I walked back to the hostel and organised a taxi for 11:00, early so that I can get a window seat when I check in. I was quoted a cost of 240 Namibian dollars for that, which is a lot. But there's no public transport here, so I didn't have much choice. I settled in to wait, and recharge my Nokia a little. This is one of the dreaded hostels where there's no powerpoint in the dorms, so I'm having to grab scraps of power where I can

When the taxi arrived, he then told me the price was 300 dollars. I really felt like arguing, but I didn't want to be delayed while I tried to find a different taxi. So I just accepted it. As it turns out, that's not such an unreasonable price - the airport is more than 40km away from Windhoek! Why on earth they felt the need to build the airport in the middle of nowhere when Windhoek is such a small town I have no idea.

The road was clear though, and we sped along at 150km/h, possibly just slightly faster than safety would suggest. There's also some bureaucracy to go through: two roadblocks. The first of these went through a big palaver of checking the driver's documentation. It seems you need a special permit to be allowed to drive tourists to the airport, and although my driver did have such a thing, the guard was intent on making life as difficult as possible. That's no way to build your tourism industry, people.

I did get my window seat for the plane, because I was just second in the queue. First was a retired Afrikaans lady from Swakopmund, and we got to chatting. Apparently Swakopmund has an even more German flavour than Windhoek. A pity I missed it.

We were talking about the big bag sealing machine nearby, and eventually the lady's paranoia got the better of her and she went off to have her suitcase sealed in plastic for the journey. She explained that she's heard lots of horror stories of airport staff stealing from people's bags. I can't really understand this: bags get lost entirely so often, you should keep valuables with you anyway. And she had an only slightly smaller carry-on bag with her for just such a purpose. But as the electric fences in Windhoek testify, paranoia about crime is a way of life in this part of the world.

The flight was delayed for about an hour anyway, so I was left hanging around the airport eating and drinking to pass the time. Tiny airport, of course, not a lot to do. The unintelligible announcement of the delay was followed up ba a bloke actually coming around to tell us all personally, which was very kind.

Eventually we boarded and took off. There was an excellent view out the window of some pretty odd rock formations around Windhoek. The landscape is mainly flat, but there are weird isolated scarps just sticking out of the plain.

Sometimes these are hugely long and straight, making me wonder if they were man-made dikes. They're too big for that though.

It was getting dark when we landed in Johannesburg, and I was treated to an aerial view of a large, bright city for the first time in a whilw. Some darker patches had the distinct flickering lights of open fires though. Presumably these are the townships.

I made a phone call to the hostel and they arranged for someone to come and pick me up. This turned out to be the manager of the hostel, whose driver was off sick. He gave a running commentary about the various suburbs we passed. Apparently I'm supposed to be impressed that I've now driven through Alexandria at night. I realised that I have no idea of what's in Johannesburg at all. I'm really here only so that I can get out to Botswana and Mozambique. But I'm sure I'll find something fun to do while I'm here.

Windhoek Index Johannesburg Day 1