Entry #5, Swakopmund, continued:
Leslie needed to mark papers, so we walked to the Crystal Gallery, where huge samples of mined tourmaline and such were on display; resisted the urge to spend money in the gem store, but bought a few souvenirs in the gift shop. From there we headed for “The Mole,” a spot featured in the guide book which didn’t pan out to be much, but we were able to catch close sight of the Atlantic Ocean “on the other side.”
The three of us drove to Walvis Bay for lunch. Parasailers were preparing to launch from the desert dunes. There was a police stop (probably the 7th or 8th on our trip; they are common but largely benign), only to discover that Leslie (our driver for this leg) had forgotten her ID! We prepared for “big trouble,” (whatever that might be in this mostly happy-go-lucky country), or at least the need to change drivers, but in the end the soldier’s response was the typical Namibian, “…o-kay…….” Lunch was at The Raft, which poked out over the Bay. The oysters, we all agreed, WERE TO DIE FOR. We dedicated that dish to my dad, oyster lover extraordinaire, and enjoyed a visually beautiful and gastronomically tasteful lunch of salads and monkfish. I drove back; Peter and I continued shopping; I helped Leslie mark papers. Dinner at The Tug (yes, we did a lot of eating on this trip; the food was wonderful just about everywhere); we finished the marking; tried to decide if/when we would be able to explore any more of the Atlantic coast, but were deferred by road conditions. We were all thinking about how close we were getting to the end of this adventurous journey, with only Windhoek left for touring.
Saturday, 3 December:
We checked out of our bungalow, dropped off Leslie’s laundry, and ate breakfast at the Village Café. Stopped at Clicks (pharmacy), where Leslie managed to go all American on us, and turned into the right-hand lane of oncoming traffic! We sat there for a few minutes waiting for a break, evoking chuckles from the gas station employees. The laundry was ready, so we got back on the road through the desert, through the towns of Usakos, Karibib, Okahandja, to Windhoek, where we had reservations at Chameleon Backpackers, somewhat daunting by its locked gates and high security measures, but pleasantly staffed by young people and hosting plenty of PCVs and other young people. There were several restaurants on Leslie’s list of choices, so we walked to Fusion for more local delicacies. Took a cab back, however, since that walk was a little longer than we expected, to find that Chameleon’s posted “last call” was, indeed, at 9:45! No worries, we were just planning to be hospitable, didn’t really need any drinks.
During the night there was a huge thunderstorm, lots of rain (? – this is the DESERT!), but the morning cleared up promptly. We drove over to Leslie’s friend Sackie’s. A note about Sackie: he grew up in exile in Angola, received his college education at LaRoche in Pennsylvania, and is now Executive Producer of Sports at NBC (Namibian Broadcasting Corp.). He started our tour of Windhoek with the “haves,” a true example of the 1%, and finished it in the huge area known as Katutura, miles and miles of shacks and huts that house the true 99%. Very interesting sociological observations were made here, and lots of photos were taken. This “location” is referred to as “Las Vegas,” everything is available here, and is considered a “move up” from the villages and homesteads throughout the northern part of the country.
From there Leslie wanted to shop at the mall, but stores close at 1:00 on Sunday, so we missed out on that experience. Sackie has a lot of connections, one of which was a thorough car wash, so Leslie took the Tiida for some major detailing. It was a miraculous job for NAM $35, she gave them NAM $50, which works out to be about $7.50 American. Whew! Maybe the Thrifty people will be impressed with this vehicle after all! We headed for the other mall, where Leslie met her new employers from Aus, the Swieger family. They made final decisions and arrangements for her upcoming position while it rained extensively.
Sackie met us for dinner at nice (Namibian Institute of Culinary Education), where WILLIE NELSON was included in the piped-in music! Talk about contrast! Leslie dedicated our dinner to her brother, Kyle, we took pictures of more beautiful, tasty food, drank wine, and enjoyed great conversation. Leslie had to pack up AGAIN (I swear I have too many photos of our daughter packing up and leaving us), as she discovered Sackie also had connections for a combi driver who would leave in the middle of the night. She made those arrangements and left us around 3:00 a.m. It seemed impossible that our two weeks was already exhausted and we were watching her climb into the back of a pickup truck with her backpack and additional bag for a 9-hour drive back to the north, leaving us to our own devices in this foreign land.
We went back to sleep until neighbors woke us around 6:45, I with an earache that had started in Swakop. After a little breakfast, we walked a couple of blocks to the Market for our last chance at looking at local crafts (no purchases!). We did, however, find the coffee and apple crumble that Leslie suggested, and the two of us were unable to finish a single serving! We shared a few text messages to keep up with her progress through the day, contacted Sackie so he could come and get the rest of her belongings (what a sweetheart he is, taking good care of her AND storing her things while she finishes her time in Ohangwena!), and took our own driving tour of Windhoek one last time. We planned to go to the Hilton (another recommendation from Leslie) for the sunset, but more clouds and rain set in so we decided on Luigi & the Fish instead – our ONLY disappointing meal of the entire trip. At least I was able to get a couple photos of the palm trees in the surrounding skies. Decided to spend some time at the bar at Chameleon, met some young Americans hiking their way around the country/continent, and enjoyed those pleasant conversations until it was time to call it a night. Tomorrow would be a long day of travel, and we wanted to be prepared for it.
Thus ends our journey. Suffice it to say the car passed inspection with flying colors! Even the tire was not damaged, so we were not docked for that. (I say this with trepidation, as that credit card bill has not yet been received.) There were a couple of patches of monkeys along the side of the road on our way to the airport. And as I originally promised, I will NOT include our trip home, since it was nearly traumatizing in its 40-hour length. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will not be forgotten; in fact, the details are just starting to emerge on a daily basis. We thank our daughter for expanding our geographical knowledge and cultural experiences as she gets her education around the world; we are equally as grateful for the family and comforts to come home to. Me, I am grateful and elated at this grand insight. Sorry it’s so lengthy, but I hope it gives some essence of our two weeks, which included 16,000 miles of air travel and 2195 miles in the car!
[Note: Sorry I don’t have many pictures for this section! I think my camera must have run out of batteries or something. I’ll have to get more from the author herself!]