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Maun to Windhoek: Crossing into Namibia in style. In a way.

Posted by daveb on September 8th, 2008

We took advice from a number of overland truck drivers and tour leaders, locals and fellow travellers about our options for getting from Maun, Botswana, to Windhoek, Namibia. Flying is the most popular way, but the tickets are about US$300 each. With four of us, chartering our own aeroplane with pilot wouldn’t be that much more expensive — actually about US$1500 (yes, we genuinely researched this option too!). There was no public bus. Hitchhiking as a group of four for nearly a thousand kilometres across a desert is a three-day endeavour for death-wishing nutters only. And then there’s the one-way hire-car option, with a one-way fee costing more, much more, that the car itself ($400).

Luckily, we discovered that a Namibian hire-car was already in the country and needed to be taken back across the border. We offered to take it back to its original depot for free, but of course the car-hire company was having none of it. Eventually we agreed a price which would work out about US$100-150 each, including fuel. And one other thing, the car was a Mercedes.

A Mercedes! Picture that. One flight aside, we’ve travelled exclusively by public bus and shabby taxi. For the next three days, driver notwithstanding, we’d be more-or-less horizontal in our own private first-class cabin. The girls picked-up the car, whilst the boys packed away the tents and the piled-up the bags ready for loading into the ample boot. Imagine our faces as the girls rolled-up in an Mercedes A-Class, roughly the same size as a shoebox. I’m sure that our mountain of baggage was taller than the car!

Anyhow, using Chris’ time-space-volume abilities, we managed to get the luggage into the rollerskate and headed off towards the next country in only slightly less comfort than we had hoped for. We had originally thought that we would make it all the way to Windhoek in one day, but as the car contract was for a minimum of three days, we took our time. Good job too, as there’s no way that we would have made the whole journey in a single day; for one, it was the first time any of us had driven in Africa (it’s different, believe me) and driving after dark is only for the experienced or foolish. (Seriously, wild animals pose a life-threatening risk on the roads and you’d be unlikely to see it at night until it’s way too late. Hit an elephant on the road and you’ll feel it much more than he will.)

The first night, we stayed at Zelda’s campsite, lodge and private game reserve, which is just 10km into Namibia from the border. It was a great choice and easily the best campsite that we’ve stayed at so far. At our individual pitch, we had running water, fire, electricity and lights! In fact, we even had a Cheetah come and pay us a visit — luckily, there was a chicken-wire fence in between our tent and the Big Cat. We took pity on the caged Porcupine who waited until twilight to further his escape back to the wild — good luck mate. Claire and I celebrated crossing the border of our fifth African country on this leg of our world trip by eating in Zelda’s restaurant. I had my first ever game steak — an Oryx (photo attached — Naomi & Ben [vegans], please forgive me!).

The second day, we stopped-off at the thermal springs at Gross Barmen. The naturally-heated indoor pool was thirty-eight degrees Celsius and it felt like stepping into a hot bath! Unfortunately the attached campsite wasn’t a patch on last night’s, although, in fairness the toilets were really clean and there was even a communal kitchen with conventional cookers with hobs!. The wind was blowing a gale, so we hid our tent under the washing-line. It was to be a poor night’s sleep — grunting and screaming animals came into the site and Claire and I pulled-up our sleeping bags to stay out of harm’s way… nothing gets the pulse racing like a wild animal six feet from your nose, separated only by a bit of thin canvas…

Before returning the car in Windhoek, we undertook our first driving safari at the Daan Viljoen Game Reserve (write-up and photos tomorrow as this post is too long already!).

Comments

Comment from Beno
Time: September 8, 2008, 9:50 am

Guys,

Never seen a photo of anyone looking so pleased to see a kettle before! Hope you had a god cuppa.

Off to the ‘Port this weekend – will have a pint for you with Dave C & Nathan (we’ll have one for Steve too…).

Keep safe chaps!

Comment from martin
Time: September 8, 2008, 1:06 pm

did you tell your new travel companions about your history with hire vehicles?

Comment from Sista
Time: September 8, 2008, 1:07 pm

I stroked a year-old Cheetah in the vets yesterday! Although I suspect mine was more friendly than yours.

(Turns out I also missing a cuddle with a wolf by minutes. I left as my vet was trying to intubate a tortoise. Animal La-la-land it is.)

xxx

Comment from daveb
Time: September 8, 2008, 4:59 pm

@Beno:

Have a great one in the Port — missing you all!

@Martian:

I wasn’t allowed to drive the Mercedes….

@Sista:

Cheetahs – beautiful aren’t they?

Comment from moneymanager
Time: September 9, 2008, 6:22 am

hi daveb
great to see that you finally got a nice car to drive ,
take care, enjoying your escapades

Comment from daveb
Time: September 13, 2008, 9:39 am

Hi moneymanager,

Great to see that you’re still travelling with us!

daveb

Comment from Charlie
Time: December 8, 2009, 5:09 pm

I think that’s a leopard you’ve taken a picture of….

Comment from Claire
Time: December 14, 2009, 10:28 pm

It wouldn’t surprise me Charlie….In our whole 3 months in Africa Dave struggled with the difference between the two!

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