06 Dec Windhoek, Namibia – my first time to the Southern Hemisphere
Here I am blogging from the rooftop of the Hilton in Windhoek, Namibia. I feel very spoiled, maybe I am! I just watched the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my entire life over this small city. There was a tremendous rain storm this afternoon, and after the storm passed I came outside to smell the wet, sandy air.
On my flight down here I realized this is my first time in the Southern Hemisphere. I have been to a lot of places, but it dawned on me I have never been below the equator. I took the direct Air Namibia overnight flight from Frankfurt. I was really sad to leave Frankfurt, Germany just feels like home and this time I didn’t want to leave.
At any rate, I boarded the plane and as per usual I had no idea how to actually say the name of the capital city I was visitng – I waited for the pilot to say it – it is pronounced Vinthuuk. I was saying it in my American accent like WINDHOCK. Once I heard it properly said, I put my headphones on, eye mask down, hoodie over my head and I went into a self induced coma for about seven hours. When I woke up I asked for dinner and the flight attendant told me they were getting ready to serve breakfast, perfect.
When I arrived at the airport, I think I knew what to expect based on what my sister had told me about landing in Tanzania. It is just one runway, everyone walks off the plane, no gangway, no waiting in lines. You file into the one tiny building with the streams of Europeans where your body is scanned for signs fever and you confirm if you have been in Liberia or Sierra Leon. There were three planes scattered on the runway, and they look just massive in comparison to this little paved land they are on.
The taxi driver waiting for me picked me up and we started driving to the city, the Hosea Kutako International Airport is about 20 miles to the city. It was early morning, about 7:30am, sun beating down, and it seemed like we were actually on a road trip through the bush. I loved it immediately, nicely paved highways with little human presence. I was looking out the window admiring how the landscape looked similar to Arizona when suddenly out of nowhere I saw several black baboons playing on the side of the highway.
I literally started screaming ‘omg there are monkeys!!’ Actually, screaming. I think the taxi driver thought I was having a seizure because he was suddenly stunned and said ‘Madam what is it?’ and I just kept repeating ‘omg look at all of these monkeys, we have to turn around, I want to go back to see them.’ He laughed a bit and said ‘don’t worry there will be more’. No way, he was lying, baboons don’t just chill around the highway like rabbits or prairie dogs. Sure enough though, the whole ride we came across them.
I was seriously loosing my shit over this sight, all logic fled my mind and I started asking things like ‘Can we stop and pet them? Can we feed them? Do they bite?’ Nothing bad has ever happened to a human holding a feral monkey…. He just laughed and asked if I had never seen a monkey and I said I had but only in the zoo, not in the wild. He was polite and slowed down at each troop that we approached so I could roll down the window and stare at them.
So why Namibia? Most people don’t even know where this place is on a map. Well the truth is, I cheated! I wanted to see Africa but I didn’t feel comfortable doing it alone, so I did my research and found that Namibia is the most developed, and safest country in Africa. It is also the second least populated country in the world behind Mongolia, excellent, I am not a people person so few people sounded great. It had been previously colonized by Germany so people speak German, the street signs are in German, and it has an overall European feeling. Lastly, Angelina Jolie had her baby here, an obvious duh.
Day one in Africa and I decided to take a little stroll around this city and check it out for myself. I stopped by concierge to ask if there was a walking tour of the city and he was like sure just walk up the street to the main center. Then I clarified myself, well is there a tour I can sign up for? Like a guided walking tour? He didn’t seem to understand me. Perhaps it was the English to English language barrier I was facing. He repeated what he had said and then I realized ok, this city is just took small to have a walking tour.
Next, I asked about safety, should I be concerned about anything while being a single female traveler? Again he looked at me perplexed and suggested that I walk on the sidewalk and avoid the areas where construction was being done.
I wanted to further embarrass myself and ask for a map. He said they didn’t have a map but he pulled out this little ‘best of Windhoek’ booklet and opened to a page that had a small map. I am sure this guy thought I was completely inept and that I had no business alone in Africa. In a city of 240,000 people including the suburbs you really don’t need a map.
As I took off, I started walking around and noticed that the clouds seem to just sit still in the sky, no wind blows, and at over a mile high, the climate feels a lot like Colorado. I shortly realized I needed sunscreen like bad, my pasty white skin was reflecting in the sun. I started popping into stores asking for sunscreen, nobody had it. Finally one lady told me to check the pharmacy. Once I bought my sunscreen I was on my way! Here I was was, walking down the main drag, sunscreen and tour book in hand, when suddenly I realized I had just walked the entire city. That took all of twenty minutes. I could see my hotel from virtually anywhere in the city, the map truly was useless.
(Yes, I did bring sunscreen with me, but I brought SPF 70 for the desert safari and I was rationing it because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find more on the safari. Furthermore, based on the record setting sunburn I got in Cuba, I didn’t want to use my precious supply right off the bat.)
After my complete city walk, I came to one conclusion about this city, Windhoek is like a very hot, African Germany.
I thought sure when I set out I would be bothered, hassled, etc. Nobody hassled me, nobody asked me if I wanted to go to their uncles jewelry shop, buy a carpet, or buy an ancient stone from a lost city. Nope, nada. This was just a very relaxed, safe, comfortable city.
So that’s Windhoek. Two days is plenty, now I am off to a safari. I will leave you with a few funny things I couldn’t resist blogging about.
Ironically, Fidel Castro Street leads to the main church.
You’ll find comfort knowing your German elevators are maintained by Schindler’s Lifts
And, if you are thinking about immigrating here, all paperwork requirements are posted on the front wall of the immigration service center.