I spent many years traveling to Namibia on projects and came to really enjoy the country. It is beautiful. It is a land of contrasts with scenery that leaves one open-mouthed in wonder.
When I changed companies 5 or so years ago I stopped coming to Namibia, and I’ve missed it. Now I’m back for a short holiday. I wondered if it was going to feel different, as so often things do when one tries to recreate a feeling or experience. And I can honestly say that it feels just as good as it did 5 years ago. This country grounds me.
It takes 2 hours by plane to arrive in Windhoek. Half-way through the flight things become very turbulent as the plane encounters fluctuations created by the rising of the hot desert air which creates thermal bubbles.
Coming into Windhoek’s airport – the Hosea Kutako International Airport – for the first time can be very alarming. Especially if you’re a tourist from Europe or America. Because there is just deserted scrubland and steppes, it looks like the plane is about to land in the middle of nowhere. I have, on many occasions, witnessed the alarmed looks on tourists’ faces as the plane comes in to land, thinking that the pilot is making an emergency landing! After the turbulence of the descent, they can be excused for thinking that :-)! Relief floods their faces when they see that the plane is actually landing on tar and not on sand.
The airport is about 45 kms east of Windhoek and the drive in to the city is starkly beautiful. Immediately striking for me are the colours of the land. The gradations of colour in the mountains – greys to browns to violet and then to pink as it meets the azure of the clear sky – grounds me immediately, making me feel close to nature. In fact, wherever one is in Namibia, one is close to nature.
After spending Wednesday visiting all my old Windhoek haunts (and a shopping trip to Maerua Mall) I started the drive to Swakop on Thursday morning. I could’ve flown directly to Walvis Bay but deliberately chose to come the long way. From Windhoek to Swakopmund is a 4 hour drive, and one of my favourite road trips of all time. I have done it 5 times, most of them on my own. One can drive for 20 kms without meeting another car. It is a time for thinking and reflection. I drove most of the way listening Linkin Park’s Living Things playing rather loudly, lost in my thoughts.
I will always remember the first time I drove to Swakop in 2005. It was in a Toyota Condor, a huge vehicle for one person but that’s all Avis had. I remember nervously looking at the petrol gauge every 10 minutes or so because it moved very fast DOWN towards EMPTY. I left Windhoek at noon on a Friday and wanted to get in before sunset. I was naturally nervous about running out of petrol in the middle of nowhere so I played it safe and topped up at each of the only 2 small towns on the way – Usakos and Karibib. If I ran out of petrol I’d be spending the night in the car. I made it in just as the sun was setting and it was spectacular. Some of my best sunset photos have been taken in Swakopmund.
This time I am visiting a dear friend who lives there. Today, it is windy and cool outside, the sky is clear. Yesterday evening we went for a walk to the beach and back. This morning we’ve been for coffee and shopping for the braai tonight. Despite having been warned, I came totally unprepared for the chill. My friend says that winters are warm in Swakopmund and springs are cold.
It’s good to be back. It will not be the last time. In fact, I may even move here one day :-)! Now, where’s that property section of the paper…