Lily is to receive me and the rest of the group. I'm a little surprised when I find the sign for the tour group in other hands. Thimo collects us all and brings us to the waiting bus. There's a crack in the speaker, then Thimo says, "Good morning. According to your information, Lily should guide you on this tour of Namibia, but my name is not Lily. I am Thimo. But do not worry, only the color is different, otherwise we are good cousins. Here in Namibia we are all Namibians! "
Windhoek in the mirror
The bus leaves Hosea Kutako International Airport, named after the great pro-independence supporter, and drives us through wide, slightly hilly landscapes to the capital, Windhoek. After a break after the long night flight, Thimo takes us to the various quarters of Windhoek. Autumn comes to us well. It is not too hot and in the evening it is pleasantly cool. We came through Klein-Windhoek on the way to the city; Thimo now leads us to the memorial and cemetery "Old Location", the "Old Shipyard". This is a reminder of the first fatal clashes in connection with forced relocation of blacks to Katutura. These first efforts, also towards independence on December 10, 1959, are today honored not only by the Human Rights Day taking place at the same time, but also by the Namibian national holiday. It is a memorable moment and as a first program point we are not yet prepared for the story. At least I just miss the whole context. Only the next few days brings Thimo slowly but steadily the history chaos in my head in the right order. Maybe it's just the night flight, that I'm still a bit slow.
Our bus continues to the district Katutura. The district in the north of the city was built in the 1950s and the name means "the place we do not want to live in". In this district, all blacks and "colored people" had to live according to South African model of racial segregation under South African rule. Although they were allowed to work in the city during the day and work there, they had to return to their neighborhood in the evening. Today, the area is also called Matutura, which in the Herero >
In contrast to the Katutura, the city center is rather calm and orderly. A little too quiet for my taste. The sights are checked off quickly. More time for a city exploration we will have at the end of the tour.
In the evening I find the Old Wheelers Club in the south of the city. A cool evening beer and good food are really good after such a long day. I get in touch with German-speaking Namibians. It will be a fun evening with fun, teasing and an amusing atmosphere. It almost hurts me to leave the exquisite circle. They also give me a pack of Biltong, a dried meat snack, along the way and recommendations for the best apple pie and funny facts about Namibia.
I also find it a pity that I was in Windhoek too early. The new hall of the Old Wheelers Club is not finished yet and so I can only admire a small selection of classic cars. I would like to stay for months to marvel at the treasures of the club founded in 1986 by 26 classic car fans. But there are also other highlights from Namibia waiting for me.
From Windhoek to Sossusvlei
Almost unseen in Germany, the streets here are dozens of kilometers straight. Left and right, the roads are almost completely bounded by farmland. Fences around fences and straights are a bit reminiscent of tunnel vision when driving. The landscape changes slowly. At first it is hilly and green, later it becomes flatter and reddish brown. Our way leads us through the small town Maltahöhe towards Hammerstein.
From paved roads soon gravel roads are in amazing condition. But before we turn onto the gravel road, we stop briefly at the Tropic of Capricorn. We have reached 23.5 ° south latitude and now leave the "tropics". A short picture with the sign and it goes on. In the small town of Maltahöhe we stop at a small gas station and a corner shop. It's more of an antique collection. The owner has been here for 9 years and his wife had the idea for the store. Old typewriters, irons, sewing machines, tropical helmets and innumerable stickers decorate the interior. On the outside wall hang license plates from all eras of Namibia. It is completed by a colorful hodgepodge with old stovetops, oil lamps and old records. In between stands the owner of the "Woestynkombuis", the "desert kitchen". To the left of his counter for the actual groceries in his little shop, hangs a map of the world and a map of Germany. In front of it a glass with pins. That halves the world, can be easily seen. The cards are littered with already placed pins. A work of art by and for globetrotters.
In Hammerstein the journey ends for the day. If you feel like wild animals can come very close. From a small hill near the very popular and fully booked lodge you can observe the landscape. Flatland has become a rocky topography. Karg rise up the hills. Only a few bushes, trees and scrub adorn the area and there is a taste of the even scarier dune landscapes in the Namib-Nauklut National Park. The Atlantic Ocean is only 50 kilometers away and yet it is one of the driest deserts in the world. Even in rainy years, the river Tsauchab dies in the dunes of Sossusvlei.
Here in the Sossusvlei leads us Thimo. At sunrise we enter the park and follow the 65-kilometer asphalt road. The first dunes can be spotted in the distance. Thimo is pushing for something. The best impressions can be caught early in the morning and later in the evening, when the sun and the dunes provide a wonderful shadow play. It is also pleasantly cool.
The drive leads past the famous dune 45. It is not the 45th dune, but it is just at kilometer 45 from the park entrance. Colonies of visitors run on the grade towards the top of the dune. Its sand has seen a lot in the last 5 million years and has towered 170 meters above the rest of the level. We leave the dune on the left and continue. Several hot air balloons ride in the distance over the dune sea. But we are on the road and at the end of the road we change to 4x4 vehicles, which bring us the last kilometers to the climax, the Sossusvlei. A little inconspicuous word, but the best describes the geographical situation. While Sossus describes a sand-dying river Vlei is the name for a salt-clay pan. And that's why it's the climax.
For a better overview of the park, I climb to the "Big Daddy". Half way, I slowly realize the meaning of the alternative name "Crazy Dune", the crazy dune. While the rest of the group tries on a smaller specimen, the sweat drips off my forehead. The path to the 380 meter high dune, one of the highest dunes in the world, is stretching. As a reward, the view over a small part of the Namib offers. Its extension of more than 2000 kilometers through Angola and Namibia can only be guessed at.
I take off my shoes and let the sand work on me. My feet sink slightly in the cool ground. It feels good and the direct way down is a blessing. I literally slide down the dune. At the end of the descent I stand in the salt and clay pan of Sossusvlei. The ground is hard and feels barefoot yet pleasant. In the distance, the familiar stumps of Deadvlei protrude from the pan. They probably died 600 or 700 years ago when vital water did not occur. Due to the enormous drought, they have remained conserved to this day and are a magical attraction for visitors from all over the world.
At the end of the day, Thimo leads us to the Sesriem Canyon. It is part of the Tsauchab River, which has devoured the earth over millions of years and left a canyon up to 30 meters deep. Parts of the canyon carry water almost all year long, so settlers used to get their water here. We prefer to sip cold drinks at the nearest gas station, including the Namibian form of Almdudler, the farmdudler.
Back in Hammerstein we fall over the buffet. The journey through Namibia has just begun and we are thinking only about food and our next days. After today's highlight in the Sossusvlei we are curious what will probably offer us Swakopmund and a few days later the Etosha National Park. But for today, first a drink at the bar!
Many thanks to Gebeco for the invitation.