Getting to Namibia
So I had to get from Bocas to Namibia. And I’m on a budget. So I’m not renting a private jet for this transatlantic crossing. Bummer. That means long flights, long layovers. All of that with large people spilling over into my seat, screaming infants, ridiculous climate controls, and BO. Oh – and airport security. Sweet.
I love flying (as a mode of travel) because it’s fast. I hate flying for all other reasons. Enough said.
Here’s how this all came to be:
- Get the boat ready to leave (easier written than done)
- Pay the marina (ouch)
- Flight from Bocas to Panama City
- Overnight at a hotel in Panama City. Booked on LMT, so I didn’t know it was the infamous Wyndam (think hooker-central)
- Fly from PTY to MIA. Flight delayed, book another connecting flight.
- Fly from MIA to London (a looooong flight). Note to self: London Heathrow is a zoo, the animals are pasty-white folks and their children
- Long layover in London. Kick feet up, take shoes off, get my Netflix on. Computer dies and I realize I need a converter to charge everything… What a dummy.
- Fly from London to Johannesburg. Godawful long, screaming infants (plural) next to me. Get through security, realize wallet isn’t in my pocket. No big deal, it just has 90% of my cash and three of four credit cards in it. Good news: I have a stash of cash and a spare card in a different spot. I’ll probably survive.
- Finally find someone to talk to about lost wallet. Inform them of said wallet misplaced by said numbskull. Jaco and Cristelle (our hosts) find me, I tell them the wallet-news. They suggest we drink coffee. I agree. We drink coffee.
- Ana surprises us all by showing up when we’re done with our coffee. This leads us to buy a bottle of wine (early in the morning), much to the waiter’s surprise. Which brings back the memories of sailing in Cuba where our coffee mugs were often replaced by cups containing some (alcoholic) treat. The wine (not the cheapest and excellent) costs $6 for the bottle. In an airport. Good God, I’m in love.
- We take separate flights from Johannesburg to Windhoek, Namibia. While boarding my plane, a girl from Virgin Atlantic smiles and says: “I’ve been looking for a guy with a beard and long blonde hair. I guess that’s you. Nathan Niehuus?” She was smiling and didn’t appear to be law-enforcement, so I acknowledged. She handed me my wallet (with all my cash/cards in it). I gave her a $20 bill. She had no idea how much money that was – neither did I (they use the Rand, not the dollar). The only thing I knew was how much a bottle of wine cost… I told her it was about 5 bottles of decent wine. We were both very happy.
- I arrive first in Windhoek, I get a taxi and head to the Puccini Guest House (Jaco and Cristelle are part owners) where I had a room waiting. On the way I see baboons on the side of the road and it sinks in: Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Cool.
Home-ish. At last.
That night we had a meal at a Soccer Club with Jaco and Cristelle’s friends. Which is kind of a pub, with a strong leaning toward (you guessed it) – Soccer! I had a (1 pound) T-Bone and fries and a salad and we spilt many a bottle of wine around the table. All-in it cost me a bit over $10 at the end of the night. Wonderful. And I will say this: Namibians know their meats. Their steak competes favorably with our steak in Texas.
The next day we wake up early, which is not my specialty. We are busy – provisioning for our upcoming trips to the bush. Over the next week we’re doing a bit of camping, seeing the countryside, looking for weird (and tasty) animals.
We provision. Per usual, the bigger decisions were about what wines to bring along. I love these kinds of tough decisions. We decided well. Meat and veg and everything else. Biltong, which is like our jerky back home (sometimes better). They eat it like candy here. Really they eat it much, much more than candy.
Then we drive to Outju, where some of Cristelle’s family lives. There we have are introduced all-around and we are treated like family. We’re given a place to stay with Cristelle’s family and eat at their bakery. Life is good. That night we have a big cookout with Cristelle’s family, where we are introduced to her father and mother. Her father is a retired conservation expert, a biologist. He has great stories, has lived a fascinating life and he likes white wine. We had great wines and smoked a couple good cigars and ate fine meats. Africa is a tough country.
For the next three weeks: the running joke is that pork and chicken (white meats) are counted as vegetables in Namibia. It’s only funny because it’s true.
We make it back to our beds tired and full and a little drunk. And we are happy.