Vanda Kujbus

Friday, March 10, 2017

Windhoek - Exploring the city

Written by Vanda

Planning the day

After exchanging a few e-mails with the DRFN, we find out that we have the whole weekend to discover Windhoek. On Monday we are going to have a short briefing at the office and afterwards will be driven directly to Gobabis to get started. Sounds good, let’s explore the city!

Firstly, as I am going to work with plants after all, we decide to visit the botanical garden. It is a ca. 2 km walk from our place and it’s getting late, so better get started!

We are proper tourists, we leave the room just around noon, when the sun is the strongest, so we make sure that we put the whole bottle of sunscreen on us and we are ready to go!

Soon we realize that Anna was not lying, it is indeed a high income area, we see only huge houses and fancy cars. But what is more surprising, most of the houses have an about 2m high concrete or metal fence around with spiked wires on top, some of them even extended with electrical wires. We start wondering about saftey in Namibia.

Villa in Windhoek
Electrical fence around the house

We early discover Namibia’s hot and dry climate. After living in (in my opinion) the flattest place of the world in Copenhagen, Windhoek’s hills, especially in this pressure cooker is a bit challenging for us. We start drinking water as if there would be no tomorrow.

The botanical garden is closed. However, out of nowhere a guy pops up and tries to shout in for somebody to open the gate, which is btw the fanciest gate I have ever seen for a botanical garden. A girl shows up on the other side, and walks slooooooowly to the guard and tells him to tell us to come back after 2, because everybody is out for having lunch. She was so relaxed, it took her a good minute to make that 2m walk towards the gate. She definitely doesn’t suffer from any  work-related stress. Another reason for moving to Namibia.

Entry to the botanical garden

First steps in the city center

Parents picking up their children in their cars

Ok, so let’s discover some city while we are waiting. We pass by a school, and it’s time to pick the kids up. There were SO many cars! So many! And the type of cars... Almost all cars here are these big jeeps and pickups, which you would use in the deepest jungle to survive.

Anna told us later that these cars are used more, as not all the main roads are well built and maintained, like we are used to at home, and the smaller side roads are not meant for tiny cars. They would break down easily and you would find yourself in the middle of the desert, and if there is no network, or your phone is dead, standing with a broken car, basically you have already digged your grave.

Anyway, we walk towards the city center, which looks just like an ordinary city anywhere around the world, clean and neat, just with a lot of cars. We try to exchange some money, but they asked for passport and valid visa. Whaaat? That’s so strange... Why do they want those, is there some funny business going around „under ground”? Anyhow, it’s time to go back to the garden, hopefully they have already finished their lunch.

Windhoek city

The botanical garden

This time we are lucky, we can easily get in. We receive even a map, and the whole park reminds me to a hiking path. The tour starts in a cute little garden, which was oriented like a desert, presenting all the plants which are endemic there. A good start. The garden is on a huge space, with some cool views to the surrounding mountains and hills which is very heart-warming especially after living on Copenhagen’s flat surface for more than 2 years by now.

Desert flora in the botanical garden
View from the botanical garden

The garden itself tries to show the most common plant species found in Namibia. One common thing in all the plants, either it is a tree or a small plant, that is likely to have some very big and pointy spikes. Ouch! You gotta be careful and watch your steps otherwise you can easily hook up on one of those nasty trees!

Botanical garden view
Big cactus in the botanical garden

All in all we spend around 2 hours there because we had to move to grab some more food for the next day and walk back to our home before it gets dark. In this heat, without bikes everything takes a bit longer time to achieve.

Finishing the day

Shopping mall

In the central shopping mall we find another grocery store. The prices are somewhat similar, but at least there was a bigger selection of fruits and vegetables, so we tanked up with some goodies. We keep it simple, as we don’t spend a lot of time in Windhoek, just grab some cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, cold cuts and fruits and head back to our place.

We finish off the day with a local, „Windhoek” beer. I’m not saying good on purpose, it tasted just like any other commercial beers anywhere else, so if you would like some more special ones, I would recommend some nice South African ciders instead.

Just a side note... Take the sunscreen seriously, because sunshine is very strong, and this happens if you don’t apply it properly?!

Sunburnt stripes