Vanda Kujbus

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Windhoek reloaded! - Katutura market

Written by Vanda

Which is the perfect tent for Namibia?

Yesss! We survived speeding up till Windhoek in one piece!

We roll in to the mall where we saw a tent online, which seemed not to collapse on us at the first breeze. We say good bye to our driver, Speedy, and enter the Grove Mall. It looks just like any other mall in the world both by looks and pricewise.

Grove mall Grove mall view

After wasting valuable time on choosing the perfect tent, we are still struggling whether we should get a better quality tent or a religious one, where we can only pray for good weather so that we wouldn’t wake up blown away and drained completely through. We are still in the rainy season after all. The sales assistant’s opinion is, that the rain is almost gone and our greed convinces us to buy the worse one. We have seen the rain only a few times, after all, and it never has rained for longer than a few hours. It should do the job.

When we take over our plot in Cardboard Box Backpackers Hostel, which I wrote more about here. The sky is already gloomy and turns only darker later on. Of course....  Wouldn’t be me. We don’t have much time to check the place out, but they have the 2 most important things: WARM water and a locker for valuables. I couldn’t even wish for more! And they say it’s impossible to make a woman happy... Sure...!

cardboard box campsite

Ok, now let’s find a taxi to Katutura. The closest taxi station is the same place where we got surrounded by those drivers, but this time, equipped with confidence we just need to find somebody who wouldn’t rip us off.

Katutura market

If not hearing Belinda’s warning words echoing in my head, Katutura’s marketplace would look like just a crowded quarter of a suburb for people to be together, have fun and eat something nice. However, after keep hearing stories of bad things happening in Namibia, especially in Windhoek, the same city which was neat and modern seems like a dense jungle with life-threathening danger watching us from afar in the darkness. We need to find Ella, but for around 5 minutes we wander around alone while texting each other where to meet. Now I cannot get rid of the feeling that someone is watching and just waiting for the perfect moment to „strike”.

But then we meet Ella and her cousins. They are lively, laughing and obviously having a good time. All my fear evaporates to thin air and I can only think about... Really? That’s what I was so scared of? It’s gonna be fine, silly me...! Although it’s better safe than sorry, I keep an eye on my phone all the time and holding it firmly if I want to take a picture.

katutura market

We start at the grilling place called „kapana”. Almost like Copacabana, but without a beach. Here vendors grill freshly cut meat every day. Sounds delicious right? Selling kapana is part of the market and is very similar to those tiny food stalls what we have on the Christmas markets or on bigger events. However, whereas the origin of those chritsmas market foods are hidden behind beneficial mist, here you can see where the meat is coming from – no lies, no secrets. Whether is it a good thing or a bad thing, I let you to decide based on the picture.


Ella and the girls tell that not all the guys are giving you good meat, so you have to know „your guy”, from whom you are buying all the time. It’s not only good, they say, but also very cheap. Of course, since they don’t spend extras on unnecessary things as fridge, and of course, a receipt, costs can be reduced. She says it’s an accepted custom to try one piece directly from the grill, and if you like it, then you buy it. Now, of course, there are many smart people in here too, who see the potential in walking just through all the stalls not buying anything, yet not being hungry anymore. I keep telling, people are so intelligent and creative in here, they would boost up Europe’s economy in seconds, if they had a chance.

Ella also invites me to try a piece from the grill from „her guy”.  It would go against all the warnings of family members, teachers and common sense in general to do so, but I manage to repeat enough times in my head that „it’s cooked, it shouldn’t be bad” until I try it, while trying not to think about how long that meat was kept without refrigerating nor when was the last time that the guy washed his hands, and especially where have those hands had been before. I know I shouldn’t expect to collapse instantly if something would be wrong with the food, but I have an intuition that it’s gonna be fine, so we buy a tiny boxful of meat.

kapana front

Looking for mopane worms

The market is divided between the kapana, some buffet-like "department", some food stuffs like flour, oil, dried fruits and spinach, and vendors, who sell non-food products like baskets, tissues etc...

While we stroll around, Ella shows us something very funny: a tiny bunch of wooden sticks. While I wonder who would ever pay for something what one can just break off from any tree, Ella enlightens us that they are not just any branches! They are traditional toothbrushes! You just need to put some also natural cleaning agent and you are good to scrape off all the leftovers from the day. I'm a bit happy that I was born in a world with our "traditional" toothbrushes!

traditional toothbruses

Finally we find the worms! They take up around 1/4 – 1/3 of the market, and most of them are ladies and sell them in huge baskets. They offer the worms relatively cheaply, at least for us it feels cheap. Their measuring is quite unique: 40 NAD (880 HUF/ 2,8 EUR) for a whole standard size can, 10 NAD (220 HUF/0,7 EUR) for a small scoop of the top of the can. Not that bad, I think.

small and big mopane portions
katutura goodies
mopane worms 2

We buy some dried worms, and some boiled ones from the buffet. Depending from which side you are looking at them, they resemble a super small coiled up penis, but again, I let you decide what do they look like. They don’t particularly look apetizing at first sight, but we are adventurous! At least they won’t crawl around and if I survive the day without spending too much time in the bathroom, I will know the quality was good. They surprisingly don't taste disgusting, just oppositely, they have a funny gummy-like texture, which, I take the risk, tastes even delicious, thanks to the salt and chili flakes. Their only flaw is that a particle in them is gives you a feeling as if you would chew on sand, very crunchy, but if you spend a lot of time around sand, you wouldn't even notice it after some time - it will follow you no matter where you go to.

cooked mopane worms

We also have a quick chat with the ladies with Ella's assistance (special thanks for you, Ella!). I ask where do they get the worms from, are they also buyers or are they collectors themselves, are the worms popular among people, and some other thesis research related questions. It turns out that the worms are coming from as far places as Zambia, so this information instantly wings a flag that there is a market waiting for the products of „my” little research site. One lady speaks good English, but when I ask how good are the worms selling, she says „Aw, they are like the weather. sometimes they are sold a great deal, sometimes they rot on me.” which is interesting, as just 5 minutes after the lady at the buffet claims that the worms are her best selling product. Maybe not only „kapana guys” but also „mopane ladies” exist, and she is not that many people’s „lady” yet. Even I have my „hairdresser girl”, and seem to have my „taxi guy” as well whom I stick to, so there might be truth in it.

Having a session

After the long walk it's time to enjoy our well deserved kapanas!

In the meantime it starts raining, so we seek a shelter where we could eat our lunch without getting wet. The girls take us to a pub with a huge terrace and more importantly, a roof, where already a lot of people are sitting like herrings in a can, drinking and having fun. The girls explain that it is very popular to just hang out here on Sundays and chill and enjoy some drinks. They would call it as „sessions”, since Sundays are also church days, and drinking a few beers might help you to get closer to God, so if you are going out on a Sunday session, everybody knows what you are up to. If only we had some similar sessions too but for now I have to settle with my working and schooling sessions.

We are also having our session and a good time for several hours, but the rain not only continues, but starts to fall heavier and heavier, cooling the temperature down to a level where it’s not nice anymore to sit in a T-shirt so we decide to leave slowly. And why would I even have warm clothes? It’s Africa after all, it should always be 40+ °C, shouldn’t it? And the tent! Oh the tent! Which is going to do the job as the rainy season is basically over! Thanks Mr. Salesman, you were very helpful...