— 10 Apr 2012 —
So I had 24 hours at my disposal. In a new city. I could go wild.
But first, I should tell you of an epic fail that happened to me. When we first arrived at the hotel yesterday, I went straight to the pamphlet stand. I had read (Lonely Planet – you failed me!!) about an 4 hour eating tour in Windhoek and I really wanted to do it. I mean, what’s not to like about the tour? You get driven around Windhoek and you get to eat at the popular local places. I think that’s awesome so I picked up the pamphlet for Gourmet Tours. Unfortunately it was in German and the reception didn’t have an english version. Fail. Good thing my new roomie was German (coincident?) so I got her to translate one for me and then I made the booking.
The morning arrived. I said my final farewells (No tears! Woo!) to the group and watched them drive off to the Namibian outback. The Gourmet Tour organiser was going to pick me up at 08h30. I was ready. Ready to take whatever challenge the Windhoek culinary scene threw at me.
So a little German man comes in his Gourmet Tours mini-van, introduces himself, takes my bag and before I knew it, I was seated in the back of the van with 3 other travellers. He then starts explaining how far it’s going to take to get to the national park, what animals we’re going to see, when and where we’re going to stop for lunch. Woah, hang on a minute. Say what?!? National park, animals… you must be mistaken. Maybe there was another Gourmet Tour van coming to pick me up. Sadly no. What the little German meant by eating tour was that we would see the animals feeding at the national park. Fail again. Getting out of the car and taking my bag, I was left on the kerb side thinking “What the feck just happened?!” I felt like a jilted bribe (not that I know what it feels like to be left at the alter or whatever). I felt like the apple core I usually toss out my window on the freeway. I needed a plan B and fast!
Plan B ended up as going on the free shuttle to the centre of town, checking in to Chameleon early, booking myself a Windhoek city and township tour, chilling by the pool and venturing out to explore the craft scene in the CBD.
Not knowing anything about Windhoek before I arrived, I discovered there was a huge emphasis on the craft scene. Every third store was selling beads, printed fabrics, clothing, paintings, you name it. And most of them were original work. Running out of money (fast), I had to settle for only 1 souvenir. A couple of cushion covers made of screen printed fabric with animal and nature motifs (I’ll post a pic when I get around to buying cushions). Finishing my tour into all things craft-wise, I went back to take a nap before my city tour. I couldn’t wait to learn more about the city.
Windhoek City and Katutura Township Tour
14h00: *R came to pick me up for the tour. There was 4 of us on the tour; 3 Cape-tonians and 1 Australian. I couldn’t believe they didn’t know much about Windhoek even though it was under South African ruling until recent times. Der?
We set off to the highest point of the city to get a history lesson and views of the entire city. It was surprising to see how flat the city was. We learnt most of the population were not from the Windhoek region but many were from the outskirts of Windhoek and the northern regions of Namibia. They came to seek better opportunities, most not “making it” in the CBD. The ones who don’t make it, don’t return home. They stick around, usually around the traffic lights, asking people for menial jobs here and there. How unfortunate.
Next we moved onto the parliament buildings and the executive garden, also known as Tintenpalast. The garden was neatly manicured and somewhat enchanting with ivy trailing over the wooden structures. There were many couples chillin’ in the gardens and it felt like the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon with a book in one hand and a coffee in the other.
The garden is also home to the statue of the Herero chief, Hosea Kutako, who was best known for his opposition to the South African rule. He who the international airport is named after aswell.
Passing a couple of interesting looking buildings on the way to Katutura, the largest township in Windhoek. It was interesting to see the Neo-Gothic influence in the older building, one being the German Lutheran Christuskirche, and the modern influence as Windhoek continues to increase its infrastructure and improve its economic status.
As we approached Katutura, *R told us loads of interesting facts. The meaning of Katutura is “the place where we do not want to live.” The name was popularised by the blacks when they were forced to move to the new location, causing a segregation between the blacks and whites. Today, Katutura is split into many different groups; blacks, Coloureds, ethnics but it is no longer segregated like before. Coloureds are now living in areas where the blacks were once dominate and vice versa.
One unfortunate thing was many of the population were still living like they used to. In run-down houses and small tin shacks. Asking *R about this, many still live like this because they would rather spend their money on other things. Many are still poor and would never be able to afford to move out of their houses, but many do choose to stay.
Womens Project – Penduka Crafts
Penduka Crafts is situated in Katutura and means ‘to wake up’. It is a womens initiative which combines many small local enterprises, under the one roof. It was great to see what the women in the local community are doing in order to advance themselves and help other women in need. There’s a craft centre where you can admire the skills and the creativity of the women behind the products. *R knew them all very well, I’m guessing because he has brought many tourists here on his tours. There’s a well-stocked shop and you can buy lots of locally produced items and a restaurant where you can sit and relax after your shopping spree.
We headed back to Windhoek after the Womens Project. On the way back we drove past the President’s House. It was such a contrast to what we had just saw. On one hand, you have a humongous palace-like house on top of a hill surrounded by gold-plated fencing and on the other, 2m x 2m square one room tin sheds. Disgusting.
Back at Chameleon, I had one last catch-up with the A-team. What a great way to spend my first and last 24 hours in Namibia!
Thanks Windhoek. You were a great sampling of Namibia. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later.
Till next time,