Monthly Archives: July 2014

HITCH HIKING IN NAMIBIA – PART IV

“Two for you, and two for me,” Mike said, handing over four cold cans of Windhoek larger.

“Sweet,” I grinned, taking the cans and placing them in the ice cooler between the driver and the passenger-side in the cab of his 22-wheeled semi-trailer.

It was only four hours before that I was on the outskirts of Rundu where I had driven up on the Saturday with Jens, my couch surfing host from Tsumeb, and Anne, a German volunteer teaching in Otabi.

P1120286Rundu, a border town on the Kavango River which separates Namibia from Angola, was some 600 K’s north-east of Tsumeb. We had made a quick stop at the landing site of a meteorite mostly made up of nickel and copper still intact and preserved that had landed on the outskirts of Grootfontein some 80,000 years ago.

A few hours later we arrived in Rundu where we joined a Peace Corps volunteers party and jammed most of the night with a braai, some poi and a game of dominoes by the pool. The next morning, after Hope (one of the volunteers) immaculately sewed up my ripped guitar bag, I hit the road at 12:00 on the dot.

I was hoping to reach Katima Mulilo (which, in SiLozi, means: Quenches the Fire due to the nearby rapids on the Zambezi River), some 530 K’s east at the far end of the Caprivi Strip.

After half an hour of collecting dust and listening to Tupac being blasted at a volume that should have caused the Earth’s tectonic plates to create some havoc, I spied a huge truck rumbling to a stop at the Engen service station.

For reasons unbeknownst, I just knew that that truck was going to be my ride. I also knew (for reasons unbeknownst) that if it didn’t stop for me, I’d be stuck in Rundu for the next four hours, succumbing to Tupac’s explanation for a girl that was wondering why everyone was calling her bitch.

At 13:10, after politely declining numerous offers from taxi drivers and people wanting money for a ride, I saw the truck pull out of the service station, heading towards me on the B8 highway. I stretched out my thumb, smiling ear-to-ear.

The driver made eye-contact and pulled over. I grabbed my packs and guitar and lumbered over at the local pace of African Time (I had previously run with my packs and guitar after a truck took 300 meters to stop in Omaruru).

The driver hopped out and was kicking one of his 22 wheels on the passenger side as I approached him with a, “How you doin’?” greeting.

“How are you?” he said, giving the tire a kick worthy of a Kung Fu Hustle.

“Where are you headed?” I eyed the wheel, almost feeling sorry for the punishment it was receiving.

“Katima,” he returned to the kicking.

“Awesome,” I said. “Would it be alright to ride with you?” And before he could ask the universal question, I added, “I don’t have any money. I travel without money.”

He eyed me with confusion (and perhaps suspicion) as I explained that, “I play guitar in exchange for food and bed.” And, remembering my jam sessions in previous hitches, threw in, “And rides.”

He kicked the rubber a few more times while I waited in suspense, an inner mantra of ‘Take me with you’ repeating itself in my head. He straightened up, satisfied that the tire had taken enough of a beating. As he headed towards the cab he turned to me and said, “Let’s go,” and opened the door to the passenger-side.

Mike had introduced himself after I stuck my hand out to shake his. “I’m a Zulu,” he said proudly and I impressed him with the few sayings that I had learned in South Africa.

“What are you carrying?” I asked.

“28 tonnes of frozen fish from Walvis Bay”. He offered me a can of coke from his ice cooler. “Taking it to Congo.”

Four hours later (in which I dozed for threeIMG_4887) we entered the Zambezi Region (until 2013 it was known as the Caprivi Strip). In the almost two months of hitching around Namibia, the landscape had dramatically changed from the dry, sandy deserts of the south, to the barren rocks and bushlands of the mid-region to what had now become a green, lush wetland (although it was the dry season) in the north-east.

The Caprivi is about 450 K’s in length. Katima Mulilo is the capital in the far east, about a rock’s throw from Zambia which lies on the northern banks of the Zambezi River. This is where Namibia meets Zambia to the north, Botswana to the south and Zimbabwe to the IMG_4901south-east. The strip is a huge nature reserve, forming the Bwabwata National Park. The local bushmen (and women) still live traditionally in straw huts un-phased by the warnings of wild animals that were posted all along the B8 highway.

We picked up a third passenger at the Animal Disease border control who only needed to go 100 K’s to Chetto. And it was here that Mike had purchased the beers.

Mike pointed out the two, “Elephants,” about 150 meters to my left as we drove deeper into the strip. I stared at the huge beasts, jaw-dropping in awe.

The new guy hopped off at Chetto and Mike and I continued on. The sun was setting, a huge ball of orange slowly sinking somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean’s horizon behind us in the west.

 

After two pint-sized cans of lager, nature was calling me from the wild. We were approaching another Animal Disease control post in the darkness and I figured this would be a good a time as any for a toilet break.

“This area is very dangerous,” Mike said.

Huh? said my bladder as I interpreted it to “Why?”

“Lions are very frequent here,” he explained.” They want to get to the cattle across the Kwando River but they cannot because of the crocodiles. So they approach the gates here and the officers have to shoot at them.”IMG_4898

Looks like I’ll be building some pelvic floor muscles for the next 20 K’s until we reach safer grounds. We stopped by a roadside take-away eatery where I flooded the surroundings as Mike bought us macaroni pasta with sausages and potatoes for dinner.

He forgot to mention the added spice.

“Ooh, that’s hot,” I said as flames from my mouth lit up the dark cab of the truck.

Mike laughed, producing four more beers. “Two for you and two for me.”

We continued down the dark road sharing travel stories and Mike’s dislike of Congo – “Lots of crime” – for the next four hours. It was just after 21:00 when we reached the outskirts of Katima, pulling into the truck stop. And due to the time difference, I had to add on another hour making it nine hours of morphing myself into a truck seat.

“Mike,” I turned to my driver\host, “this has been an epic ride. Do you have a cap?”

“No,” he said.

“Well, now you do.” I handed over my Hansa cap which I had won at Joe’s Beerhouse during my stay in Windhoek.

He grinned appreciatively.

“Mike,” I began again, “I can’t thank you enough but I must ask of you one more huge favour.”

“Sure,” he said, investigating the details of the cap.

“Would it be possible to sleep in the truck as it’s really dark and I have no accommodation organised for tonight?”

“I was going to tell you that we can share the bed,” he grinned.

I looked over at the single bunk bed.

“It’s OK, bro,” I chuckled nervously. “I can sleep in the chair.” I took out my travel pillow and blew it up with two puffs of air as Mike made himself comfortable in the bunk, his head behind my seat.

I’ve shared rooms with people who make tractor noises at jet engine volumes but Mike took things to a whole new level: he preferred to block up his sinuses, as though he were about to hawk a loge the size of Botswana – except he never followed through. That repeated itself every half-hour along with one-sided conversations in Zulu. To add to the ear-bleeding pleasure, my legs were falling asleep (at least one part of me was) as I attempted to pull off a yoga position to get comfortable.

And, of course, it wasn’t the warmest of nights.

At 06:45 the sun crept up, a beautiful African rising of an orange ball of fire that quickly shooed away the night’s freezing temperatures. Mike awoke and I straightened up my seat.

“Morning, mate,” I yawned. “How’d ya sleep?”

“Great,” he rubbed his eyes. “You?”

“Never better.”

He drove to the weigh station and dropped me off in town. Thanking him with a sturdy handshake, I walked a kilometre and spied the Baobab Bistro.

“Hi there,” I greeted the woman behind the counter. “How far to the Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge?”

“It’s about 6 K’s out of town,” she said.

I ordered a tomato and cheese toastie to have some fuel for the hike when a local sipping on his morning coffee turned to me.

“I’m heading that way if you need a lift.”

“Lekker, bru,” I thanked him.

Finishing up my food, he drove me out to the lodge and was kind enough to wait to see if I’d get a barter. “If it doesn’t work out then I’ll take you back into town.”

Curt, the owner and operator of the lodge came out and I introduced myself. He and his wife, Silka were more than happy to accommodate me for three weeks on the banks of the Zambezi River.

“One of our guys just resigned and is leaving this morning,” Curt said. “You can have his room.”P1120530

The view from the balcony bar was over the Zambezi. “Can you swim in the river?” I asked, looking longingly at the vast body of water (its been two months since I last swam in water).

“With crocs and hippos it’s not really recommended,” Curt recommended.

I spent the morning helping him fix a bulge pump and by sunset a wild hippo was rising and diving like a submarine in the middle of the river, between Namibia and Zambia.

P1120515I could get used to this place, I grinned, sipping on some wine.

I could really get used to this place.

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THE ETOSHA PAN

P1120053“We have our first round buyer!” Jens yelled out with excitement as Frida calmly pointed out the huge elephant on the horizon.

The deal was, the first to spot any of the Big 5 bought the first round.

“So I just won’t say anything,” I said.

“You won’t be able to contain yourself,” said Jens. “When you see an animal you always yell and point.”

Which is what Frida did with Jens calling out wildly. It’s a funny thing we humans do when we see animals. I always wonder if members of the animal world ever get excited when seeing humans around. It was incredible to think that something as big as an African elephant, the largest land mammal on our planet, could be so hard to find.

“There are about six more drinking from the waterhole up the road,” the driver of the car we had signaled to stop tipped us off.

The elephants were huge. Their skin covered with dust to protect it from ticks and the harsh rays of the African sun. And boy, was it hot. It was also extremely dry making it almost uncomfortable to breath.

But what really blew my mind from the day in Etosha National Park, one of the oldest national parks in Namibia, with an area of just over 22,000 square km, was that it was so hard to find any of the Big 5.

I remember growing up and watching nature documentaries always thinking how all these animals, with their magnificent colours, would surely stand-out in the dry grasslands and wooded forests. But now, here in the real deal of it, it was near impossible to see them. Especially when they were laying down.

We were two cars, Jens driving his Nissan X-Trail with Frida in the passenger seat and me jumping in the backseat from side-to-side to try and spot any predators. Behind us, in the bukky that belonged to the church that Frida was the pastor, were Inga (Frida’s wife) and their visiting grand daughter, Anna with her husband, Folker and their baby, Tia, making Frida and Inga great-grandparents..

Jens lives in the flat behind the pastor’s house in Tsumeb. Frida and Inga, both 75 years of German origin, spoke less English than my German (which amounted to ‘Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes’).  Luckily, the grand kids spoke English. And it was Frida’s invitation that I had said, “Yes,” to joining the family on a day in Etosha, not only a national park but a huge game-player in the conservation world.

We left Tsumeb at 07:00 on a beautiful sunny, blue-skied day and drove the hour to Etosha. The park opened its gates at 06:30 and visitors had to be within their campsites or out of the park by 17:30. We stopped for breakfast at the Namutoni Lodge, 12 K’s from the Anderson Gate on the C38, coming off the B1 highway where Frida paid the entrance fee of N$80 ($8.00 AUD) per person (N$30 for locals).

“Danke,” I Germaned with a big smile.

P1110917We snacked on home-made sandwiches and dried fruit in the Namutoni Lodge, which is built into an old German fort from the turn of the 19th Century (it was attacked by about 4,000 Heraro warriors who were defeated by seven German soldiers defending the fort in the 1904-1907 war). As we munched away, we were visited by Banded mongoose, who resembled tiny Tasmanian Tigers (extinct since 1936).P1110925

We bought maps of the park and began our expedition. The park recommends that you stay in your vehicle at all times, not just because of the dangers of becoming prey to the predators or being crushed by an agitated elephant, but also because animals can carry disease (such as Anthrax).

Our first sightings were of Oryx (also known as Gemsboks) and Springbok (also known as Springbok). Followed by an abundance of impala’s and Black-faced Impala, endemic to Namibia.

P1110969We stopped by a waterhole (the best spots to see animals are by the waterholes) where a giraffe had emerged from the trees and we watched as it comically did the splits with its forelegs to be able to bend down and drink up the water.

Etosha is a vast dry land. The Ondonga name for it was ‘Etotha’ which means, ‘A place where no plant grows’ but the early European traders struggled to pronounce it so they called it Etosha. According to Hai||lom traditional storytelling, the Pan was created after the men from a local settlement were killed in a raid. On hearing the news, a bereaved woman from the settlement became so upset that she cried until her tears formed a gigantic lake. When the lake dried, a giant salt pan remained.P1120071

The Pan absorbs the little water that rains here during the summer season (November-April, 300-500 ml). It becomes muddy and makes it difficult for travel even in a 4×4, which we saw plenty of (I believe there are more tourists in all-terrain vehicles in Etosha than there are in the whole of Namibia). Etosha is also where the most rental vehicle accidents occur.

Our main objectives for the day were to see the Big 5 – Elephants, Water Buffalo, Rhino, Lion and Leopard so we all kept our eyes peeled as we drove past huge Secretary birds. “They need quite a lot of space to take off,” explained Jens.

“Like a runway?” I asked.

“Yes.”

P1120002We kept driving, kicking up clouds of dust as we headed towards the Halili campsite (75 K’s from the Namutoni Lodge) where we stopped  for lunch (‘Halali’ is the German word for, ‘The hunt is over’).

Lunch was fairly cheap, anything from N$50-60 ($5-6 AUD) for a burger with chips and salad or, my preferred choice, chicken schnitzel with veggies and a salad. And since Frida spotted the first of the Big 5, it was his shout so I washed it all down with a cold draught of Windhoek lager.

The waterhole at the campsite showed no indications that a bird – let alone a predator – might approach the relief point.

With our heads held as high as our hopes, we continued on the dirt track, passing Hartmann’s Zebra.

We continued driving around after lunch with me standing up through the sunroof trying to find predators. Lions would be near impossible to spot as would the rest of the big cats. We drove to the Etosha viewpoint, a few hundred meters into the pan.

“This road is closed in the wet season,” Jens explained. “Because the pan gets muddy and all the cars become stuck.”

It was so arid that the trees on the horizon shimmered in the heat evaporating off the ground.

With the sun beginning its drop in the west we made our way back to Anderson’s gate. We passed giraffes and more oryx, springbok, wilderbeest (gnu) and impala’s before we stopped by another waterhole where a herd of elephants had just finished bathing and were trying to cross the road, going around the cars that had stopped in their paths.

“I don’t want to get to close to the elephants,” said Jen.P1120110

And he was right. They can get annoyed and aggressive pretty quickly, especially when calves are around as were in this herd. They trumpeted as they entered the bushy area across the road without hassling the hassling drivers.

We motioned for a car to pullover next to us. “Have you seen any cats?” Jens asked.

“I saw a male lion before in the bushes here,” the driver said. “I don’t think he’s left the area as I can’t see any tracks. He was hassled by some females so he went deeper into the bush to sleep. Good luck,” he bid before heading off.

“If you spot the lion,” Jens said as he drove slowly around the waterhole, “I’ll buy you a round.”

I was up through the sunroof watching every blade of dry grass. “Here kitty, kitty, kitty,” I called out as Frida and Jens laughed.

There was no way of spotting a lion in there. I looked in the trees hoping to catch a glimpse of a leopard, a cheetah, a civet. Hell, I’d be pleased to see a caracal but nothing. It was as though the cats of Etosha had decided to stay out of sight.

Bunch of pussies, if you ask me.

We drove to another waterhole and it was here, a little off to the distance that I spotted two White Rhinos, covered in dust. White Rhinos aren’t really white. The only differences between them and their black cousins are the way their horns grow and the shape of their snouts. The black rhino has a beak-like pointy end on its upper lip whereas the White rhino has a wide lip, hence its original name, Wide Rhino (which, again, early Europeans struggled to pronounce hence they called it ‘White’. Yet names like Schweinsteiger just roll off their tongues).

We headed over to the last waterhole just before the main road to Namutoni where a bull elephant was approaching. A giraffe sulked behind it, waiting for it to finish its watery business while a flock of Guinea Fowls ran between the cars to the water where someone pointed out the hyena.

“Finally,” I said, “a predator.”

The hyena was cooling itself off in the water. When it got out, it carried the leg of something that could have used it better for escaping the jaws of this powerful beast. As we drove back to the road we stopped by a tourist bus.

“Hyena den,” called out the driver. “You can see the cub.”

We looked over and right there by the road, a small doggish head was peeping from between the bushes, looking slightly scared from all the attention it was receiving.

We drove back to the main road and out of the park in the setting sun, a bit disappointed at not seeing a big cat (a leopard would have made me have to change my pants) but nevertheless, it was an epic day in the real Africa wilderness.

And 2 out of 5 ain’t all that bad.

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HITCH HIKING IN NAMIBIA – PART III

featured-on-hitchhikershandbook-300x180-px‘I’m planning to go to the Otjiwarongo Karneval on Friday night. It’s a German Festival. On Saturday I’m participating in the Ugab Terrace MTB race near Otju. I’ll take you along,’ read the What’s App message from my couch surfer host, Jens, who I was hitching to from Swakopmund. He’s based some 600 K’s north-east in Tsumeb, just an hour’s drive south-east of the Etosha National Park.IMG_4863 copy

It sounded different and another experience to experience so we agreed that I’d hitch up to Otjiwarongo (which was between Swakopmund and Tsumeb) and he’ll meet me there in the evening.

So at 08:00 on a foggy Friday morning I approached a woman walking her Jack Russell terrier. “Excuse me,” I said, “how do I get to the Sam Nujoma Road?”

“It’s one street over,” she replied, eyeing my backpack and guitar. “The best place for you to hitch hike from will be the service station over the bridge.”

Thanking her I hiked through the thick fog that had blanketed Swakopmund, the town that gave me an incredible two weeks where I had accomplished more things than I could ever have expected. Of course, my philosophy is ‘Expect nothing,  always get something’ but Swako’ was good to me in ways that are hard to define in words.

From my hosts and new friends that accommodated me, the hotels that supported my way of life, sandboarding, exploring the creatures that live in the dunes, horse-riding in the Moon Landscape. And the big step for me in my writing ways, getting published in the Travel News Namibia magazine and becoming a regular contributor while I’m traveling through Namibia.

It was with these happy thoughts that I trekked along the palm-tree studded Sam Nujoma Road that would later connect to the B2 highway. I stopped by the bridge that crossed over the train tracks. The fog was too thick to walk the bridge safely as the shoulder lane was none-existent. I stuck my thumb out when I heard a loud rumble. Through the fog on my right a train, barely visible, cut through the low-lying cloud.

I waved off taxis as I patiently waited for a ride when a white bukky pulled up.

“G’day,” I grinned at the driver.

“Hello,” he said. “I noticed your sign. Are you going to Otjiwarongo?”

“Yes. Are you?” I asked with hope.

“No – ” damn it – “but I’ve just phoned a friend to see if she knows of anyone heading up there.”

The kindness of strangers still blows my mind. This guy could easily have just kept driving and gone to work. Instead, he not only pulled over to talk with me but he’s phoned a friend to see if he can help me out.

Meanwhile, a taxi pulled over. The driver stepped out, “Where are you going?” he asked.

“It’s OK,” I smiled. “I don’t have money.” I turned back to the bukky driver who had received a phone call.

“But where are you going?” persisted the cabbie. “Maybe I can help you.”

I held up my sign with the shortened name of Otjiwarongo – Otji.

“It is better for you to hitch from the petrol station across the bridge,” he said. “Come, I will take you.”

“Thanks,” I said, brushing him off. “But I don’t have money.” I returned my attention to the bukky driver who was still on the phone.

“It’s OK,” said the taxi driver. “I am happy to help you.”

I frowned. Taxi drivers are rare when it comes to helping for no monetary gain. I waited until the bukky driver finished his phone call. “Sorry, no rides at the moment.”

“That’s OK,” I said and explained to him the cab driver’s offer of assistance. He called the driver over and spoke to him harshly in Afrikaans.

I gathered from the tone of voice and the immediate look of fear that covered the cabbie’s face that the bukky driver said something along the lines of, ‘If you fuck him over and try to demand money from him I will find you and I will kill you.’

I thanked the bukky driver and the cabbie helped load my gear into his trunk before we drove off. “What’s your name?” I asked him.

“Moses,” he said, shaking my hand.

It was a short two-minute ride as we crossed the bridge and pulled into the service station. The car had barely pulled to a stop when we were swarmed by other taxi drivers. Two immediately opened the boot and began to take my bags out. I stepped out and one trapped me against the car.

“Are you going to Windhoek?” he said. “You come with me. Windhoek, yes? Let’s go. This way.” He reached to grab my arm.

Too many things were happening at once and I felt cornered and like any animal that gets cornered and feels threatened, I had to lash out.

“STOP!” I yelled.

They immediately stopped, dropping my bags, looking at me with confusion.

“Back away from my gear,” I said slowly, reaching for my bags. “Back away from the car, back away from me.” I turned to Moses and shook his hand. “Thank you, Moses. You are good people and kind. I appreciate your help.” I turned to the driver wanting to kidnap me to Windhoek. “I’m not going to Windhoek.” I turned to the other drivers, slightly calmer. “I’m not going to where any of you are going. I’m going over there – ” I pointed to the main road – “to hitch hike so just back away and have a good day. Thank you.”

With shoulders slumped in defeat, they made room for me as I threw my 65L Nomad North Ridge pack on my back, my day pack on my chest and grabbed my guitar case which had ripped at the bottom.

Great, I thought. Now I’ll have to find a seamstress.

IMG_4804I hiked over to the highway and chuckled at the sign that signaled, ‘No hitch hiking’, a right thumbs up painted on it. I put my gear under it and stood by the road, sticking out my left thumb (which would be my defence if a cop even bothered to try to book me).

A few cars stopped and, as was the norm, demanded money, laughing in my face when I explained that I was travelling without before they drove off. A truck bellowed by. I made eye-contact with the driver who had a dark goatee. He raised his arms up as though to say, ‘I wish I could but I can’t.’ I gave them the, ‘I understand and appreciate the thought’ nod when a car behind him pulled up.

“We are only going 60 K’s up the road,” explained the driver.

“That’s cool,” I said. “If I can come with you that’d really help but I don’t have money.”

The driver seemed to consult this alien information with his wife after I explained my travel methods. “OK, we still take you.”

I beamed. “Thank you so much. I’ll grab my gear.” I jogged down to the where my packs were when a white SUV pulled over.

“Excuse me,” said the young man in the passenger-side, “can you please tell us how to get to the B2?”

“You’re on the B2,” I grinned. “Where are you guys going?”

“Omaruru. Where are you going?” I detected a German accent on him.

Omaruru was a 3-hour drive and would put me much closer to, “Otjiwarongo. Would you be able to take me as far as Omaruru?”

“Sure,” he said after getting the approval from his mother behind the wheel and his younger brother in the backseat.

I signalled to the first car that I was going to ride with these guys and waved them a ‘Thank you’ before we somehow managed to squeeze my gear in with theirs.

The family were German tourists travelling around Namibia on a family holiday. I told them my stories and we discussed the philosophy of life, the need to pursue happiness which money can’t give you and some political points of views.IMG_4809

They offered me a sandwich and some water. I offered them carrots that I had but they declined. Three hours later I was dropped off in the center of Omaruru even though they were staying a few K’s outside of the town. We hugged ‘goodbye’ and the mother gave me another sandwich.

“For your lunch,” she smiled as I grinned and thanked her.

I gathered my things and hiked down to the service station. I set up a hitching corner and stuck my thumb out when I noticed a local approaching me.

Here we go, I thought, knowing exactly what he was going to say. He’ll probably begin with, “Where are you going?” he asked.

I knew it.

“Otjiwarongo,” I answered and before he could offer I added, “I don’t have money that’s why I’m hitching.”

“No money?” he looked at me disappointingly. It was obvious he was going to add, “You see, I have problem with fuel.”

I should offer mind-reading services. “I understand,” I said. “I don’t like money that’s why I don’t’ use it. But I appreciate your offer to help.”

He looked me up and down. “If I get enough people, I will help you,” he finally said before walking back to the service station.

Within 10 minutes two cars had pulled over asking money for a ride. I declined politely and that’s when the truck came by. I waved with a grin at the driver who I recognised by his goatee. He stared at me in disbelief and waved at me to, ‘Come on’. I grabbed my packs and ran to where he had pulled over, some 300 meters down the road. Huffing and puffing like the unfit cat that I was, I stood, heaving for air under his passenger-side door.

“Where too?” asked the young face peering out of the window.

“Otjiwarongo,” I puffed, embarrassed that I had let myself reach this level of physical incompetence. The head disappeared, seeming to consult with the goatee driver before re-appearing. “Come on up,” he said.

Two minutes later we were on the road. “I’m Joshua,” the goatee driver introduced himself. “This is my nephew, Jason,” he referred to the young kid that now had to share the bunk with my gear. “He’s visiting from J’burg.”

We talked about the ways of the world, I shared some travel stories, my love for Namibia and we laughed as Joshua blasted the truck’s horn to scatter the warthogs off the road. As in every truck ride, I quickly fell into a deep slumber (I only do this once I feel comfortable enough with the driver, a gut instinct telling me he won’t be cutting me up and selling my organs).

I startled to awake when Josh blasted some Afrikaans music. It must have been comedy songs as he laughed every now and again, repeating the punchline. He dropped me off in Otjiwarango a few hours later.

“Just be careful,” he warned me. “This place is well-known for the grab-and-run. They’ll grab your bag and run.”

I grinned at him. “My packs are too heavy. Besides, they can take the bags but if they touch my guitar, I will find them and I will kill them.”

We shook hands and I thanked them for the ride as I made my way over to Kari’s Restaurant to wait for Jens (pronounced, ‘Yens’), the couch surfer host who was hosting me and invited me to the festival and bike ride.

But I was really looking forward to joining him on Sunday’s trip to the Etosha National park to see the real Africa, in all its glory.

Hopefully, I’d be a little fitter by the then.

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