Saturday, October 1, 2011

Na Na Mibia

More of the wildflowers in South Africa
Somehow, even though the wind blew in gusts like an inbound hurricane and kept us from sleeping all night, we still managed to get up an hour late (it helps to turn the alarm to the on position). We rushed around and got on the road only a half hour after we'd intended. We wanted to get an early start since we'd be crossing the border into Namibia and weren't at all sure how long the process would take with our bikes. The ride north to the border was uneventful, the weather was good, the scenery ever-changing, this time from purple and chartreuse plant life to big round boulders to an otherworldly hazy landscape. 

Colin fishing out all of our documents before the border
We made it to the border, and there was no line! So we followed the officers' instructions, went to customs and immigrations and got the appropriate stamps on all our paperwork and passports, and then we had to stop for one final inspection of everything by the South African police. Constable August was seated in a folding chair outside his office under an awning, and he smiled and asked for our passports and drivers' licenses. We handed them to him, he looked them over, then asked for our dollars. We had not a clue what dollars he was referring to, and I'm sure we both looked confused, but he laughed and told us some story out of the rag newspaper he was reading about some thugs who conned a Nigerian moneychanger with fake US dollars. He thought it was all hilarious, took us into his office so we could read the paper for ourselves, and proceeded to tell us how the Nigerians, among other immigrants to South Africa, are ruining Johannesburg by “turning it into a whorehouse- just gambling and prostitution.” Once again, a routine encounter became an entertaining experience with the locals. And then we were off across the bridge and into Namibia. In comparison with the South African process, the Namibian border was decidedly less professional. Things got done, but everything was much more casual: no one came out to verify that our paperwork even matched our bikes! We left the border station and started the ride in Namibia, country number four on this trip. I swear that once we crossed the border, the temperature rose by 10 degrees. Colin and I both have plenty of water with us, but I actually started feeling panicky about the heat (oh my gosh, I'm not sweating! I'm going to die! We need to ration our water, but I'm sooooo THIRSTY!!!!) and felt like I was having a hard time breathing. I thought, between the heat and the plagues of grasshoppers that swarmed and covered the road surface entirely, that the apocalypse must be near. But we were both okay and even had water left by the time we stopped for the night. Our destination for the night was Grunau, which was listed on the map as a minor city, so we figured there'd be guesthouses and campgrounds. There was one hotel, which was very expensive, and one set of cottages(also expensive) with a campground that was adjacent to the gas station that is basically the epicenter of Grunau. We opted to camp, and these were some deluxe camping digs! How about your own bathroom with shower, a private braai (bbq) and outdoor sink, and tons of counterspace? We didn't have anything to cook, so we ate dinner in the restaurant (also attached to the gas station), and slept very well in our tent under the stars, serenaded by the humming of the electric fence surrounding our home for the night.
Weaver bird nests, pretty cool?

The next day, we continued to make our way north. The day was again, hot and dry. The road was straight, and for a large portion of the day, we had quite a headwind. There wasn't much traffic on the road (there aren't many cars in Namibia since there aren't many people here, and very few of them can afford a car. We see many people hitch hiking out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, sometimes whole families- it's not something you'd see in the states for sure). I'm constantly surprised by the plants here. For a desert, there sure are a lot of trees, shrubs, and flowers. I know they're all adapted to the lack of water, but there's still quite a variety, and many of them smell really nice. The scenery didn't provide enough distraction from my sore butt. I couldn't figure out why it hurt so much since we aren't riding that many miles, but it's the same as the high speed runs on the interstate- you don't move around, there are no turns, and you just get stuck in one position for the whole time. The only time I moved was when we stopped to refuel. Since the towns are so far apart, the government issue maps list all gas stops along the roads. Unfortunately, one we had been counting on had apparently closed since the printing of the maps. We pulled in to see the covers removed from the fuel pumps and people camping inside and out of the building. Anyway, we made it to our next stop, Mariental, with the fuel light madly blinking. We pulled into the first gas station we saw, and while Colin took care of the refueling, I wandered into the “spare parts” store to see what they had. As it turns out, they had a lovely black 10 liter jerrycan, which has now replaced Toilet on my front rack. From the gas station, we went in search of a room for the night. Mariental is a bigger city than Grunau, and it seems to have an abundance of meat-related businesses. We passed the piggery on the outskirts of town, and didn't even look at the guesthouse next to the abbatoir (the sheep, Clarice!). Instead, we stayed in what was apparently the only room available in town (at Marlene's house, Villa Volla, it was nice, clean, and she did our laundry!) due to a fishing tournament somewhere in the area. I don't understand where you could fish- all the rivers and stream beds are bone dry. It was an interesting town, and I had my first brush with the law: I turned into the grocery store parking lot right in front of the no entry sign, directly in plain view of the local po po. He beeped at me, but no worries, I'm still a free woman.

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