Sometimes travel teaches you more about yourself than about the places you visit. A Belgian backpacker I met mentioned that he had never really studied Belgian colonial history at school but since coming to Africa, he’d discovered that everyone else seemed to be aware of Belgium’s role in the Congo and Rwanda. I’d been thinking something similar for the previous few days. At no point in all my years studying history at school and university did anyone ever say that we (South Africa) illegally occupied then-South West Africa for nearly 50 years.
Acknowledgement: This walking tour came straight from the guidebook I was using – Bradt Guide Namibia. I’d highly recommend the tour and the guidebook was pretty good, if a little heavier than I’d have preferred.
I set off early in the morning. A strange side-effect of travelling is that I appear to wake up far earlier than I would otherwise expect to. Perhaps it has to do with sleeping in a dorm full of strangers. Although, it may also be to do with the fact that I was going to bed ridiculously early – almost to bed with the sun, so I suppose up with the sun wasn’t unreasonable. Given that I was trying to explore a particularly hot place at the height of summer, it turned out to be useful. Most days, I’d head off early and be back at the backpackers by mid-day, in time for a deliciously cool swim before the afternoon thunderstorm gathered.
After the standard breakfast of pancakes (supplied as part of the cost of staying at the backpackers – Cardboard Box Backpackers, Windhoek FTW), I set off walking. It was already getting warm but the day was early enough that the morning cool hadn’t quite burned off yet, so things were just fresh enough to be pleasant. I walked down along Dr Frans Indongo Street towards the shopping centre of town. My first stop was Post Street Mall to see the meteors. The Gideon Meteors are a group of 33 meteor-pieces found in Gideon, Namibia, are part of the largest and possibly oldest meteor fall ever found. They’re shiny and black and red and apparently metallic. The largest weighs 650kg.
The desert around Swakopmund seems to stretch away forever and forever. In the centre, this small, holiday town nestles on the edge of the cold Atlantic, waiting to welcome foreigners and locals alike. Although it is busy all year, it fills up more than usual during December. I struggled to find backpackers accommodation at short notice. Not that I’m complaining – I ended up staying in a lovely, comfortable B&B (Hotel-Pension D’Avignon). Between backpacker stops in Windhoek, a nice, comfortable bed and my own shower for a night wasn’t exactly a hardship.
Accommodation establishments aren’t scarce in the town, which is probably an indication of just how popular it is. They are scattered all over the place, many of them in beautiful old, occasionally nation-monument, buildings. Some are more distinctive than others. Turning a corner and coming upon the Hotel Europa Hof was delightful – a picture of (possibly movie-ified) old Europe, complete with dark roof and edging and window-boxes full of flowers. The government-run Youth Hostel is situated in the old army barracks, built in 1905 to house the 2nd Eisenbahnbaukompagnie while they built a landing jetty in Swakopmund. Pension Prinzessin-Rupprecht-Heim was once an old German Military Hospital, built in 1901.