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Namibia: Damaraland, Etosha National Park, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Ongava, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Windhoek
Windhoek, Namibia: Windy corner – centrally located!
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, is located in a basin between the Khomas Highland, Auas and Eros Mountains. It is 1,680m above sea level, 650km north of the Orange River and 360km from the Atlantic seaboard. Whether due to pure luck or a brilliant stroke of Germanic planning, the city is situated in almost the country's epicenter.
Windhoek has had several names, many inspired by the hot water springs found in the area, the earliest of which were the Damara, which means firewater and the Herero Otjimuise or place of steam. The area was also called Queen Adelaide's Baths for a brief time. Several opinions are offered for the origin of the present name, the most popular of these is that sometime before 1840 Jonker Afrikaner, a Nama leader, named the area Winterhoek, after the farm in South Africa where he was born. Windhoek, or windy corner, is a corruption of this name.
Windhoek was a gateway city for our group. I was leading a group of 16 (including me) and had made plans to drive through the unmatched wilderness that Namibia had to offer. We used the services of Go2Africa - a company based in South Africa and specialist with African tours. We were serviced by Anza Snyman who was exceptionally good and efficient. Supporting Go2Africa were their local counterpart, NatureFriend Safaris who are based in Namibia. Together they planned a perfect trip. The icing on the cake was our tour guide Nico Visser all throughout our 12-day self-drive tour. He was knowledgeable, cool and very helpful. The entire team has my full recommendation if you plan to travel in that part of the world.
Our trip was planned from 5th to 16th October. May through September is a good time to travel in Namibia. Of course, October tends to become hot, especially in the deserts, but then that's the time when you are likely to spot the big 5 and of course the medium and small ones near the waterholes. Since we were travelling all the way from India, it was prudent to reach Windhoek on 4th itself. That was adding a day and to our cost, but then we didn't want to take chances with missed flights and baggage!
We arrived early evening and landed at Hosea Kutako International Airport. The airport is an hour's drive from downtown Windhoek. Nico Visser was there with a welcome placard. For the night we checked-in at the Hilton and relaxed for the evening at their terrace pool. Dinner was excellent portions of pizzas. They make it good.
The next day was free to explore the city and pick-up some essentials for the trip - local SIM card, currency (Namibian Dollar (equals the South African Rand and is widely accepted too), safari clothing, etc. Hilton is located in the city centre on the Independence Avenue. Formerly known as Emperor Street, this is the main road of Windhoek. Shops, restaurants and cafes share space with public buildings like ministries, major banks and large corporate offices.
Windhoek is not a big city and is eminently walkable; add to this a mixed population, a pedestrian-friendly city centre, a relaxed, relatively hassle-free pace and an utterly cosmopolitan outlook and Windhoek makes for a very pleasant exploration indeed. Neo-baroque cathedral spires, as well as a few seemingly misplaced German castles, punctuate the skyline, and complement the steel-and-glass high-rises.
Central Windhoek is a surprisingly modern, well-groomed city where office workers lounge around Zoo Park at lunchtime, tourists funnel through Post Street Mall admiring African curios and taxis whizz around honking at potential customers. In fact, first impressions confirm that the city wouldn’t look out of place in the West.
Some of the interesting places we visited were Alte Feste or the Old Fort (Windhoek’s first building); The Christuskirche or The Church of Christ (a city landmark); Independence Memorial Museum (remembrance sight for the Namibian Independence) and the Tintenpalast (seat of Namibian Parliament).
For the night we were booked at The Olive Exclusive, the first ultra-luxurious hotel of its kind in the Namibian Capital. Contemporary and stylish it beats with a warm heart and authentic African soul. Some of the rooms had private plunge pools. It had its own olive orchard.
We needed 8 rooms between us. But only 7 were available at The Olive Exclusive. My son Anuj and I were hosted at The Olive Grove Guesthouse, a neighbouring property, which also oozed with rustic charm. We were in room number 8. Here’s a quote from the hotel – “Although we did not know it at the time, Prince Harry spent his first night in Namibia on 1 July 2015, here at Olive Grove Guesthouse… in room 8. Crazy, we know!”
The morning of the next day, our day 2 as per itinerary, was devoted to pick-up our cars and do the documentation for the car-hire. Between the 16 of us, we had booked 8 Toyota Fortuners from Avis and the 9th one was for our guide.
We would be driving about 2300 kms of which nearly 70% would be on gravel roads. Do expect flat tyres. If you are alone, make sure to ask for extra set of tyres as they would come in handy in middle of nowhere! And don’t forget to get the car fully insured against all risks- accidents, windshield damage, sand bursts, et all. Fill up the tank at all opportunities.
When the cars move on gravel roads, the dust rises. Depending on the direction of the wind, we need to manage distances between each car. Sometimes as long as a kilometer. For the tour we had made a strict rule. The guide will always be car number 0. And I would be car number 8. We asked for walkie-talkies for each car. That way every car was connected all throughout. If in a group, I do think it’s a good idea to have the walkie-talkies as cellular phones have limited access in remote areas.
By 10 AM we were all set and ready to roll. Today we would be driving about 520 kms. to reach Mushara Outpost, located about 10 kms from Von Lindequist Gate on the eastern outskirts of the Etosha National Park. The road would be paved. Excluding lunch and comfort stops, we would drive for about 5 hours.
Windhoek Image Gallery Photo viewer
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