Thursday, December 20, 2007

Travelogue > Namiba: Keetmanshoop-Lüderitz-Diaz Point-Lüderitz-Keetmanshoop

Jase and I are on a road trip in Namibia. This is his first time in Africa. I'm attempting to blog daily (thanks to a mini PC that Vye has lent to me for testing purposes) but I don't have Internet access set up so I will be backposting the entries to the correct date when I can. My digital camera died a few days ago so most of the photos on this trip have been taken with a Nokia N82, which Nokia kindly lent me for testing purposes.

Today we rolled out of bed at the ridiculous hour of 8:30, and were on the road an hour later (having made a brief stop to photograph the Keetmanshoop Museum) ... until I realised I'd forgotten to fill up the tank. After some quick calculations at 140 kilometres an hour we ascertained that we wouldn't quite make it to Lüderitz, 350 kilometres away, with what was left and weren't sure of what we might (or might not) encounter on the way there. So we turned around and headed back to Keetmanshoop. How embarrassing.

Except, actually, no one knew except us and guy on the side of the road who kept thumbing everyone for a lift, who we kept passing.

A few minutes later we were on the road again, this time better prepared. To make up time I drove a little faster than normal under the speed limit and, not counting a little dune touristy time about 15 kilometres from Lüderitz, we made it there in two and a half hours.

Unfortunately about half an hour into the trip the Nokia N82 died, because I had neglected to charge it the night before (I learnt a little lesson there), so I was left with my Pentax film camera and Jase's camera as the Official Instruments Of Documenting and therefore my picture collection for the day is a little sparse.

My main interest in visiting Lüderitz was to see the Kolmanskop ghost town 10 kilometres out of town but you need a permit because Namdeb somewhat owns the region and doesn't like people finding and taking its diamonds at random in the desert. We didn't know how to get a permit and the police station could do no better than point us to the tourist information office on Bizmarck Street, which turned out to be a curio shop with some tourist info pamphlets and a knowledgeable proprietor. (The proper Tourist Info place is at the Lüderitz Waterfront, should you wish to visit it.)

Long story short you can accompany one of the two morning guided tours (second one leaves at 10:00) for N$40 and take photos or you can buy a N$125 permit and go yourself at any other time before sunset. It being lunch time we had missed the tours and would have had to have paid a fortune so we decided against it (I am nevertheless disappointed and will now have to return and stay over at Lüderitz in order to be around in time for the tours, although next time perhaps I will remember to take a fully charged photographic device with me, to capture the colourful architecture of Lüderitz). Instead I strongarmed Jase into a visit to Diaz Point so that I could relive my standard 3 (grade 5) history classes concerning Bartholomew Diaz in some sort of pilgrimage. He didn't really care but had to accompany me as I had the car keys.

On the way there we stopped off at Lüderitz' cemetery, which, among other things, has graves of South African military personnel who died in 1914-1918 during the war. The graveyard is situated on hard layers of bedrock and we watched some cemetery workers digging new graves with jack hammers, which I found rather fascinating.

While we were there we also met a group of dodgy guys in a Citi Golf who were taking an unnatural interest in my "economical" Toyota. It just took it as it came and smiled politely until Jase reminded me that there about nine of them and two of us.

So then we jumped in the car and drove around in small circles admiring architecture we were unintentionally passing until we eventually figured out where the start of the gravel road was that leads to Diaz Point, which is part of the Diamond Coast Recreational Area, although there are still signs all over warning you to stay on the road, or else, so I don't know what's so recreational about thinly veiled threats to one's life.

Anyway, we stopped at the Second Lagoon Wetland to take photos of the flamingos and then continued on until we found Diaz Point. There's a lighthouse there, as well as a coffee shop that sells drinks, oysters, and cake. We had cake and took a breather to write postcards and not be in the car. I had a lovely chat with the proprietor who said that they have been buying the land around the coffee shop and will be building accommodation so that visitors can stay the night, either in comfortable B&B style or at the camp site.

Then it was on to the cross, and we timed it perfectly between a group of faux macho, manly tourists in a 4x4 that had been driving all over the area as if it was in the Dakar Rally and a busload of ageing European Tourists. (I definitely spotted Germans - they were wearing their Official German Tourist Outfits of safari hats, moonbags, and shorts...and they were speaking German.) The cross isn't that exciting and is covered in guano but the view of the sea from the top of the hill is magnificent and crossing the rickety bridge made out of crumbling wooden planks that are no longer securely fastened is quite an experience.

We then drove back to Lüderitz in search of an early dinner before the trek back to Keetmanshoop. We drove around a bit and began to fear that perhaps it didn't have any because we nearly passed right through the town without spotting one, but after we doubled back and peered more closely at the Lüderitz Waterfront we realised there was one there, called Ritzis Seafood Restaurant.

Jase had freaked me out about the guys at the cemetery so much that we ended up picking a table with a view of the parking lot across the road, where I had parked, rather than with a view of the harbour, as I was now fearing that everyone in Namibia wanted to hijack my car. (It is an awesome car!)

There weren't many vegetarian options on the menu so I picked a vegetarian pizza (rather than the baked potato, my other choice), and it turned out to be very good. I also experienced a moment of inappropriately animated excitement when I found out that they had Fanta Pineapple, much to the amusement of the waitress, and that was damn good too!

The sun began to set and We left just after 8pm, filled up the car, and headed back to Keetmanshoop on the B4. Sadly, as with our journey earlier in the day, we didn't see any of the famous wild horses in the desert near Lüderitz, although it got dark quite quickly so there was nothing to stare at but the glow of the radio on the dashboard and the headlight haze on the road in front of us.

When we got to Keetmanshoop we decided to stick to our pre-trip rule of staying at a different place every night, so we followed signs along dusty roads to "La Rochelle B&B". Though it was late, they happily accommodated us in their remaining room and we settled in for the night.

Stats For The Day
Distance covered: 771.05 kilometres.
Driving time: Roughly six hours.
Music tracks played: 70.

Extra Flickr Photos: [1][2][3][4]


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Travelogue > Namibia: Cape Town-Springbok-Keetmanshoop

Jase and I are on a road trip in Namibia. This is his first time in Africa. I'm attempting to blog daily (thanks to a mini PC that Vye has lent to me for testing purposes) but I don't have Internet access set up so I will be backposting the entries to the correct date when I can. My digital camera died a few days ago so most of the photos on this trip have been taken with a Nokia N82, which Nokia kindly lent me for testing purposes.

Today I got up at the (beyond) ridiculous hour of 5:30, which, coupled with about four hours of sleep, is enough to put me in a bad mood for eternity, in order to get going (a day late, but that's another story) on our big road-trip adventure.

We eventually left just before 7:30, filled up the car, headed off to the highway ... and got stuck in rush-hour traffic (my intention in getting up early was to avoid this but I was, as usual, running late before I even got going).

We finally got to the N7 and then we (and by "we" I mean "me") drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove.

We passed an Engen 1-Stop at exactly 300 kilometres on the clock. It had a Wimpy. I saw the sign as we barrelled past and I considered stopping so that Jase could experience it but then thought better of that idea. I was calculating times and fuel consumption. Stopping for Africana experiences was not part of the plan.

Then we drove some more and some more and some more and some more and some more.

At 12:15 we hit Springbok at 591 kilometres (away from Cape Town, although I really wish it was at 591 kilometres per hour), which was quite handy as I was on the verge of running out of petrol. Caltex to the rescue.

I was quite impressed with myself because I had calculated my expected fuel consumption very well and my car was holding up spectacularly.

Melkboschkuil restaurant, Springbok

It being around lunch time we decided to stop and eat. Nearby we had the option of a restaurant or a coffee shop. We chose the coffee shop, which turned out to be a restaurant as well. Go figure. As this was Springbok there weren't many vegetarian options on the menu so I sampled crumbed mushrooms with tartare sauce and a tiny baked potato. We conducted some cappuccino testing, which will appear on at some point.

When it was time to pay the waitress was nowhere to be found so it seems that Disappearing Waitering Person When You Want To Pay The Bill Syndrome is not something that's confined to Cape Town service. Good to know (in that way that's kinda bad).

Man, it was hot. I nearly forgot that bit. I don't really care as I function extremely well in heat but I think Jase repeatedly thought he might be dying. He sat semi comatose on the passenger seat and kept rolling down the window to breathe, which messed up my fuel consumption. This meant I had to multitask and take most of the photos, so I was kept busy, but that's probably for the best as meant my mind stayed active, which helped to prevent me from falling asleep at the wheel from all the monotony and accidentally falling off a cliff.

I don't know why people always get excited when you say "road trip" because 10 hours of driving is about as much fun as watching a Lindsay Lohan movie.

(By the way Jase wants me to point out that his years in Utah have prepared him for desert heat but he has the common sense not to trap himself in a car in the middle of summer for 10 hours. Until now.)

We got to the border just before 16:00. When I got out the car it was like climbing out of an oven and into an oven. Woo! I thought that was neat.

I think I was the only one.

Welcome to Namibia

After customs (X2), passports (X2X2), car- and personal-registration whatevers (X2X2), policemen looking under my (car's!) hood (X1), and officious stamps (too many to count) we were suddenly in Namibia.

It was just as hot there.

We drove for another three hours, marvelling at rocks, wide open spaces, and the occasional lizard (which apparently only I was seeing), to Keetmanshoop, where we rolled dice to follow cryptic signs along a convoluted route to "Bernice Beds & Breakfast" (Reël 4: "Elke persoon gebruik net sy bed se handdoeke"), which is tucked away behind high walls with security measures reminiscent of suburban South Africa. I felt right at home.

Except I was in Namibia. Awesome!

Stats For The Day
Distance covered: 1047.4 kilometres.
Driving time: Roughly 10 hours actually on the road with a(n unexpectedly) two-hour rest stop thrown in the middle.
Butterflies and moths killed by fast-moving Toyota: at least 20 (may God (or "Gawd" for my atheist readers) rest their tiny little lost souls). Interestingly South African bugs tend to try very hard to fly out of the paths of cars, whereas Namibian bugs tend to fly right into them. It was fascinating stuff to behold (if not also a little traumatic for me).
Music tracks played: 99 (I vetoed sound until after lunch).

Extra Flickr Photos: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rent, Artscape, Cape Town, Until Sunday

The musical Rent, with a South African cast, has been playing at Artscape in Cape Town and runs until Sunday.

As I arrived there was the usual announcement requesting that the audience switch off phones and not take photographs during the performance, so I decided that before the performance, therefore, doesn't technically count, and took a shot (or two).

From the (brief) research I have conducted it seems that the show has received mixed reactions but I thoroughly enjoyed it. While a number of cast "American" accents wobbled around local and international twangs (some unidentifiable) and certain casting choices left me bemused (or frustrated, depending on the moment), stand-out performances by Zane Gillion as Angel [video] and Sivan Raphaely as Maureen [video], as well as an excellent supporting cast, made the show and were worth the ongoing fears for my life (I got lost in the underground parking-lot maze in the middle of the night and was also nearly blown over the mountain by the gale-force winds on the foreshore).

Extra Flickr Photo: [1]

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