By Michael Boyle
Event: A short trip to Namibia
Venue: Windhoek and Walvisbaai, Namibia
In order to keep my weekly column all windswept and interesting, I decided to document my trip to Africa this week. I write this from my hotel room in Windhoek, Namibia.
I went to Dubai airport after a night in the pub, pissed as a fart and with the first symptoms of a hangover creeping up on me like the initial waves of an acid frenzy. I was about to board an 8-hour flight to Johannesburg where I'd get a regional connection to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. I'd then meet with my agent and take the 4-hour drive through the Kalahari Desert to the south Atlantic coastal town of Walvisbaai, or Walvis Bay if you're not up to scratch on your Afrikaans.
I passed out on the flight to Jo'burg, which was great because I'd have thrown up otherwise. I passed out on one continent and woke up on another – not a first time occurrence for this guy after a heavy night in the pub.
The flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek was the stuff of nightmares. We were on one of those shit planes that you only see in movies set in war-torn countries, and the final half hour of the flight was battered relentlessly by a huge storm. It got so bad during the descent that we were all told to adopt the brace position – the last thing you ever want to hear on a flight! But we made it in one piece and all was well.
Next up was the drive through the Kalahari. This was my first-ever trip to Namibia, and I had no idea what Africa was like outside of the relatively safe bubbles of Johannesburg and Cape Town. I was about to discover the REAL Africa and fall deeply in love with it.
Barely a mile outside the airport we drove past a Rafiki and a Poomba (because I'm in Africa I'm using Lion King names). A few miles passed with nothing noteworthy, but then the heavens opened and drenched our surroundings with the rain that Namibia had been starved of all winter.
On my left, I watched the most awesome sunset, magnified in its majesty by the sheer lack of civilization and pollution. On my right, I watched forked lightning crash to earth from the black skies above. Every moment was breathtaking. This was the drive of my life. We drove past 2 giraffes silhouetted against the sunset, but unfortunately the car was going too fast for me to snap a photo.
To see such incredible wildlife in their natural habitat, set against the most astounding backdrop imaginable was one of the very greatest experiences of my life. I won't deny that the sheer beauty of this place touched me very deeply and I couldn't contain a massive, retarded looking grin.
I was already in love with Namibia.
I arrived in Walvisbaai around 10pm after the last hour and a half of the drive in pitch-blackness. Walvisbaai is a tiny coastal town, home to a port and not much else. I checked into a hotel and headed to the bar. My bartender looked like Chris Rock and the hookers outnumbered punters 3 to 1. This made me happy. I'm not one to hire prostitutes because I have more respect for women than I do for any other species, but they almost always have an interesting story to tell.
I turned in early because I was up for work in the morning, and I had to get on a tiny launch boat to the port anchorage in rough winter seas, so a hangover was a no-go. I won't bother telling you about the job I did in any great detail. It's pretty mundane.
But I carried out a laser inspection for 2 diesel generators that were suspected of having severe damage. My inspection revealed both engines to be in almost perfect condition, meaning that they could be reassembled and ran with immediate effect. I was hugged and invited for a beer in his office by the chief engineer – the highest honour bestowed in my line of work.
This trip was a remarkable success.
Upon coming back ashore, I was forced to wait for 45 minutes for my transport to show up. In the dead of night, Walvisbaai is like something from a zombie apocalypse movie. No cars, no people. Just the deafening silence and the distant crash of Atlantic waves. I was in my element here.
Outside the port it was so silent I thought I heard someone crunch a potato chip 2 miles away. I used the silence and the 45 minutes to meditate and reflect on how lucky I was to be in such a remarkable place.
My agent had told me that Walvisbaai has 2 bars, one for whites and one for blacks - very apartheid-esque – but the sick bastard didn't tell me which one was which, so I resigned myself to a night in my hotel room.
I was scheduled to fly out of Namibia this morning (November 30th) at 7am, but the port immigration office was closed, so I'm stranded here for an extra 36 hours. The drive back from Walvisbaai to Windoek was fairly uneventful. Didn't see much wildlife except for the occasional troupe of baboons and 2 springboks, but we did stop at a tiny farm cafe for a drink and some African style beef jerky. The cows were slaughtered, chopped up and dried out on site, so this was some seriously fucking fresh jerky, and it tasted amazing.
As I finish writing this, I'm sitting in my hotel bar (I know, I’m never too far away from a bar, but please don’t judge me) in Windhoek listening to Christmas music on the bar's sound system, enjoying a beer and looking forward to getting home. I've seen nowhere near enough of this incredible country and her wonderful people, and if I had the time I'd spend a month touring around and soaking up the wonderful Namibian atmosphere.
I'll definitely be back.
And as a finishing note, please don't judge Africa on what you see on discovery channel. The poverty, HIV and street crime does exist, but the great people, the beautiful landscapes and the life experiences that shouldn't be missed outweigh the bad stuff tenfold.
Come and visit. See it for yourself. Pack up a bag, get on a plane and spend some time aimlessly exploring the continent that every single one of us can trace our ancestors back to.
Your life will change forever.