After the eco-isolation of the Namibia we had seen to date, it was nice to roll into the relatively pristine towns of Walvis Bay (South African flavour) and, an hour further up the coast, Swakopmund (German flavour). Since we'd now be on paved roads until we dropped the Wounded Zebra at her Namibian destination, we emptied the camper, hung everything on clotheslines, and beat the dust out of them. Just as we thought it was time to open a beer and start decompressing, our neighbour in the caravan park wandered over and offered to help change the flat tire on Woo Zee (the Wounded Zebras rapper name ). Normally I'd get upset with the idea of a flat tire but I had to silently express a high degree of admiration for Woo Zee- in much the same way the horse in those old Western movies would collapse and die just after being ridden hard for days but delivering the cowboy safely from the pursuing bad guys, Woo Zee popped her tire in a relatively comfortable, safe environment, and in a town with a tire store. Over the past number of days, Woo Zee had taken a real pounding and could have popped a tire in places that might have made us very lonely vulture food but she hung on until she knew we were safe. Not many things worked properly on the Wounded Zebra, k*** kept falling off, the roof leaked, and she attracted the kind of attention you get when you walk down the street with a three legged dog (an equal measure of shock and sympathy), but Woo Zee had kept it together, backed us into our site in the caravan park, and, with one last wheeze, let the air escape from her damaged right front tire. I really hadn't yet bonded emotionally with Woo Zee but after this I had to give her a gentle pat on her backside (anything harder might have knocked the bumper off).
Not wanting to drive too far without a spare tire we took Woo Zee into the tire shop as soon as we could and, strictly through luck (I had parked with the tires on an angle), identified another tire that was just about to blow (the inner sidewall was completely worn and you could see the belts). Now we had two tires to change which led to the bizarre question of which size we wanted given that all of the tires currently on the vehicle were different sizes- I've never been a gear-head but I can say with some confidence that not many automotive design engineers are recommending 4 different sized tires on a vehicle.
Now a special shout-out needs to go to our caravan park neighbour who pointed out our flattened tire and helped change it. He is one half of a Vancouver based travel duo (Moreno of Moreno & Kat) and they were on an extended trip through Southern Africa in a vehicle he had purchased and custom designed while he was in Vancouver (purchased from an ex South African Special Forces dude who had apparently recently shot and killed three robbers in a parking garage in Johannesburg!!). Now I don't normally share other people's travel stories in this blog because we have more than enough of our own and I can usually go mano o mano with just about anyone elses travel tales but I can honestly say that in all of the trips we've done, to all corners of the planet, under all sorts of conditions, I have never, and I repeat, never, been tempted to stab DH in the heart with a hunting knife. Let me explain.
Following a couple of after dinner drinks, Moreno told us about a scary time he had at a Suriname/Guyana border crossing late at night with a now ex-girlfriend (no big surprise there). They had been told that a number of locals were going to do them significant harm so they went to what they thought was a local police station- a gang of shabbily dressed plaincloths 'policemen' were assigned to drive them to a safe house in a convoy of beat up trucks but after driving down a number of dark dirt roads Moreno became convinced that these were the dudes that were going to do unspeakable things to them. He had access to his hunting knife and started formulating a plan that would see him slashing the throat of the guy in the vehicle with them, stabbing his girlfriend in the heart so that, other than dying, no harm would come to her, and then stab all the other gun-toting guys like Rambo and/or turn the knife on himself. Now if he had ever seen the guys at 52 Division in Toronto, he would have known that cops all over the world dress very shabbily when they're out of uniform (and the dudes did turn out to be policemen who protected them all night), but the most amazing part of the story is that Kat had heard the story before and was still traveling with him (although after seeing him try to cut a hose with a broken coconut shell for a vehicle repair he was doing, I suspect he was no longer allowed to handle sharp instruments). We met up with them again in Swakopmund, and after searching out a restaurant that supplied plastic utensils only, we had a fun schnitzel dinner before parting company.
While in Walvis Bay we signed up for what turned out to be one of the best Marine safaris we have yet been on. DH has always been very reluctant to pose in any of my photos and I've often had to use chocolate to motivate her, but on the Namibian coastal waters apparently fish is magic. As we were zipping along on our catamaran we were seeing pelicans, gulls, Cape Cormorants, Cape Fur Seals and, within each species, a couple of the smarter ones had figured out if they hopped aboard and posed for a few photos, a free fish dinner would soon follow. We also got a nice show from the Heaviside Dolphins (found only off Namibia) and the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins that hang out in the bay. A group of flamingos has many collective nouns, including a "colony", a "flamboyance", a "flurry", a "regiment", and a "stand" of flamingos and regardless of what you call them, we saw hundreds, if not thousands, of these real-life pink lawn ornaments right along the shoreline.
In Swakopmund we spent hours wandering the streets of this very German village on an African coast surrounded by the Namib Desert. There are attempts to erase the German history (for example in 2001, in a vintage African political move, then-president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, changed the name of the main street, Kaiser-Wilhelm Strasse to Sam Nujoma Avenue in honor of himself), but when virtually every restaurant in town serves at least one type of schnitzel, you know the German influence will be hanging around for a while. Our favourite stop might have been Peters Antiques which was some sort of museum and store hybrid that sold some genuinely nice African artifacts as well as some junk that would shame most garage sales.
One last long drive saw us pulling into the capital of Namibia, Windhoek, where we said our final goodbyes to the Wounded Zebra- I suspect that this poor campervan is going to be driven into the ground in the near future but I told DH that Woo Zee was soon being sent to a nearby farm for her retirement years.
Special Note- Since last we saw them, we have heard that an unarmed Moreno has popped the question and Kat said yes... with conditions (something about the sharpest instrument in the house being a butter knife). Congratulations and send us a pic of the two of you and the ring.