Written on 22nd July
When the lady in the dentist’s reception at Okahandja showed us our picture in Die Republikein newspaper on Friday, Sampson immediately bought a copy and went round all the restaurants in the vicinity asking for used oil. http://www.republikein.com.na/motors/maak-reg-afrika-vir-die-groot-groen-trok.208101
By some incredible stroke of luck, a wonderful man called Aubrey Botha, who owns the Engen Service Station and two restaurants in Okahandja, just happened to have kept all their waste cooking oil in his garage for the past year so it was all nicely settled and clean. All 600L of it! And to think we could have avoided driving all over Windhoek the day before for 60L here and 60L there, and the effort of winching it all up onto the roof in the dark… Thanks also to Percy and Moses for helping to load it all.
It felt like Real Africa kicked in as soon as we got north of Okahandja. We’d just had a five minute wander in the ‘African Market’, a tourist trap reminiscent of Greenmarket Square in Cape Town but, this being Namibia, more spaced out and with even larger carved wooden animals. As a classic red African sunset got underway, we saw in quick succession a troupe of baboons and a sounder of warthogs (yes it is) wandering by the side of the road. Catching a glimpse of three stationary giraffe, I thought ‘That’s a very lifelike carving, the last one with the curved neck’ before realising it was chewing! Felt a right fool. We were driving past a private game park at the time…
The next day, with all that oil stashed on the roof, we drove very slowly up through Otjiwarongo towards Ondangwa. All the place names in this Oshikoto area are confusingly similar to us. Sampson says it’s like the Germans colonised the south, but some Japanese must have snuck in here up north.
We are very sad that, due to all the mechanical and visa challenges we had before we left, the month we were planning to spend meandering round Nambia has had to be restricted to 10 days – our Angolan visas expire tomorrow, so there’s no time to explore the coast or Etosha National Park. We’ll definitely be back.
The giant red termite hills of Saturday morning became giant grey termite hills on Sunday. Goats, horned cattle and donkeys began to cross the road at regular intervals, white people disappeared, and humble homes of tin – which must be unbearable in the summer – started appearing. Notably, however small the settlement, there was never only one bar. Some of our favourite names today: Booze Booze Bar; Trust Me Bar Part 4; Morning Fire Bar; Try Again Center; Normal Bakery; Rubicon Cash Loans. I swear we didn’t make any up.
While trying to get a decent photo of the archetypal homestead – a circular kraal-type arrangement with a branch fence around groups of rondavels – we saw piles of what looked like recycled flattened cardboard boxes hanging from a line of camel thorn trees. Sampson backed Big Reg up and went to ask about it and this led to our first filmed Vox Pop. He interviewed the very accommodating Rheinhold Andreas and Malakia Shipahu Boikie (aged 18 and 23 respectively) who farm cattle and sell bricks and cars. They told us they were storing the cardboard alongside winter feed straw for their animals. Namibia and Angola are experiencing a severe drought at the moment, evident in the scant grazing everywhere, and this is the second year they have resorted to feeding cardboard softened with salt water to their cattle. They are adamant it makes them fat and has no ill effects!
Half an hour later, camel thorn started giving way to palm trees. The transition to tropical was that sudden. This was the first night we slept without winter pyjamas.
Thankfully, on Sunday afternoon, Sampson decided rather to be safe than sorry, and instead of going straight for the border, to spend the night in Ondangwa, and visit the local branch of M + Z Motors in the morning to get the brakes checked one last time. While Googling their address, he checked his email and found a message from his brother telling him his Mum is dangerously ill in hospital. She has been battling with cancer for a few years, but was admitted with pneumonia and poor kidney function.
This is exactly what Mark has been fearing might happen on our trip. He desperately wants to see his Mum and support his brother, but our Angolan visas cost R2500 each and are single-entry. If Mark flies to England, he will either have to spend time and money we can’t afford applying for another Angolan visa in London, or meet us in the DRC. Which means I would have to drive the Big Green Truck up through Angola. We’re going to check out the roads on the other side before coming to a decision.