Published: January 12th 2010October 31st 2009
Apart from hitching, there's no sensible transport option for getting from Maun to Windhoek. The senseless options for this ~800km leg include flying or taking an overpriced shuttle bus (~$170). Though hitching has little appeal, more because of its unpredictability than any safety issues (especially with it being a common way of travelling in Botswana and Namibia), I realise I'll have to exercise my thumb for at least part of the journey. However I can get a bus from Maun to Ghanzi, just over half way to the border, and I'm told the best approach will be to overnight there then catch a bus to the border, where my hitching thumb will have to make an appearance. Windhoek should be doable in two days via this method.
The morning of my departure sees the heaviest rain I can remember this year, and I'm glad I'll be getting on a bus rather than sitting miserably by the side of the road. The journey itself is unremarkable, though at one point we all have to disembark, walk across a disinfectant rag, do likewise with any other shoes in our luggage, then reboard. There's a series of enthralling DVDs playing, showing the African
dancing I've come to love - smiling men engaging in loose-limbed leg-waggling, and scantily-clad women rotating hips and bums in mesmerising fashion. The rain drains away into a hot, sunny day.
Ghanzi has no available taxis and the accommodation is irritatingly full. I think I've spent more time in Botswana looking for accommodation than on the rest of this Africa trip combined. I eventually plod 5km out of town to where I'm told I'll find a lodge but it's actually just a gate - the lodge itself is 3km further away. Just as I'm drawing in my breath to unleash a "For fuck's sake!" on the surrounding countryside, a car draws up containing apparently three rednecks, wearing wife-beaters, smoking, and drinking beer. They give me a lift to the lodge where, that night, the daughter of one of them will be having her wedding reception. It's been timed carefully to take place after the (televised) Currie Cup (rugby) final.
The lodge has a permanent tent available, which I take with relief though it's roasting inside.
The place is run by a friendly English guy and his wife. He tells me that the morning border bus I was
hoping to catch stopped running several weeks ago - there's one in the afternoon but that will mean I'll hit the border quite late in the day. There's accommodation at the border but I can't say I particularly want to spend a night there. He suggests I ask around the other customers to see if anyone's Namibia-bound.
This is easier said than done. I have misgivings about this approach anyway, as I feel I'll be putting people on the spot - at least if I'm standing by the side of the road flapping my arm around then they can choose to ignore me without giving a rejection to my face. But it's impossible to distinguish travellers from wedding reception guests, as a T-shirt and shorts seems to pass muster as clothing for either in this neck of the woods. I give up, finding myself a passive wedding reception crasher, listening to speeches in Afrikaans. I haven't been among this many white people since I left England 9 months ago.
Breakfast brings a stroke of luck. A friendly Dutch couple are heading to the border and have no hesitation in inviting me along when I tentatively broach the subject
of where they're going. It turns out that they regularly take holidays in England because they like the people, a comment I assume is an example of Dutch humour until I realise they're serious. They refuse any payment and we've barely said our goodbyes at the border when a car with a Windhoek plate pulls up and the guy agrees to take me through to the Namibian capital for 100 rand. Along the way, he gives a potted history of the towns we pass through and, once in Windhoek, he insists on dropping me at my intended hostel. This hitching business is a piece of cake.
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