This weeks Wednesday post, is about my hitch hiking adventure to Namibia. You know it’s been an intense trip when you come back and feel like you need some quiet time to process everything, this has been such a trip. Two weeks ago I set off to hitch hike toward Namibia from Cape Town. We cheated a bit accepting a ride from Biánne’s parents to Vrededal, which is already halfway to the Namibian border.
Ready to hit the road
After spending a day in this Northern part of the Western Cape with a trip to Strandfontein, the game was on and we set off riding our thumb from Ruwe on the N7, the Cape Namibia route. My only experience of hitch hiking being in European, we tried asking drivers for a ride at the gas stations. After two hours of unsuccessfully asking strangers for a ride north and finding that they either (claimed to) have a full ride or going south, back to Cape Town the gas station attendant told us they didn’t allow hitch-hiking. So we joined the people trying to get a ride on the side of the highway.
Highways in South Africa aren’t like the ones in Europe, so cars can actually stop there and this is the way everyone who lifts here does it (didn’t see any other white people try it though). After another 3 hours, one dodgy truck driver asking for a lot of money and refusing the a ride because it was only to the next town, we got in the back of a bakkie for a ride to Vanrynsdorp, the next town. This is the way to hitch, at least in this part of the country, since almost all our rides where working people who let us jump in the back of their pick-up.
This first ride was the nicest, sitting in the back of an open bakkie (most had a canopy), the wind blowing trough your hair, rolling trough the open landscape of the South African West Coast is pure bless. Two more one hour waits got us, John, giving us a ride to Bitterfontijn where he at his and his “partner” Dawn’s guest house he insisted we stayed the night. This provided him with a good excuse to offer us beers and drink some himself, telling us about his life and how the Lord provides for everything we need. “That is, the Christian god, not the one from Islam”.
Apparently we where just coping with beginners misfortune, since the next day it never took more than 15 minutes to get a ride. The first on got us to Garies (chief town of the Namaqualand) where we ate a good hearty breakfast at die Koperketel, cat lovers who spoiled their felines so much that they where as wide as high and could hardly walk. From there got a lift to the middle of nowhere in Northern Cape but before the scorching heat could take us down we got to a ride to Springbok, arriving in town around noon.
The infamous Springbok Lodge, a long-standing travellers café known for its rude service as well as its impressive mineral collection (Northern Cape being a mining region, mainly diamonds) provided us with lunch and cold beer. After that we located the Caravan Park, outside of town, where John had told us his pall Anton would take good care of us. We found him in the “office”, a thin, tall, man with glasses. In a half an hour monologue he told us all about his 250 cc motorcycle, stop and go’s on the N7, the Caterpillar 5600 with a special water tank. Maybe he had been locked up in this little office not seeing people for too long, maybe the heat that got to his head. Maybe it was growing up in a small mining town, where heavy machinery is the only exciting thing, but we found it hard to make any sense of it all.
We managed to dip into the small pool filled with green water and spent the night camping there. The 150 Rand would turn out to be the only time we had to pay for accommodation on the whole trip. The boereworst and mielies an unknown fellow camper had left in our tent provided us with a breakfast before we hit the road to finally get to Namibia. It took us 50 Rand to get to Noordoewer on the other side of the border, the only time we paid for a ride. When we finally gathered the courage to leave air-conditioned Wimpy, we got our first taste of the Namibian heat. Even in the shade the hot North Western wind would hit you in the face as if you just opened a hot oven.
It turned out to be the owner of Wimpy who gave us a ride to Felix Unite (owned by his brother-in-law). Our possible CouchSurfing host at Aussenkehr was and Wula, who we could ask about a job on the Orange River was out on a river trip. So we ended up chilling by the pool drinking cheap Windhoek and Tafel lager and pitching our tent at the Felix. The next day we heard from Wula that we had just missed the river season and there ws no more work as a river guide until March.
Hiding from the sun under towels we managed to hitch a ride to Aussenkehr, which turned out to be just a Spar surrounded by straw shacks for seasonal workers, working on the grape orchards. Aimlessly walking we passed the clinic, where it was clear we where a bit lost, white people with backpacks not being a common sight. Luckily Johannes, the friendliest and most gay boy helped us out and offered us to pitch our tent at the Christian Community Centre behind the clinic.
As it turned out Antonie our CouchSurfing host passed by to drop off frozen fish at the community centre and we could spend the night at his air-conditioned guest house next to the Orange River. He managed the Cape Orchard Company, the second largest table grapes producer in the Southern Hemisphere and making up the big farm that is Aussenkehr. The next day some awkwardness occurred as it seemed we were already outstaying our welcome. Antonie dropped us of at the Norotshama River Resort to get a ride out of Aussenkehr from there.
The receptionist told us her manager was driving to Noordoewer at noon and we could probably get a ride with him. Juan, was heading to Felix Unite since he was in desperate need of some time off, his season also ending. Given the choice between trying to find a ride to Keetmanshoop (a very depressing place according to Juan) only to pay for a train or bus towards the coast seemed like the lesser option when he invited us to join him at Felix. Lost of drinks and craziness around the pool, the only sensible place to stay in 47° heat. Literally a truckload of Norwegian girls in luminescent bikinis turned up, braving the mid day sun with their Scandinavian skin. Lots of Jägerbombs with whiskey chasers gave way to dancing and playing pool at a Noordoewer shabeen.
The next day Juan invited us back to Noroshama, where we could stay for free right next to the river. It was too hot to do anything but sit in the pool or in our air-conditioned room, but I could think of worst ways to spend the days I needed to get out of RSA to get another 3 months in the country. After 3 days including a braai at Noroshama’s impressive braaiplek we got a ride back to the border with Wula. The kilometre between the Namibian and RSA border posts we walked and the South African policeman confided in us that he would love to go hitch hiking to one day.
The next three days we stayed at the farm Krisjan was taking care of on the South African side of the river. After which he gave us a ride back to Vrededal which took half a day where hitching in the other direction took us three days. Another ride with Biánne’s mom from the gas station in Ruwe where we started our adventure back to Cape Town where the 33°C heat felt refreshing after weeks of plus 40°. Lots of good times and strong impression only road tripping can give. Cape Town is a good place to come back to, almost feels like coming home.