TOUR DIARY: SOLITAIRE TO OUTJO
Jaco and Dasha van Niekerk hitch- hike barefoot through Namibia
Jaco van Niekerk and his Russian wife Dasha hitchhiked barefoot through Namibia. Here are some excerpts from their diary.
23 OCTOBER 2014: Solitaire to Swakopmund
We woke up at 5.30 am and struck our camp near Nabaseb, between Maltahöhe and Solitaire next to the C14. Half an hour later, we were ready to ask for a lift from anything moving on the road. There wasn’t much traffic. We waited half an hour then decided to have a quick breakfast. I gulped my food and scalded my throat with tea. Still nothing. The sun peeked out from behind the mountains and we started to bake in the heat.
We heard a rumble in the distance. We jumped up and dusted off our clothes. The rumble flew away overhead. It was a small aeroplane.
At about 10 am, a Land Rover came crawling up the road – it belonged to N/a’an ku sê, a wildlife rehabilitation organisation. The woman driving stopped to pick us up. We got wide-eyed stares from the volunteers in the Landy – we must have looked and smelled like we’d slept in the bush.
Solitaire felt too much like a tourist destination. Everywhere I looked there were buses offloading bleary-eyed tourists who wandered aimlessly between the knickknacks on the shelves. At least the apple strudel lived up to its reputation. Dasha and I feasted on huge slices for lunch.
Afterwards, we looked for another lift near the sign to Walvis Bay, 230 km further. It wasn’t long before a bakkie full of Swiss Germans pulled over. They were young and aching for adventure and we enjoyed their company.
In Walvis, Dasha and I sat on a bench watching the icy waves. We had left Cape Town 2 100 km ago and so far we hadn’t paid anything for transport. Despite being tired, I was excited about the adventures that lay ahead.
A friendly man gave us a ride to the outskirts of town. From there, we planned to hitch to Swakopmund. Another man pulled up in his Corolla and offered us a lift – for a fee. I told him we hadn’t paid a cent all the way from the Cape so he shook his head and drove off, only to stop again 100 m further. Still shaking his head, he said he’d give us a ride for free.
Swakopmund was much bigger than I thought it would be. My dad sent an SMS from Pretoria telling us to try the Skeleton Beach Hostel. We pitched our tent in a corner of the yard and prepared to take a hot shower. We’d travelled far for that shower!
1 NOVEMBER 2014: Swakopmund
Dasha’s inflatable mattress had sprung a leak. We’d been taking turns sleeping on the ground ever since that thorny spot near Aus. We scoured town and eventually found a CYMOT, an outdoor
and hardware store, and bought enough patches to cover half the mattress. They’re imported from Germany and they work.
We stayed at the Skeleton Beach Hostel for five nights. We met lots of other people travelling the country in much the same way as us. Most of them were young Germans.
Only the weather got me down. Heavy fog rolled in from the cold sea and hung in the air for most of the day. Dasha didn’t mind.
We spent our days exploring the town, looking at German architecture and returning to the hostel to cook. At a butchery I bought Landjäger, a salami made from gemsbok and springbok, which is great in salads, on pizzas or bread, or on its own as a snack.
7 DECEMBER 2014: Outjo and Afrikaner cattle
Outjo is a cute little town. It has a bakery and its streets remind me of the plattelandse dorpies back in South Africa
The clicks of the Damara language can be heard everywhere. The Damara also speak the most beautiful Afrikaans
– much better than some Afrikaans mother-tongue speakers I know.
De Wet Mouton invited us to spend a few days on his farm Offer near Otavi, where he farms with Afrikaner cattle. His daughter Annika and I studied together at Tukkies in Pretoria.
De Wet had given us a lift from Windhoek to Outjo and we arrived at his family’s farm in the rain. We ran to the farmhouse where De Wet’s parents were waiting. The tannie instantly made us feel at home and brought each of us a steaming plate of oxtail.
The next few days were pure heaven. Every day at lunch we’d be served the most delicious beef dishes. One day I hope to buy a few Afrikaner cows of my own.
The farm is vast; it needs to be because grazing is sparse. De Wet taught me all there is to know about Afrikaner genetics and bloodlines and pointed out birds and trees endemic to the area. He also showed me a giant anthill that must have been 5 m tall.
We were sad to leave Offer – the hospitality of the people of Namibia had blown us away yet again.
PUT FOOT. Jaco says he always liked to walk barefoot as a child. He dreaded going to high school because he knew he’d finally have to wear shoes. But, having grown up in chilly Russia, his wife Dasha never walked around barefoot. “When she saw South Africans walking around without shoes on, she decided to give it a try,” Jaco says. “When you wear shoes, you can’t feel the earth. It’s one of your senses and influences how you experience a place – especially if there are lots of thorns.” Jaco and Dasha camped rough, usually just next to the road. But how did they deal with going to the bathroom? “You dig a hole in the sand and keep watch for hyenas and leopards, then you sprint back to the tent!” Jaco says. “Dasha spent most of her holidays in the Russian gramadoelas, so she’s used to this kind of thing. At least your bum won’t freeze off in Namibia.”