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...

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