Trans-Kalahari Highway, Kang to Windhoek
Continued from Kang — ver in die ou Kalahari.
We woke up about 4:00 am at the Kang Ultrastop, where we had stayed overnight, and after breakfast at 7:00, filled up with petrol and left at 8:25 on our way to Windhoek.
This time the only vehicles we saw on the road were big trucks, mostly 26-wheelers, and they were fairly few and far between. It is obvious that this is a mainly commercial highway. It probably cuts off quite a bit of the journey time betweeen Windhoek (and points north, like northern Namibia and Angola) and Gauteng, but tourists might prefer to travel a longer but more scenic troute, through Upington. This route is miles and miles of miles and miles.
We did discern three varieties of Kalahari scenery (I’m sure the local Bushmen would tell you there are hundreds of kinds of Kalahari). The ones we saw were (1) Bush and grassveld, (2) Bush and sandveld and (3) Smaller bushes with scattered big trees.
About 100 km further on we came to the bush and sandveld variety:
And a bit further on we passed through the third type — low scrub with scattered trees.
One often reads descriptions of the Kalahari, or of people travelling through it, but they are rarely illustrated, and I know my picture was somewhat different from the reality. Previously I had only seen the southern fringes, and the central Kalahari was not what I imagined it to be.
For the first 100 km or so from Kang we passed black plastic rubbish bags at regular intervals, until we reached the teams picking up the rubbish and hoeing thorn bushes out of the verges, I imagine it must help to provide employment for local people, not that the Kalahai here has a large population. We saw fewer animals on the verges than yesterday.
Beyond the cleaning teams, we saw at some of the roadside sitplekkies what they were doing — there were polycarbonate cold-drink bottles, and polystyrene hamburger boxes everywhere, and we had to walk quite a long way into the bush to take photos that didn’t have the foreground full of them.
There are some creatures that seem to like the rubbish though…
The map showed a village 138 km from Kang, but we saw no sign of it, and one of the first settlements we saw after the highway turned left towards the Namibian border was Tsootsha, about 300 km from Kang, and from there there was still another 100 km to go to the border at Mamumo.
We were struck by the politeness and professionalism of the customs and immigration officials on the Botswana side of the border, and the rather lax and couldn’t-care-less attitude of those on the Namibian side. When we went to pay the road fund contribution they were sitting on their desks eating lunch, and seemed to mildly resent the interruption.
The scenery was slightly different on the Namibian side, for a while at least. The bush seemed greener, and more familiar. I wondered whether it was because of different farming methods, because the border is not based on any natural geographical features — it is an arbitrary line, drawn on a map by people who had probably never been within 5000 kilometres of it, colonial officials playing at maps in London and Berlin — we’ll cut off this bit from Namibia and and give it to Botswana in exchange for the Caprivi Strip.
We reached Gobabis at 3:20 pm, nearly 7 hours and 500 km after leaving Kang. Actually it was 2:20, because Namibian time is now an hour behind South African time, tho0ugh I think they have daylight savings time in summer. Gobabis should have been familiar territory for me, but wasn’t. I used to come here about once a month when I lived in Windhoek. But after 40 years, the town had changed beyond recognition. Now there were islands with trees down the middle of the main street where in the past there had been a central strip of tar, with wide gravel stretches on either side. Now there were branches of all the major chain stores in southern Africa, and we saw at least two specialist stationery shops. Back then there were a couple of banks, a couple of general dealser stores, a hotel and farming cooperatives and suppliers. Perhaps it is the Trans-Kalahari Highweay that has brought prosperity to Gobabis,.
As we headed west for Windhoek the main road too was unrecognisable. On my monthly trips 40 years ago, it had been gravel from the airport at Ondekaremba, 40 km east of Windhoek to Gobabis, though construction teams were building the tarred road, leading to frequent detours. I think it was only on my last trip there that the tarred road had been completed all the way. In many places it followed a different route, giving different views, like this one of the approach to Witvlei.
The hills in the distance were a familiar sight, but I was used to seeing them from a different angle.
As we approached Windhoek, the road from the airport into town was more familiar, and we stopped to take photos of the Auas mountains. They were a familiar sight when I lived in Windhoek, so I would not dream of taking a photo of them, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I wanted a memento of a once-familiar sight that I will probably never see again in my lifetime.
We reached Windhoek at 17:37, South African time, just over 9 hours and 718 km after leaving Kang. We went to stay with Val’s cousin Enid Ellis and her husband Justin. I first met Justin when he came to Windhoek in 1970, with a group of Anglican students from Stellenbosch University, who had come to spend part of the Christmas vac working for the church there. When I was deported from Namibia a couple of years later, along with the bishop and two other church workers, I met Justin again at a student conference, and tried to persuade himn to go to Namibia to take our place. Whether as a result of my blandishments or something else, he eventually did so. I met Val and her cousin Enid at the Anglican parish of Queensburgh, which I was looking after for a year while the rector was overseas, and they went on a holiday to Namibia in 1973, and then Enid went back in 1974 to work there, and married Justin. Then they too were deported, and spent several years in England, returning when Namibia became independent in 1990.
The story continues here.