Planes, Trains, and Paperwork
Having said our goodbyes to our friends and family in London, we departed Wednesday morning for the airport. We managed to lock a rucksack in our Air BnB on checkout and spent half an hour trying to regain entry, eventually managing to persuade a very sceptical Turkish neighbor to let us in. Bags in hand, we took the coach to Stansted airport and boarded our flight to Cologne. Our GermanWings (a EuroWings division) flight delayed by an hour or so, but we had plenty of time as our connection, also GermanWings, was delayed by another couple of hours. The flight was at 95% capacity and we were lucky enough to be trapped in the middle of four seats with no access to the aisle. Despite it being a 12 hour flight, there were neither refreshments nor in-flight entertainment so we tried our best to sleep for most of the flight.
On landing we found our driver with our name on a sign who drove us to our hotel. The hotel kindly let us check in early, but rather unkindly had left the room exactly as the previous tenant had! A polite reminder and one hour later, housekeeping had set the room straight. We went to the train station to book our overnight train to Walvis Bay and then headed to the famous Joe's bar in Windhoek (vind-hook) for some fries, battered mushrooms, and a surprisingly delicious savory fruit salad. Back to the hotel for 3 hours sleep in the horizontal position before preparing for the train.
The 'business class' tickets we booked (for £7.50pp) secured us a re-used 1980's airline seat in the fully reclined position (not optional). The train was due to depart at 19:55 but we were told we must board at 19:30 latest. After boarding the train it seemed most of the other passengers were local women with heavy suitcases that all needed help lifting them into the overhead storage. Workout complete, we prepared ourselves for departure and after a 2.5 hour wait a locomotive passed by on the adjacent track, merged with ours, and after a loud clunk and some yelling, we started moving.
The train moved at a steady 25mph, stopping occasionally to let another train pass in the opposite direction or to let a passenger off in a curiously remote location. The on-board entertainment started half way on mute (no subtitles), ended, recommenced, and was unmuted 1/3rd of the way and allowed to play through to the end. It featured Tom Cruise, Egyptian mummies, and Dr Hyde. 3/10. As it looped again for a third showing (first with audio), it was abruptly canceled for a showing of "Son of Bigfoot". I'm not sure which was worse. Wes Anderson would have been a much better fit.
After finally falling asleep, we were awoken at 6am by the ticket conductor to collect our ticket and tell us "Walvis Bay?" to which we nodded. Expecting our stop shortly we watched the sunrise over the desert. After an hour, I checked the satellite phone and realised we were about an hour from Swakopmund, which is an hour from Walvis Bay so decided to get some more sleep.
When we eventually arrived at Walvis Bay station we were three ours late and our lift had given up on waiting and had left. A premium-rate phone call to the hotel later and a driver arrived at the now deserted station to collect us and our bags. The Guest house we had booked online was undergoing maintenance so we were put up in another hotel. I was suspicious about the whole affair until we were shown to an enormous suite with a bath big enough for 6 people. There was little time to enjoy it however as almost immediately I got a call from our Namibian agent and had to take a taxi back to the port to sign a power-of-attorney. By the time I had got back and sorted some things out it was time to go back to the port to get the truck out. Kim did not have a port permit so waited at the agents office making conversation for 2 hours while I was to witness the Friday-afternoon bureaucracy. I got into the back of a car with Jason and his colleague and we drove to the port.
Without wishing to bore anyone I'll skip over most details about releasing the vehicle from the port. It took about 2 hours and involved leaving the port three times to get stamps, visit notaries, and collect more paperwork. After the keys were released, we were left to find the truck in the port which took a while but provided an opportunity to tour the port and the ongoing Chinese construction site, within which we found the truck. Just outside the port, a man appeared to sticker the truck, apparently the result of a phone enquiry Jason made but even he was surprised. £10 later the truck had the required hi-vis stickers, Jason declared it road legal, and we shook hands and drove the truck back to the hotel. The truck's wing-mirrors tickled the sides of the gate posts reversing in and the bemused staff, obviously expecting a pickup truck, found a place at the back of the car park for it. Aware that this was likely the last time we would stay in a hotel for the next year, we made the most of the amenities then went out for dinner. The following day we started our truck-trip officially and had earmarked a spot on the beach to stay for a few nights.
Exciting start to your trip! Looking forward to reading each update and hope you have more joy with travelling now your in a bit more control!
Hi im glad you have arrived and started the dream . il be with you all the way . if only a week or two behind your posts .
Dawn (Twin Bridesmaid)
Cannot believe you are on your way... what a start. Good job you are the patient sorts!
:D ... we don't have a choice! haha. Hope everything is all good with you :)
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