Friday 27/10/17 10am: After a brilliant adrenalin-filled week in Livingstone with some lovely new friends, I’m back on the move. I’ve had an awesome time in Zambia but my liver’s grateful that I’m leaving! I’m on an intercape coach for the next 20-ish hours crossing the border from Zambia to Namibia. The ground outside already looks much drier here and the roadside kids’ bare feet are dusted with a fine light sand. A few hours in and we jump off the bus and walk to the border control for departure from Zambia. There’s rarely any sign posts or clear instructions in Africa at any official building but it’s usually easy enough to follow the person in front. The Zambia exit is easy and then it’s a 10 minute walk through no-man’s land to a small tent on the Namibian side. I sit in a chair and a seemingly mute lady sticks a thermometer (at least, I hope it’s a thermometer) gun in my ear then gestures for me to take a scrap piece of paper from a box on the edge of her desk. I clutch my scrap paper without knowing why and stumble out in to the sun again following the dusty footprints that have gone on ahead. I notice the paper has a faint stamp with a date from 2 days’ ago and proclaims that I just passed the “health inspection”. Excellent!
Two hours later, everyone on the bus has passed the ear thermometer test, stood in an endless queue for fingerprinting and passport checks, and all our luggage has been roughly ransacked. Finally, we’re allowed to continue our journey. Hello, Namibia!
Through the coach’s tinted windows, I can see that the houses here are ringed with neat straw fences with clearly defined plots and look a bit more organised to my western eye. There’s definitely more sand than soil here and termite mounds tower between the houses to keep it interesting. The roads are instantly smoother and we pick up some speed.
Only 2.4 million people live in Namibia, as opposed to 15.5m in Zambia and it’s noticeable as soon as we enter the country. Where is everyone? I drift between staring out the window at not much and reading my book. Before I know it, the sun’s heading down – its warm glow lights up the sand and bushes around us and lulls everyone on the bus into silence. I start dozing as the sun sets and after a fitful night, wake up properly as it peeks back over the horizon.
It’s been the most tiresome journey with new people joining throughout the night – the lights get switched on and everyone’s belongings get juggled as the newbies try to find a seat. I’ve only had a couple of hours’ sleep and I’m feeling cranky. My mood momentarily lifts as the returning burnt orange sun is as beautiful a sunrise as I’ve ever seen. It reveals more desert and shrub but now with the addition of various small hills silhouetted in the distance. Are those sand dunes? The bewitching light casts magical shadows around our bus as if we’re sitting at a campfire. I hope we’re not too far from Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, where I’ve prebooked a bed for the night. The sunrise is beautiful but I want off this bus!
The roadside gets a little busier and we pass a small town. It has almost entirely western buildings with concrete walls – there’s not one mud hut to be seen. I’m a little disappointed – have I left true Africa behind? I’ve also just realised that despite being called Livingstone and spending a week in a town called Livingstone, I failed to buy one Livingstone-related souvenir. What an idiot!
We eventually arrive at Windhoek on Saturday morning at 7.45am and I spend a frustrating 45 minutes trying to find the backpackers that promised to be 8 minutes’ walk from the station. Think this cranky backpacker might need a time-out nap. Or wine, wine will do.