The one thing I quickly learned about Africa, on my first trip, was just how astonishingly different the various countries in this continent can be from each other. So very vastly distinct, and nothing would remind me of this more than traveling from Nigeria to Namibia: nations living on the same continent, but that might as well be on different planets. For example, on Monday I was jammed up in some of the world’s worst traffic, taking photos of dark men in bright Muslin gowns, driving past slums and graffitied walls; and Tuesday morning I was entering a German-founded town that looked more like Phoenix, Arizona. These two countries couldn’t be more different, and witnessing the razor-sharp contrast between the two makes me shake my head at the 22-year-old Randy who thought Africa was just one big jungle-country with lions running around.
The trip into country #103 also reminded me to stop booking red-eyes. It was my second overnight flights in a row and my butt was getting kicked quickly. To make it worse, it was the beginning of a twelve-country trip, so I was exhausting myself early. Not smart, but to be fair to myself, these were my only flight options.
Quick shout out to Air Namibia for receiving the Ramblin’ Randy Award for Best Airplane Food in Coach. I couldn’t believe my nose–even just the smell that filled the cabin once the food was being served was wonderful. The wonderful meal with detailed touches made me think very highly of this airline. Well done Air Namibia!
I arrived in Windhoek at dusk, changed some money and grabbed a cab into town. The drive from the airport to town could’ve passed for Mexico, as we sped down the nearly empty road between the desert scrub on each side of us and a golden-purple-red sunrise straight ahead. It reminded me of the drive from Tucson to Hermosillo I’ve made so many times; the only thing missing were the wooden shacks with Coca-Cola signs on them. Soon the buildings appeared as we entered Windhoek, and things strangely looked nothing like Africa…at least not the Africa I knew. No mosques, chaotic markets, men in robes or women carrying baskets of fruit on their heads. This was Southern Africa and this city could’ve been used as a filming location for “Anytown, USA” in a million different movies.
Soon I was in the city and checking into my hotel as the busy day was just starting. I needed sleep. Christine from the radio station would pick me up at 12:30PM. I sacked out and awoke in what seemed like seconds later, groggily stumbling downstairs to checkout and meet Christine.
Back home, I work in radio. I’ve been a DJ since I was 15 years old, and besides travel, radio is my life; my first love. So radio plus travel is always a treat: it’s always a bonus when I’m able to tour radio stations during my international trips. My buddy, American promotions and programming guru Paige Nienaber, works with a group of stations in Windhoek, so getting access was easy. Station manager Christine Thompson even picked me up from the hotel. How’s that for service?
I spent an hour or so touring the Radio Wave facilities, which was a cool building in a quiet residential neighborhood of Windhoek. The digs were everything a radio station should be. Instead of a sterile corporate building with ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights, this house-turned-radio facility was reminiscent of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, with an open floor plan, colored walls and jagged lines. The people were just as fun: shout out to Margaret, Robin, whoops–I met so many people I know I’m going to forget names. They loaded me up with promo schwag (stickers, keychains, etc.) before we said goodbye and I was off to the ranch. I listened to Radio Wave in the cab; what a great station, full of life!
I had one night in Namibia; technically this was an airline stopover from Nigeria to South Africa. The Okapuka Ranch was only about a half-hour out of town and turned out to be the perfect place to finally “stop;” to decompress, chill, eat, see some animals and get in some much needed sleep. Lots of sleep.
I checked in just after three, with just enough time throw my bags down and have some fries at the open air bar before the “game drive” would depart to see some animals. Okapuka was a big game reserve, featuring 18 thatched-roof rooms all lined up next to each other, along with a couple of small pools and a restaurant that overlooked a big grassy area and plenty of “warning” signs about the animals. The first thing I saw were groups of warthogs loitering about the lawn and a few giant ostriches, just walking around. It was very cool.
But there wouldn’t be much time to lounge around this afternoon, as soon I’d be in the back seat of a safari truck (I don’t know what else to call it–a truck with three rows of seats in the back, covered by a canvas top) and rollin’ through the wilderness to see some animals! Wart hogs, springbok, gazelles, rhino, giraffes and more…it was a really fun ride!
We cruised all over the reserve–just us and the animals–it was an interesting mix for feelings, both relaxing and thrilling, mixed with a little drowsiness from my lack of sleep.
I’d barely started my trip, and if I didn’t want to get sick, I needed some deep slumber. I took two sleeping pills in the middle of my 6PM dinner. By the time I finished my game burger I was already fading fast. I had just enough energy to pile on some extra blankets, as it was freezing outside and my little house contained no heat. Nor a TV. But I guess that’s all part of the “experience,” right? Didn’t matter, I just needed shuteye. And I got it: a glorious eleven hours and thirty four minutes according to my FitBit. Shoutout to Unisom.
RAMBLIN’ TIP: Pack sleep medication for your trips, you never know when you may need it, and there’s nothing worse than not being able to sleep all night because your body clock is out of whack–and then feeling like a zombie all the next day because you haven’t slept. It’s ruined my trip before. Find the right medication for you–different sleep aides work differently for everyone, and I actually have had great luck with an over-the-counter.
I awoke so refreshed and recharged the next morning, with nothing else on my agenda then to eat breakfast (which I almost missed, I slept so late), pack up my stuff, and wander around the property. You couldn’t meander too far, or something would eat you, so for the most part I stayed on the paths. At one point a heard of goats–like 30 of them–started to follow me and it almost made me nervous for a second, like they were going to eat me. It was seriously so much fun, and relaxing at the same time; I could picture hanging out there for a few nights…but sadly, it was time for the next country. My cabbie from yesterday picked me up right on time, as promised. I had more Africa to see.
Namibia was a different kind of African experience, for me at least. While most tourists visiting Africa usually take this exact laid-back, safari vibe-type of trip, I don’t. This stop was totally foreign to me, in comparison to the chaotic, borderline-dangerous African trips that I usually take, often to countries on the State Department’s Do Not Travel list, where metal detectors and machine guns are a common site. But that’s not a complaint–not a dig at Namibia or those banana republics my Mom worries about me visiting–just an observation and a reminder that Africa indeed isn’t a “country,” but an enormous continent, with different landscapes, languages, cultures, currency, food and…well, different everything! Wouldn’t it be boring if it wasn’t?
Note: Unless otherwise noted, I was not compensated for any mentions or “shout outs” contained in this article. Not to say that I wouldn’t take compensation, haha…but if I did, I would tell you.This entry was posted in Africa