We slow roll Belinda up to the South African border gate and get stopped by an armed guard in camo with a machine gun. He gives us a smile and ducks to peer in the passenger window, “Howzit, just gonna take a look”, “Yeah, for sure.” I hop out and open the back. We’ve already decided not to offer up the side panel fridge/freezer section unless he asks. We’d probably lose the meat we picked up and we’re all pumped for some ostrich stew at camp later. He takes a lazy look around. Oh yeah this is going well. He gives us the nod and we get back in.
The guard comes around the driver side and spots some Halls in the cup holder. “Oh Halls, they taste nice. May I have one?”, “Yeah, man”, “Safe drive, eh.”
Well that was quick and painless. We pull ahead to the passport booth by the border gate out of South Africa. Of course, it’s Jamie’s first day driving the truck and he doesn’t quite have the dimensions down yet. He pulls up super far from the booth window. We’re all laughing at him. “Dude, can you even reach the window?” The border guard gets in on it and now we’re laughing even harder. He yells out the window at Jamie, “Hey! I am not a super man, you know. You think I’m superman? Why are you so far away from me? You don’t like me? You think I’m Superman?”
Jamie has to lean halfway out the window to hand the guy our stack of passports. The guard flips quickly through one, “You didn’t go to the Police?”, “Ahhhh no, didn’t go to the police”, “Ok Superman, you have to go back. Check in with Police.” Classic. U-turn at the first border we come to.
We bring Belinda back around to the customs and immigration buildings and sure enough there’s a police one beside them before the Halls Guard we met earlier. There’re no directions or order to these things, you just have to learn by doing it wrong first. We walk in and a girl police officer is in the middle of an argument with a Namibian guy. As new bodies show up in the room things resolve quickly and the man walks away annoyed.
“Doesn’t know how to drive. Why is he here telling me how to drive? In my own country? Sheesh.” She seems like a character actually and quickly switches to a large smile, “Now, how can I help you boys?” Peter hands her his passport and says, “We didn’t get the police stamp.” She starts flipping through his passport and chastises him, “Adams, Adams, Adams” (she has a wonderfully thick accent and it sounds like Adums, Adums, Adums. It’s great).
She looks up at the rest of us for a moment with her hand out for our passports, “You look like brothers. Are you guys brothers?”, “Nope. Get that a lot though.” She hands the passports back, “Enjoy Namibia, boys.”
We get back in the truck and pull forward but the same armed guard from before waves us down again. “Didn’t I just see one of these? With all these same people in it?”, “Yeah, that was us.” Despite this he still walks around the truck and comes back to the window, “This is a nice truck. What do you guys do?”, canned undercover answer, “We work for a software company”, “Software?”, “Yeah, computers <keyboard type mime>”.
Now somehow this conversation takes a weird left turn, even though we’ve already talked to this guy and have no reason to do so again. Once he finds out we ‘do computers’ he’s all about us getting him set up with a second hand computer. And Drisdelle, for some reason, instead of saying ‘no, that’s ridiculous, we’re not going to ship a second-hand computer from North America to the border of SA/Namibia, is entertaining this idea. Which makes it much funnier. And stranger.
The guard’s name is Jerry and he is crazy stoked about getting a second-hand computer now. He gives us his address and phone number on a small piece of paper. “How long do you think?”, “Well, we’ll be on safari for.. 3-4 weeks. Then I don’t know how long it’ll take to get one or ship it over here…”, “So, maybe a few months?”, “Yeah, maybe.” This is absurd. “Which month will you send it?”, “Ah….”, “A computer, with keyboard <Jerry does the typing pantomime on his machine gun stock>”, October or November maybe”, “Ok good!” Jerry has a wide smile on his face. He’s pumped.
He takes a step back, body language telling us we’re free to go now. We wave out the window, “Ok, thanks Jerry” and Drisdelle pulls forward passed immigration and customs again while we’re all shaking our heads, “So we’re shipping Jerry the border guard a second hand computer now?”, “Yeah, I guess so.”
We get back to the passport control booth again, “Oh Superman is back!”, “Did we park close enough this time?”, “Yes yes”, he looks up at our camper roof that’s probably a little too close for comfort, “Just don’t hit my booth on the way out.” He takes the passport stack and runs through them quickly, mumbling “yep, yep police” and then hands them back. “Ok Superman, have a good time”, “Thanks, we will.” The gate comes up and we exit South Africa into No man’s land.
There’s a small bridge across the Orange River and then the gates for the Namibian border
Bit of a line on the Namibian side of things. There are a few cars and a group of 4 bikers who snuck passed us as we messed up with the SA Police stamps. We take our rental vehicle agreements and passports into a building that looks like an all in one border office. There’s a small donation for road maintenance when you bring a vehicle into Namibia, they let us pay it with our leftover rand.
I hand my passport to the Namibian border agent girl who also has a killer accent, “Jon-a-tahn. Jon-a-tahn. You’ve got a lot of stamps here”, “Yeah”, “Traveling the whole world then?”, “Getting there”, “You are getting there. And me stuck here in this office”, “We may have room in the truck” I point out to Belinda. “Imagine. Some day, Jon-a-tahn.” She hands back the documents with a smile.
Not really any inspection of the truck on this side either. Sweet. We’re in.
The landscape seems to change instantly. It gets dusty. Just a dirt road. Hella windy too. The air is hot and dry. Quite a dramatic shift all of a sudden. Reminds me of Turkmenistan.
We make a stop at a little break place up the road to get some snacks and take a leak. Damn it’s windy. Kicking up dust and we’re squinty, shielding our eyes as we cross the parking lot to the small shop.
Alright Namibia, let’s do this. We follow signs for Richtersveld and start to pass by a plantation. Wonder what they’re growing here? Such a harsh climate for crops.
The river is lined with wooden shanties and thatched fences.
There are people fishing down by the river and some boat rental places. We pass by a small grocery store. It looks closed. Beside it is a Beaver Canoe store? The Canadian flag and a ‘From Toronto, Canada’ sign on it. Wow, that’s weird. Of all places to see that. How can it be supported by this community? There must be good fishing here.
The shanties follow the river for a mile or two…
…and it looks drastically different from anywhere we grew up..
The town fades out and now we’re just left on a barren moonscape as the road curves away from the river. It leads us into the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. “Should we try to find a place to camp in the park? Down by the river somewhere?”, “Yeah for sure. Are there campgrounds?”, “Probably”, “Not that it matters, I suppose”, “Nope”, “Let’s check it out.”