London to Windhoek

Rather a lot has happened since my last post so forgive the bombardment of mini posts: only now have I returned from a lengthy spell without Wi-Fi in the Namibian desert.
London fly-by: I departed from Saint Petersburg mid-afternoon on Friday 27th. My attempts to charm the lady at the check-in desk into giving my preferential seating had resulted in a middle seat with minimal legroom (charm fail), however, as the journey was only 5 hours, I didn’t mind much. 
After a lovely evening en famille, I set of early on Saturday morning to Victoria to renew my passport. As some background, two days prior to my departure from Hong Kong I had decided that washing my passport on a 40 degree cotton wash would be as good idea. Several hours of dehumidifier, hair-dryer and ironing later and, whilst forlorn-looking, it was (I hoped) usable. It did, however, get inordinate scrutiny at every border so I decided renewal was a sensible option.
Nervous about whether the state of my passport would be commented upon, I shuffled to the counter of the passport office to which I had been called and, lo and behold, there was a friend I’d worked with one summer on a sports camp some 12 years before! She did not scold me, to my great relief.
The rest of the weekend flew past with many too many drinks in Clapham and the discovery that my London friends were planning the creation of a commune off young professionals. This would have surprised me had not the same friends and I once skied the French Alps dressed as giant cod, a cockroach, a gorilla, a frog and Batman.
I boarded my flight to Cape Town late on Sunday evening and slept the sleep of the very hungover. I was scheduled to fly straight on to Windhoek in Namibia on the day of my arrival in Cape Town, which I duly did, marveling at the quality of the Air Namibia in-flight food and service.
My driver was there to meet me and, somehow, had collected two other travellers who were headed to hostels in the city centre: Leonardo, a Cuban living a fully nomadic life whilst remotely running accountancy support; Nadja, a Swiss girl whose 26th birthday it happened to be.
Before I left the two of them at my suburban AirBnB in Ludwigsdorf, we made plans to meet up later in the evening for a few (birthday) drinks.
I had arrived at a large, whitewashed residence on a step incline with views over Windhoek. I was greeted with great warmth by a charming middle-aged lady called Lydia, the mater familiae, who ran the B&B business when they had guests. The orange flames I saw flickering on the verandah, accompanied by the ways of wood smoke, suggested that my arrival had coincided with that most sacred of rituals that South Africans (I was later to discover that Lydia and co were originally from Cape Town) call a “braai”.

Braai-work: the steaks are high

 It may look, at first glimpse, like a simple barbeque, but arcane techniques and secrete recipes have been solemnly passed on for generations, making this way of cooking almost a spiritual event.
Once my bags had been deposit in the most delightful, Georgette Heyer-style bedroom, I was informed that daughter and son in law were in town for only one night, hence the braai. To my amazement, not only was I then invited to join them for dinner, but I was also given several beers to wash down the tender steak.

My AirBnB boudoir

After dinner, having bombarded them with thank you’s, I headed to Joe’s Steakhouse in central Windhoek, where arrangements had been made for our drinks. I don’t know what I had expected of a Namibian bar, but Joe’s was definitely it. Several seating areas around fire-pits under low timber rods and a highly eclectic clientele. It was clear that this was a watering hole for travellers/ex-pats, however, there was also a good smattering of local patrons, chatting animatedly at the large, crescent-shaped central bar.

Around the fire at Joe’s

Having already eaten, I contented myself with a bottle of Windhoek lager whilst my new companions ordered Oryx (a type of antelope) steak and Zebra steak. (a far cry from the “fish and chips twice, please” of my homeland!) I’m told it was delicious!
In the knowledge that we all had early starts in the morning, a few libations later, we bid each other adieu just before midnight and returned to our respective lodgings.

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