“That is where they made their Leberwurst!”, Keetmanshoop, March 11th, 2011

Monday, March 7th, 4am in the morning and I am fully awake in my luxury 20 Dollar apartment in the north of Botswana. I use the time to write my diary and eat the rest of my pizza from last night – what a big mistake and how it leads to a worst case scenario. Three hours later, I am sitting in a full (and I mean full) bus, have still 3 hours to go, in the middle of nowhere and my stomach starts cramping. Let me tell you, never eat Pizza from last night if it was not in the fridge. After a view minutes it gets so bad, no gas station, no civilisation in sight, I talk to the ticket lady. She sees in my eyes that I am not joking and makes the driver stop immediately. Imagine, a full bus on the side of the road and me behind a view bushes fighting with the results of food poisoning, worst case, but relieving, smile.

One hour later the same game again. No more details but a reminder – never eat pizza from the night before if it was not in the fridge. By now everybody in the bus knows I am suffering, tries not to laugh when I come back from the bushes and a European looking lady becomes my saviour and turns worst case into ideal scenario. Rumy from Bulgaria lives since 10 years in Gaborone, Botswana and makes me drink vinegar. Oh, I love vinegar, it helps so much. Six hours later I have a BBQ with Rumy and Tshepo at a diary factory. Rumy is production manager at Sally Dairy and has a house on the factory sight. Tshepo is her driver (since she lost her license) and also a manager at the factory. That I am invited to stay at her place I don’t need to mention but have I mentioned that I love my world trip. It’s these days, unforeseen and with open end, it’s these kind of people, welcoming and interesting, why I am travelling.

Tuesday Rumy has the objective to give me a “zero Euro day”. She makes me a great breakfast, pays for lunch and dinner, gives me a short factory tour and even invites me to a movie (“Fairgame” with Sean Penn, good). The only thing I do pay is my flight ticket to Windhoek for the next day. Expensive Botswana luckily turned out very cheap for me but regarding more I am reminded of the Billy Joel song “Entertainer” in which he says: “I would love to stay but there are bills to pay.” Botswana is for the wealthy elderly tourist and I am not elderly yet, smile.

South Africa Airways shows why they are part of Star Alliance and without any problems I arrive early in Windhoek, Namibia, this Wednesday morning. The weather is great, the airport small and for the first time in my life my luggage is among the first 10 pieces on the belt. On top of that the train I would like to take leaves exactly this evening and I have the 8 hours I need to cover the cute capital of this old German colony country. It reminds me more of small town America only with all these German street names and buildings. I walk through all of down town and some more. The fact that everything shuts down 5pm does not really have capital or big town character, but what happens then does. Within 30 minutes my mood / impression changes from happy / nice to fearful. As the shops close, the thief’s and beggars come out from everywhere. I have never seen such a change in such short time and I almost run to the train station to feel secure.  Here I met Ray and that is crazy. I ran into Ray, from South Korea, in Ethiopia in December, again in Uganda in January and now here in the south of this rather big continent. Or is the world really just a village?????

My train ride I enjoy to the fullest, eat chicken and chips, listen to music and use the table in my 2 people, one user cabin.  That the train never increases beyond 30km/h is the reason for its unpopularity but also why I took it. It will need the whole night for the 400km to Keetmanshoop in the south. I can sleep long and safe a hotel night. The ticket was only 6 Euros.

A beautiful sunrise wakes me up and another amazing, unexpected day full of surprises would be ahead. As written in the Lonely Planet I take a taxi to the gas station from where the bus to Lüderitz leaves. However, as the train was one hour late, the only bus of the day is gone. Now what to do?? I am not alone, 4 locals have the same problem. And there is Kelly, the drag queen.

He or she? Lets call her Kelly. While waiting hour by hours for a ride Kelly helps me to organize my ghost town tour for the next day, takes me for a walk into town and shows me an internet café. The looks we receive I manage well, I think. Actually I have a million questions but until this point its not spoken out yet that I know what she is. We are still in the game of who says what to break the issue. Some excitement comes into the waiting when an alarm of whatever good in whatever box of a random car goes off.

Finally, after 6 hours we jump on the back of a pick up truck which takes us to the village “AUS”, half way to Lüderitz. Here, after one hour and in unmatched style, Kelly hitches another pick up truck for us. Besides the stunning landscape, also the music is challenging on this last stage of our journey. Listen.

Finally, as sun sets down we arrive in Lüderitz and it is fantastic. I wanted to come here as it is the most famous of the German towns here in Namibia and as it has the even more famous Diamante ghost town called “Kolmanskuppe” right next to it. But for now I am invited to stay at Kelly’s house and we go for a great dinner at the ocean front and meet some of her friends later.

To answer unasked but certainly thought questions of my beloved readers. Smile. Yes, Kelly is a gay man, has gay friends. They behave gay, play the gay / drag queen game and wear women clothes. Some people do have a problem with it, looking at us. Towards me, Kelly and her friends show the greatest respect, never even make a double meaning comment or joke. That is why I feel extremely comfortable with them and appreciate Namibia as one of the most tolerant countries in Africa. In the last 4 months I have travelled in countries where Kelly would have been killed, at least imprisoned, in the name of the law. She has won titles as a drag queen model, is very engaged in Lüderitz development (we visit the majors office once), has tons of ideas and dreams, endless energy and is accepted if not loved by the majority of the inhabitants here. Certainly everybody knows her.

The next morning is my: “Photo hearts, what more can you ask for?” day. Kolmanskuppe was as German as it gets and is now a perfect Ghost town, invaded by sand. With German precision not only diamonds where taken out of the ground here but also the everyday life was organized. People shall not miss anything they had in Europe. An ice factory machine by Linde, a German butcher (my tour guide comments: “That is where they made their Leberwurst.” and a bakery, even a German Bowling center. The British pretty much kept everything the way the took it over until they left themselves in 1958. What a compliment for German quality. I hope the same applies to the photos I took.

At lunch I met Kelly’s friend, the hairdresser.

With my new hair cut we walked back home, not without meeting more hetero and guy friends of Kelly. Not a minute without a hug and somebody yelling across the street.

Then it was time to say good bye. For the first time in 5 months I felt in a rush as I had to catch the bus to Cape town. Kelly organized this nice man who not only took me for small money to Keetmanshoop but also stopped a view times to first shoot the sun set and then witness the dry but intense thunder storm. Try to stop the video right at the thunder at around 20 seconds and you will see how light it becomes for just a split of a second and how great it looks and turn up the volume too.

In this video it is at around 5 seconds and with the car coming at us later you see how dark it really was.

I made it to the “Engen” gas station in time and had a nice chat with the workers here before my Interliner to Capetown showed up at 1am at night. It would take me to the last country within my African adventure……………… .

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