Not much happened today, so the following is mostly commentary. I’ll post the photos first for those who wish to skip my thoughts:
The Cardboard Box Hostel is mediocre, maybe even poor. I don’t think I’ve been clear about that previously. The acceptable things: beds/pillows are fine, cleanliness is.. fine, and location is good if you don’t mind walking a kilometre or so (which I really like!). Otherwise: the staff is reticent and in one case down right creepy, the atmosphere is poor (I’ll explain why shortly) and the facilities are in poor repair.
Creepy story: the first afternoon I’m here, I’m resting in my room after my 27hr bus trip and one of the security guards (or so he identifies himself) comes into my room and says he starts work in an hour and he’s just going to go into the adjoining room and rest. Er. Okay. Except he doesn’t rest, he proceeds to make and receive phone calls at high volume until his shift, when he leaves, still chatting on his phone, and leaves his backpack in the room. ..if he starts at 18h00 then he ends at 06h00 and even if somehow all of the above were okay, I am not okay with him coming through my room at six in the morning, or otherwise during his shift. I ask the receptionist if this behaviour is normal and she says not and THEN yells his name at the top of her lungs as I’m walking away and gives him a tongue lashing. Great. Around midnight that night I hear someone open my door and then close it. I went and checked outside my door and there’s no one there. Then at 05h45 someone knocks on my door and when I say Hello, guess who should open the door and ask, “Is everything okay?” What a creep. Oh, some background information: I’m the only one in my dorm and my dorm is a separate building away from all the other rooms and common areas.
Anyway, as I’m leaving to explore the city that morning I ask for a key so I can lock my door from the inside and explain why. Oddly he isn’t fired, which I judge the company for strongly.
Poor Atmosphere: there is a bar attached to the hostel. Fine. Except you have to walk through the hostel to get to the bar, there is no food served, and the bar surrounds the pool and takes up all of the outdoor living space. As in, you have to be sitting in a bar to be sitting outdoors. In fact, to be honest, all of the common areas except the kitchen are part of the bar. So essentially a person at this hostel is living in a bar. And not a very comfy welcoming one. More like the Ceeps in London: your classic university drinking hole. Add to that the surliness of the employees and I would give this place a solid 1.5/5 stars. And that’s only because there is reliable hot water. Did I mention the internet was spotty?
Windhoek’s sidewalks are paved with flagstones. Easy to repair I guess, but! These flagstones are hexagons, approximately the size of the average elephant foot print (yah, I know how big that is, whatever) AND has the texture of an elephant foot print. Basically I love whichever city engineer did this.
I spent most of my “not in my room getting hella lots of planning done” time today mooching about the mall and a few other stores. It felt kind of like being in the States. Most of the other shoppers were spatially rude towards me. Essentially treated me like they couldn’t see me, stepping in front of me in line, not helping me at counters unless cornered, taking clothes I was looking at. I admit I was the only white kid for miles around and I guess their actions may have been racially motivated, but still. Not that I felt annoyed, just confused that such a large number of people would bother being rude to someone they don’t know and who is obviously away from home and alone.
Which actually brings me to another observation: walking down the streets here is far less welcoming than in Maun and Victoria Falls. Not sure if that’s a big city versus small town thing, a tourist-y town versus more normal city thing or if it has to do with overall national attitudes but it has been far less rewarding to smile and greet people the last few days than it has for the previous month.
Walking in a city that drives on the left is a death wish. Nicole commented that if you’re a confident driver at home, you’re a confident driver abroad. Maybe true. But I’m willing to make some arguments about competence, both behind the wheel and while pounding pavement.
Vehicle: it took me two weeks of driving Trevor to use ANY of the mirrors on my left. Before I left I was shoulder checking relevantly approximately 40% of the time. Luckily there just wasn’t much traffic and other people had a vested interest in not colliding with me.
Walking: crossing roads progresses through time as follows: checks the wrong directions, (a lot of honking and a few near death experiences), then checks all directions without strategy and will not cross unless there are no cars anywhere, (still almost dies on approximately 1 out of every 10 crossings). Crossing with locals or at controlled intersections SHOULD help, but it doesn’t. Either the locals or the robots (that’s what southern African’s call traffic lights!) want North American tourists to die. I cannot predict what the lights are or will cause the cars to do or what information the locals are using to determine crossing safety. My adrenaline tourism urges need search no further, a simple walk to the park is a hair-raising event.
If you made it though all that – way to go! You shall be rewarded with all the things I accomplished today: booked my bus to Cape Town (leaves Fri, arrives Sat), booked my hostel for Cape Town (Ashanti Lodge Gardens, looks amaze balls), booked a train from Cape Town to JoBurg (leaves Dec 11, arrive Dec 12) and booked my hostel for Havana (Dec 14-20, Concordia Backpackers). Look at me being all planned up!
Only thing unaccounted for between now and December 30th is the night of December 13th. I can wing it in JoBurg right? Right? 😬