Sunday, November 18, 2012

Roadtrip to Ghanzi and Windhoek

Time's gotten away from me - I didn't realize it had been almost three weeks since my last blog entry! We have been keeping busy here in Gaborone, and took another trip into the depths of Botswana and across the border to Namibia over Veteran's Day weekend.

Town Center, Ghanzi
The trip started in Ghanzi, a small town located in the western corner of Botswana. I went there for a work consultations visit, similar to the trip we took to Maun and Kasane at the end of September. Traveling the country outside of Gaborone is an excellent way to get a broader perspective on what is going on in Botswana, and obviously the only way to really understand how people live outside of the city. Scott and I (well, mostly Scott) drove all the way from Gaborone to Ghanzi, an eight hour journey down mostly a mostly empty two lane road where the biggest hazards were farm animals like goats, cow and sheep that would occasionally meander out into the road as our car approached at 90 miles an hour! We also saw several warthogs and ostriches poking around in the grass on the side of the road, but these more exotic animals seemed to be more aware of their surroundings than the farm animals and for the most part stayed out of our way.

Front Entrance to Kuru Art at D'Kar
During my last work consultations trip, I found that visiting the area Peace Corps volunteers is an excellent means to obtain a snapshot of what daily life is like in any location. PCV's are extremely intelligent, hardworking and dedicated and they spend two years living in remote villages as well as larger towns and cities all throughout Botswana. There are three stationed in the Ghanzi area, and I visited each of their projects which included a primary school, a secondary school and an arts and crafts center at a settlement outside of Ghanzi. The arts and craft center was really lovely, it's located at the D'Kar settlement, where people from the native San community moved and many of them now work producing paintings, drawings, and other hand-made products for sale. You can find out more at their website here:

I also had a very interesting and productive meeting with Ghanzi local government officials about issues facing the area, including a rising number of destitution cases and an influx of  child beggars in the region, and one of the the highest tuberculosis infection rates in the country. You would not think that TB would be a problem in such a sparsely populated area but unfortunately it spreads quickly because people oftentimes cram 15-20 family members into one small home... so once one person gets it, everyone else is quickly infected as well because they are all living in such close quarters.

After my one day of meetings in Ghanzi, Scott and I were ready to head across the border to Namibia's capital city of Windhoek! We had heard great things about the Windhoek and wanted to check it out for ourselves, especially since we had already driven so far along the way; Windhoek is about a 6 hours drive from Ghanzi.  Namibian roads were fairly similar to those in Botswana, with not much to see along the way and a whole lot of animals wandering out in front of our car. However, once we crossed the border we did notice a difference in the architecture - Namibia is a former German colony and so you see much more of a European influence there. We really enjoyed our time in Windhoek. After Gaborone, it felt like being in the big city for a while! Unlike Gaborone, there is a downtown with cute restaurants, bars and shops to walk around. Also, there's much more of a culinary scene in Windhoek, and we had several delicious meals that would qualify as fine dining even in a big city in the United States. We stayed in an adorable boutique hotel that I would highly recommend to anyone taking a trip to Namibia - check out the Belvedere Boutique hotel and you will not be disappointed! Our plan is to return to Namibia again at some point during our two years in Botswana, but next time we will fly into Windhoek and explore more of the areas outside the city like the beaches and game parks in the western and northern parts of Namibia.

Our next big road trip is to Durban, South Africa over Christmas (12 hours from Gaborone), hopefully we'll have recovered enough by then from the loooong haul from Gabs to Windhoek and back again!

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