It was 18h30. Shihan Leon Beech (the official tour manager) was doing a last-minute check to see that everyone had brought along their necessary travel documents. I was very excited as this was my very first trip to Namibia. I sensed a similar excitement coming from the sixty-two strong group of parents, children and senior karateka who were boarding a luxury coach. We were about to depart to the Karate Zen Namibian Open Tournament which would be held in Windhoek, Namibia.
At 18h50 the bus edged its way out of the parking area and headed for the N7 as we nestled into our seats and made ourselves comfortable. After all, this would be home for the next eighteen hours. Most of the children Namibia Karate
occupied themselves with their ‘state of the art cellphones’. There was also no shortage of food, as everyone tucked into their supper.
Our first stop was at a small town called Klawer. Shihan Leon was very strict about adhering to time. His plan was to get to the border by 03h00. We quickly learnt that when he said that we were stopping for twenty minutes, he didn’t mean twenty-one. Our next stop was Springbok. I was somewhat disappointed that it was in the middle of the night because I wanted to see the place. The air was warm and we encountered large locusts fluttering around everywhere.
We eventually reached the border at about 03h00. The whole process around passports, contact numbers of family members, letters of consent for the children travelling alone and the completion official forms for each person took four long hours.
(7th April 2011) By 07h00 we were on our way again. We had crossed the border into Namibia. The children were oblivious to the fact that we had also crossed the mighty Orange River because all of this had happened in the dead of night.
Contrary to what I’ve heard about a boring journey, I was fascinated with the changing vegetation and landscape as the bus steadily travelled through towns like Keetmanshoop, Mariental and Rehoboth towards Windhoek.
The landscape for the greater part of the journey from the border to Windhoek consisted of mesas and buttes. These landforms have a characteristic shape – flat top and cliff like sides – which is due to the layers of rock forming them.
The other fascinating landform was the spitzkop. The Spitzkoppe, is a group of bald granite peaks located between Usakos and Swakopmund in the Namib desert. The formations stand out dramatically from the flat surrounding plains.
Despite the somewhat claustrophobic travelling conditions, the atmosphere aboard the bus was jovial. In fact everyone coped very well with the tiring journey. The bus was equipped with two television sets which were conveniently mounted to allow the passengers easy viewing. Byron Johannes (one of the cadets in the team) was armed with a variety of CD movies which helped to pass the time.
We arrived at our destination at 18h00 the Thursday evening and were accommodated at the Gammams Technical hostel. The area was named after the Gammams River and is approximately 10 minutes drive from Windhoek central. I don’t think anyone noticed, but we were staying opposite a cemetery. The Gammams Cemetery was used from 1904. Some members of the Herero community were buried there as a result of the Herero uprisings against the Germans in 1904
I found it quite amusing that the spelling of Gammams at the cemetery differed from the spelling of the same word on the hostel signboard. The two signboards were positioned opposite each other on different sides of the road. I don’t think anyone else noticed though.
By 19h30 everyone was settled in their rooms and we met for supper in the communal mess. Kancho Selwyn and Lizelle flew to Windhoek to join the group. The long stop at the border had extended the travelling time to 23 hours. While the adults were exhausted by the journey, the children seemed untiring and were determined to be up all evening despite several warnings to retire to bed. I was told that some of their excitement only ended at 04h00 the following morning.
(8 April 2011) Breakfast was served at 07h00. We had a long day ahead. After breakfast, Kancho Selwyn and Lizelle were kind enough to equip everyone with a black Karate Zen South Africa/Namibia golf shirt. This would serve as a fitting memento of our time spent in Namibia.
We were scheduled for a ‘game drive’ that morning. This would be another first for me. The very beautiful game farm was approximately 20 minutes from Gammams. On the farm we boarded four different Safari Land Cruiser vehicles with special open-air seating to accommodate the whole group. These vehicles were built to negotiate rough terrain. For two hours we travelled through riverbeds, along firebreaks and through long savannah-type grasslands viewing a variety of wildlife. At one stage we found ourselves within touching distance of five white rhino who ventured right up to the vehicle as part of their feeding routine. Everyone found the game drive fascinating. The two hours seemed to fly as we were immersed in a real safari environment. Personally, I had never been that close to a lion. Our cameras snapped away relentlessly as we tried to capture all the wild life.
We returned to a huge shopping mall in Central Windhoek. This allowed everyone the time to walk around and engage in a shopping expedition. While this was taking place, the senior leadership met with the deputy minister for sport in Namibia. This was a very important strategic move for Karate Zen Namibia, as it afforded them a tremendous amount of exposure. The meeting was also televised on the Namibia Television News that very evening.