From Durban to Windhoek - Traveling to Namibia
Updated: Jan 21
We wrapped up our time in the Drakensberg Mountains and headed back to the coast. After “roughing it” inland, we treated ourselves to a little more luxury, spending our last South African weekend in Durban’s Umhlanga neighborhood before flying to Windhoek, Namibia.
Umhlanga - Durban’s South Beach Equivalent
If Durban’s South Coast is the city’s summer escape, Umhlanga is its Miami Beach equivalent. Located just north of the city, Umhlanga is a neighborhood of beach resorts, high-end shopping, and great bars and restaurants.
Unfortunately, Durban proper is currently wracked by a nasty crime wave, so staying in the city center isn’t the smartest choice. Instead, we opted for a long weekend in this far-cusher area to the north, renting a beachfront apartment and relaxing for a few days.
Similar to South Beach and LA’s “Strand,” Umhlanga has a beautiful path paralleling the coast for miles. Wake up in the morning, head out the door, pick up a coffee, and stroll along this stunning stretch - not bad!
And, being there for the weekend, we had the added bonus of getting to see Armandt and Darnelle one last time before taking off for Namibia. On Saturday, they drove up to meet us for dinner and drinks, giving us some more time to catch up and just enjoy being with people we’re now fortunate to call close friends.
After a massive sushi dinner, we turned the evening into a bit of a bar crawl. We’d had a great time there the night before, so we decided on a night cap at an absolute gem - the Oyster Box Hotel’s historic Lighthouse Bar. With a turn-of-the-century feel, the aptly named bar looks out on Umhlanga’s famous lighthouse. Sit in deep leather chairs that basically swallow you whole, drink big ol’ beach cocktails, and pretend you’re living in a bygone era. Ridiculous? Sure, but it’s a great place for drinks!
At the end of the night, we said our goodbyes - crossing our fingers that we’d meet up in the States sooner rather than later!
Bunny Chow - a Gluttonous Durban Delight
We’d be remiss not to mention a culinary highlight of the Durban area - bunny chow.
Located in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa (formerly the Natal), Durban has a massive Indian population, which has significantly influenced the local food scene. Bunny chow features prominently. A true hangover bomb, it’s the perfect mix of drunken snacking and Indian deliciousness. Take a half loaf of fresh bread, hollow it out, and pour a heaping serving of curry over it, and you’ve got yourself a bunny chow.
Oh man, wash that down with a good local lager and you’ve got yourself the perfect recovery dish - or way to kick off a long night of debauchery!
From Durban to Windhoek - “I’ll Turn This Plane Around!”
When we first landed in Cape Town, we planned on spending around six weeks in South Africa. Three and a half months and over 2,000km on the road later, we’d seen far more of the country than we ever could’ve hoped for (though still not nearly enough!). But, it was time to move on, and after hearing countless South Africans rave about the beauty of Namibia, we decided that was the logical next step.
Formerly part of apartheid-era South Africa, Namibia sits just to the northwest on the South Atlantic coast. From Durban, we were able to fly directly into Windhoek, too, making it a logistically convenient destination.
We woke up early our last morning in Umhlanga, drove the 30ish minutes up the coast to the Durban airport, and returned our tiny rental car - trusty companion for the last couple months, and we (Chipp) finally felt comfortable driving a stick-shift on the left side of the road…
After a smooth check-in process - almost a domestic flight feeling flying “next door” - we boarded the plane. As we taxied out to the runway, we had a remind-you-of-childhood-only-in-the-Covid-era experience. Apparently, some of the passengers weren’t wearing their face masks. So, in the middle of the tarmac, the plane stopped, and the intercom crackled on:
Pilot: “If everyone doesn’t put their face masks on, I’ll turn this plane around!”
Fortunately, all the passengers obliged!
An Overview of Our Namibia Plans
Namibia is an outdoor adventure paradise - and one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. To properly explore, you need to rent a “bakkie” or SUV and get out on the road. But, this posed a bit of a challenge for us. We still needed to work during the week, and we couldn’t realistically do that from the bed of a pick-up truck.
So, we compromised. For our first month in the country, we rented an apartment in Windhoek, the capital (beauty of a strong dollar and monthly AirBnB discounts!). The plan was to work full days every Monday and Tuesday, then rent a camping-equipped pick-up to explore different parts of the country every Wednesday to Sunday. This let us A) get some work done, and B) still have some amazing adventures.
Not having any real knowledge of Namibia, we connected with a South African-based travel planner who lays out itineraries for visitors. We didn’t want to do the guided tour thing, but it’d help having someone to recommend places to stay and things to do.
Unfortunately, she ended up being a tremendous flake, meaning we had to handle most of the on-the-ground execution without her support. But, she did outline awesome itineraries for our weekend excursions - Etosha National Park, the Kalahari Desert, Sossusvlei, Quiver Tree, Fish River Canyon, and Luderitz, to name the highlights. And, she connected us with a solid truck rental company - Advanced Car Hire.
With Advanced, we were able to rent the same Toyota Hilux for our three separate trips. We checked it out the Wednesday of the first trip, then for the subsequent ones the company would pick us up from the apartment to start the weekend then drop us back off at the end - super convenient.
And what an awesome rig! All of the company’s pick-ups come with roof tents you can pop-up as soon as you get to your campsite. The covered bed also has a refrigerator, cooking supplies, chairs, and basically everything you need for an incredible time in the Namibian backcountry.
Plus, as an added bonus, Advanced includes airport transfers in their pricing. Rent a truck, and you don’t need to worry about making the 50ish minute drive from Windhoek’s airport into the city itself. Door-to-door service to our apartment, and we were set for the next chapter of our travels!