There are only just over two million people living in the whole of Namibia (there must be many more millions of animals, of every type imaginable). A few of those Namibians are really fit and, as a change from luxury hotel living, the gal got out for a bit of bicycle exercise. Gosh it was difficult. The ground is incredibly hard granite and quartz, and jagged bits stick out at every angle. It is all right – just – on the level, as in the photo, but once you start climbing, in and out of gullies, it is near suicidal. There were times, coming down, when it was necessary to put feet down and actually walk, the bike between the legs… Add to this the altitude, 5,500 feet above sealevel. You know you are high up as when you take the top off a tube of makeup it runs all over everywhere (simple solution? Keep the tubes in your minibar).
Much safer is using Hilton Windhoek’s 24-hour gym, up on its ninth floor rooftop, or swimming in the adjacent lap pool. As you go from one end to the other and back again you seem to have the whole of the city centre spread below. I think yet again of rooftop pools, say the snazzy pool atop Thompson Beverly Hills, a couple of blocks east of Wilshire from the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons. Think, too, of the Leela Palace in Delhi where you are guarded, as it were, by serious Mughal-type stone arbours at either end, and you are watched continuously by the big birds that are a feature of India.
Hilton Windhoek has 150 rooms leading off an open atrium that is, well, glass and metal. This whole thing is one big sculpture. Suite 709, at one end of the corridor, has more lovely views over the city (it only has a population of 322,500 which must make it one of the world’s ten smallest but significant capitals). Since this is primarily a business base, for people involved, in one way or another, in diamond or other mining, and agriculture and quite a lot of tourism thrown in, of course you want a room that works. 709 made a very comfortable overnight base.
The main restaurant is Ekipa, which means ‘old bones’, and, in a somewhat macabre fashion, there is a collage of old bones – perhaps from Namibia’s own Skeleton Coast? – in the restaurant. I loved the wine cart, oh so carefully explained by the sommelier. It is all very up to date: the menus are recycled card, and the meat is local, and good (there is also a pizza menu – I was tempted to try a bobotie pizza, in homage to the southern African bobotie dish, a kind of shepherd’s pie but white sauce instead of potato topping).
Every serious traveller, and every fit person who is just about to brave the bush on a bike with the sturdiest tyres imaginable, everyone needs a good breakfast. A perfect meal, here in Ekipa, is guava juice and an omelette made specially for you. Once again, open kitchen entertaining comes to the forefront of GirlAhead’s travels. Later, this ultra-fit traveler looks up guava nutritionals and, my goodness, who would ever eat anything else again? It has dietary fibre, and 100 grams gives you three times the required daily dose of vitamin-C. Add to this vitamin-A, lycopene (twice as much as in tomatoes), potassium and more…. and all this from a website called Nutrition And You which has a big banner poster for The Peninsula Chicago, where I was two weeks ago.
Too soon it is time to goodbye to Namibia and the luxury Hotel That Haddis And Martha Built, the Hilton Windhoek, and John McAree, the Scot who runs it, and head off… where next?