Where are the world’s most glorious sunsets, the gal has asked before, and will again. Namibia has some pretty spectacular contenders, as this photo shows. It is taken near a dam on the outskirts of the capital Windhoek but please do not ask its exact name. Windhoek is a great place for the active. There seems to be an endless array of running, walking and cycling possibilities, within a mile of the city’s luxury hotels. One morning was pre-breakfast biking, or rather pushing bikes up treacherous stone tracks with far too many jutting slabs.
Another morning was waking up to see who actually goes into the gym at the Gustav Voigts centre when it opens at five. Well, I did not make it until 5.30 but I got the answer, no other guests of the Kalahari Sands Hotel & Casino, integral with the gym, but about a dozen locals, roughly half-half lithe men and well-padded women, all ages, not a single white face. The hotel is a rare breed, by the way. Built in the 1970s as a 15-floor office tower above a three-floor open-atrium mall, its lobby and entrance is on the mall’s top floor, reached by the mall escalator. Go for an upper floor room, for best views along Independence Avenue.
After my workout, it was breakfast time, and the extremely jolly egg chef managed her single pan magnificently, carefully wiping it clean between omelettes, which she flipped with the skill of experience. The restaurant here is all buffet, and excellent, and incredibly good value – breakfast is a mere £10 (180 Namibian dollars) and I had masses of really good plain yoghurt from one of the bowls (nothing no-fat here, fortunately), an enormous plate of papaya, a whole peach, really good do-it-yourself brown toast and I could gone on to full cooked, and cheeses and whatever.
Dinner last night had a stir-fry station, a grill and meat station, a soup station, a curry station and enormous tables of salads and desserts – I was in protein heaven, the meats were sensational, particularly with a Backsberg Pinotage 2012. Namibians love their meat. I always enjoy going round supermarkets and in one of them a corner of biltong types was irresistible. Nearby was a corner of Waitrose products, from the UK. It does seem illogical that their best-quality chocolate is produced in Italy, exported to UK, re-exported to South Africa and then here, to Namibia. By comparison fresh produce is really seasonal: I could see none of the blueberries or strawberries that American and British shoppers now expect year-round.
Back to the 173-room hotel, which is about to go through not so much a once-off facial transplant but a gradual new look. It was upgraded completely a couple of years ago and now, as of this June, it will begin to get different signage. Out with Kalahari Sands and in with AVANI Windhoek Hotel & Casino. It is now owned 80 percent by Bill Heinecke‘s Minor International, out of Bangkok, and Minor is putting its AVANI brand on it. Gradually sheets and china and other etceteras will be Minorised and, more drastically, the pool will relocate from rooftop to a third floor terrace to make way for a new rooftop bistro, and the spa will move down to the main ground floor of the shopping mall. Art and flowers, of course, will remain.
And the casino, open from ten every morning, will continue to be a main draw for this luxury hotel. It is an essential ingredient, says Windhoek-born GM Rudie Putter, who has made his way up his professional ladder via gaming compliance. As well as making lots of money for the hotel, the casino also fills about 11 percent of bedrooms every night.