lessons learned 2: don’t take chances in Oshakati

broken lock, another NAD 500 will go right out of the Window...Last time my backpack and me were the target. Monday morning it was my car which got the attention of some bad guy/s. I parked it only a couple of meters away from Leonora’s at the GAME shopping complex to get a urgently needed hair cut there. At 09:00 not a lot was going on, just a few car’s parked, some people walking around – not the best time to pull out a screwdriver and start working on the passenger side door lock. But covered from the shop owners Land Rover someone did. So whether you’re carrying your stuff with you or leave it in the car – there is no such a thing as a safe place in Oshakati. I consider myself pretty lucky, the door lock had already been opened but no one had the time to get inside it seems.

Outapi Times, Issue Nr.1, June 2010 – print edition

For this post and the linked PDF a translator or at least a German-English dictionary is highly recommended…

Nein, kein grober Schnitzer der Redaktion: Die Juni Ausgabe (=Erstausgabe) der gedruckten OutapiTimes hat es anscheinend gerade noch so dieses Jahr zu den ‘Abonnenten’ nach Europa geschafft. Nicht nur der Regierungsapparat arbeitet oftmals im Schneckentempo – auch in der Privatwirtschaft geht es ab und zu sehr gemächlich zu. Bis der gedruckte Rundbrief sich aus Windhoek auf den Weg Richtung Outapi gemacht hatte, gingen fast zwei Monate ins Land. Hier im Norden einen professionellen Printshop zu finden, der in der Lage ist acht Seiten doppelseitig zu bedrucken und zu heften, ist aussichtslos. Viel Spass beim Lesen!

Outapi Times, Issue Nr.1, June 2010 – print edition

three months, 6000km and a broken exhaust pipe

The Indestructible Car, B1 nortwards, close to OtaviAnother car post. I have to admit that the topic had already been covered in depth. Trouble is that a car is an (or even THE) essential part of daily life in Northern Namibia.
In June I went down to Windhoek for a week to get rid of my unreliable Mazda Drifter and take over the Toyota Hilux of Beat and Tanja, a couple from my organization who finished their assignment in the country.
In one of the previous posts I’ve done some aggressive advertising for the Toyota Hilux model based on pure ‘desk research’. After three months and 6000km behind the wheel – the verdict: it’s simply running like a clockwork although it already has 239’000 on the odometer. The design of my Hilux (fourth generation, produced 1996 in South Africa) goes back to 1983 and it has the legendary 22R engine. Cruising speed and comfort had not been a priority back then. Thanks to that (and the fuel price) speeding is virtually impossible – 100km/h is the maximum speed when traveling on the paved road.Jason draining the back differential, Hilux 5000Km Service, X-treme Car Repairs, Ongwediva
As mentioned also a Hilux (aka ‘The Indestructible Truck’) won’t save you from car troubles. Last weekend the exhaust pipe broke (I knew that the pipe was dangerous thin). Instead of crawling into the bed I had to go under the car twice in pitch dark on my way to Oshakati – amazing what you can fix with heat resistant duck tape, wire and a flat bar!

It wasn’t me…

the police is not the only danger when speeding in the NorthPretty unappetizing. The picture should illustrate the issue with the mentioned bullbar in the previous post. The donkey bump happened during lunchtime the day I collected my car from the garage in Ongwediva: a clean road on the outward journey, a totally damaged Hilux towed in when leaving Oshakati – donkey puree close to Outapi. Daylight, far and wide no tree to hide and donkeys, when even moving, move very slowly – this gives you an idea how skilled some drivers are.

A Toyota 4×4 – the only real choice in Northern Namibia?

Best Toyota ever? Engine spare parts for this model are easy to get..., Oshikuku To put it straight at the beginning: I am not car freak. In Europe and abroad during holidays I used to be a fanatic public transport supporter. But it was obvious that a car in Namibia would become something essential due to huge distances, lack of (formal) public transport and the high risk of ending up in a car accident. Cars whether new or used are expensive here, even more expensive than in Switzerland. Due to that and the fact that new cars, stuffed with fancy electronic, are better only maintained in Windhoek a used car was the only choice.

Does it has to be a 4×4?
That is up to you. Con: much higher investment, maintenance and fuel costs compared with a passenger car. Pro: cross-country mobility and safety. I bought a SUV for the mobility reason at first. After four months in the North I would do the same again, but primarily for the second, rather selfish reason. I am driving mostly on the tar road and the 4×4 mode was only needed in the garden during the rainy season so far. If you’re not regularly visiting the ‘Village’ of your neighbor (Alex:-) or remote schools it’s only the North-West where a 4×4 is needed. Safety in contrast matters.My Mazda Drifter: every Monday at the garage, mileage like a Humvee - but some disco lights and a nice bullbar..., Ohange Lodge, Otavi
Probably half of the cars here in the North are SUV’s with a net weight of ~1600Kg (a Toyota Land Cruiser S/C ‘workhorse’ has over 2000Kg). Most of them are equipped with a massive bullbar. A sedan, like the Toyota Corolla, has ~1100Kg – and you’re sitting one floor down. Good luck in there if you have a front crash with a fully packed Land Cruiser or just a suicidal donkey youngster.

Does it has to be a Toyota?
Unfortunately it does. Before coming to Namibia I had this topic ‘googled’ and discussed with people who had been in southern Africa before. The ‘desk research’ showed that it would had been wise to go for the Toyota brand – and not just because virtually every local is doing it. Despite this I let myself get talked into buying an overpriced, crappy, 96′ Mazda Drifter 4×4 (aka Ford Ranger) as a temporary solution because there was no suitable Toyota on the market the time I came to Windhoek.
Bad decision: as I am writing this text my Mazda has been grounded at the garage in Ongwediva since Monday and is waiting for spare parts from Windhoek. Not for the first time. During the last two months I’ve been almost every week at the garage. Used cars are prone to problems, even a Toyota Hilux (called the ‘indestructible’ car, and most seen 4×4 in Africa) won’t save you those troubles. The points are:
"Let him go, you already have the biggest market share.", Oshakati
skills: there are just a few skilled and reliable mechanics in Ongwediva, Oshakati or Ondangwa. Even with them it is likely that you bring the car with one problem and collect it with another the next day – with a popular Toyota Corolla or Hilux chances are that they know what they’re doing. A garage in Outapi is a place with a bunch of guys who claim to be car mechanics, if you’re lucky they also have a few tools. If they can fix anything at all it is a Toyota without electronic components.

spare parts: for popular Toyota models dealers (e.g CYMOT) in the North have them in stock and the scrapyards are full of ‘second hand’ parts. For Nissan, Mazda, Isuzu & Co. they often have to be ordered from Windhoek or South Africa first and are more expensive.

Still not convinced? Let the market forces play. A Toyota Hilux 4×4 (S/C, petrol, build ~2000, ~160’000Km) costs around US$16’500. Similar vehicles from Nissan & Co. are at the average to have for US$14’000. I don’t think the Namibian customer just pays the premium for the fancy Toyota sticker on the back of the car.

Okay, economists have been proofed wrong not so long ago. Let me quote the official NISSAN dealer in Windhoek: “In the North go for an old, diesel Toyota or Land Rover. Any guy with a screwdriver can fix those cars.”. Maybe they men was going for early retirement the next day, but I think he was just the only honest car dealer in the city I’ve met.