Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Namibia - better roads than Britain's?

Were my ears deceiving me or did I hear George Osborne claim, in his Budget speech, that even Namibia has a better road network than Britain? As one former Wimbledon champion and present pundit might have put it, he cannot be serious. Namibia's roads may be among the best in Africa but only about 20% -measured in kilometres - are hard surfaced. Most are gravel or earth. Let me tell you a story about them. I've driven there only once, but on a dirt road near the much photographed Sossusvlei dunes in a rented VW Polo my wife and I experienced a blow out of epic proportions. There was no tyre left and I was lucky to find the wheel cover, which had rolled off at speed, in a ditch some way back down the road. We had to drive some 80 kilometres to a garage which sold suitable tyres, with everything tightly crossed in the hope that another wouldn't fail - leaving us stranded. Because of a pressing schedule we had been unable to hire a second spare, which is a very good idea if you'e touring there. When we returned the car at Windhoek airport the rental company said we had fitted a non standard tyre and would have to pay for another one. I refused, adamantly. What else were we supposed to do? Call them and get them to drive out from Windhoek - several hours away - with a replacement? Besides, our strict itinerary demanded we move on to hike and camp in the desert before heading north to Swakopmund and the Etosha National Park game reserve. We heard no more about it - and to be fair it was far from the only instance I've experienced of poor service by car hire companies - but it left a sour taste. Namibia has better roads than Britain? Don't make me laugh Mr. Osborne.

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