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by Marita van Rooyen
Forget for a moment about the historical connotations of Katutura – today it is a pulsating community which you can experience on a cycling trip through this vibrant community
Pumping with a vibrant, colourful energy and oozing an atmosphere of opportunity, the dusty little streets of the Kasi are home to about 60% of Windhoek’s population. Here women sell vegetables and sweets next to the roads, children kick worn-out balls around, and men polish cars until they shine like rays of the sun. It’s a different world to that found anywhere else in the country, and yet, so many have never set foot in this ‘hood’.
Footing around is not a prerequisite though, as there’s a much more enticing option out there: an introduction to the vibe on the back of a bright-yellow bicycle with cycling encyclopaedia, Anna Mafwila, from home-grown company KatuTours.
Get your helmet on
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like
Waking up with the lyrics of Queen’s Bicycle Race pumping through your mind is already a good way to amp up for the journey. Add the cool, early-morning breeze and some woolly white clouds in the sky and you’ve got a great starter pack for an exciting adventure. But don’t get the wrong impression; this journey is not a race. As Anna says jokingly, “this is not the Tour de Katutura, it’s an opportunity to enjoy an exciting experience and to share views on life.”
The cultural buzz, ethnical diversity, intricate history and social aspects of this township should be the reasons you embark on one of these brightly coloured two-wheelers. It’s a ride focused on interacting with the people who call Katutura their home, a one-on-one personal encounter that’s bound to change your opinion on life in this settlement.
Not the Tour de Katutura
Don’t let the severed cow heads put you off, because there is not much else that comes close to biting into a well-spiced piece of fresh, organic beef, grilled to perfection right in front of your eyes. At informal markets like Soweto or the Single Quarters, cyclists are encouraged to park their bikes for a long stop, because here you’ll have your best chance to indulge in the freshly barbecued meat called kapana.
Anna personally takes her customers through seven of the Kasi’s suburbs, stopping en route for a cold drink straight from a side-of-the-road cool box, or to Eveline Street to snap some of the very original shebeen names. Some adventure-seekers use the opportunity to have an African-style haircut, while others gulp down oshikundu and engage in deep conversation with the local ladies.
During one of the hundred tours Anna has done so far, her guests were an elderly couple, who enjoyed the market so much that they spent the remainder of the tour time testing vetkoek, browsing through the handprinted material and catching up on local gossip. Anna likes to remind her cycle buddies that Katutura is ever-expanding and constantly changing, so no two tours are ever the same. She aims to promote the Kasi community as a whole, so lets tired legs rest at community-run projects such as the King’s Daughters bicycle repair workshop; supports local shops; and starts and finishes with a cold drink at the Penduka women’s initiative restaurant, on the banks of the Goreangab Dam.
But before you decide to embark on a bike tour, be aware that Anna is a self-confessed humanitarian who does not want her tours to invade the privacy of people. Take note: no big cameras or bad attitudes are allowed, as the photos taken should be for your memory box, and not to show the poverty and hardships of the people living here. “KatuTours is about the empowerment, upliftment and common good of humanity.
We all want to be happy; this is our common goal, so why not work together to make it happen? Time, understanding, and communication are what we need to make a difference and enable people to come together.” So get your integrative hat on (underneath your safety helmet, of course), park your bicycle on a dusty pavement and take in life with the memes and tates in their everyday environment.
Who is Anna and why does she cycle through Katutura?
Anna is one of those bubbly go-getters who seemingly wake up on the right side of the bed every morning. Having worked as a consultant in the tourism sector for nine years, she decided to put her knowledge to good use, bought 18 bicycles, and developed the unique tourism initiative. “This baby of mine has taught me so much about who I am, what I’m capable of, and what works and what doesn’t. It has also given me the direction to give my share back to the community in a realistic way. After all, it is the men and women of the township who give shape to my tours.”
KatuTours was born with the help of Michael Linke of the Bicycle Empowerment Network Namibia. It makes use of recycled bicycles from Re-Cycle in the UK and the Institute for Transportation Development Policy in the USA. The innovative KatuTours is not just for tourists though, and Anna encourages locals to see their city from a new perspective. “Many Windhoekers have a very limited experience of Katutura. Our trips represent an ideal team-building activity, and I’d love to hear more from local human-resources managers to book their staff on our trips.” Tours are also conducted through the central business area of Windhoek, and bicycles are hired to those who want to explore by themselves.
What to know before you go
- Anna makes use of California mountain bicycles with six gearshifts suitable for the hilly terrain.
- Guided township tours are offered six days a week, departing from and ending at Penduka.
- The tour departs at 8:30 and ends at 12:30. Riders are required to be at Penduka 30 minutes before departure for a tour briefing and preparations.
- The journey distance is between 7.5 to 8 kilometres.
- The fee is N$350 per person, which includes VAT, bike, helmet, reflector jacket, qualified guide and a tour of the Penduka women’s project.
- The minimum age limit is 14 years, and a maximum number of 18 people can be accommodated per tour.
- Participants are advised to bring along the following: Sunscreen, hat, long-sleeved shirt and a small bottle of water. There will be stops en route if that small amount of water is not enough for eight kilometres. It’s also a good excuse to check out the local shebeens.
This article appeared in the Autumn 2012 edition of Travel News Namibia.