We spent just forty eight hours in Cape Town before we flew out for Windhoek, Namibia (a note to other travellers: Cape Town deserves more time that we gave it). Two hours after arriving, we were moving north from the capital under our own steam in a very new Toyota Hilux (a large 4x4 pickup of legendary toughness). Our first stop had been planned months ahead: the craft market at Okahandja.
By local standards, rainfall is fairly good in this area - there are a lot of big cattle farms - but we thought it was dry as almost anywhere we'ld seen. This was the first town to give us that "third world" feel - stopping at the petrol station, we immediately attracted the attention of a couple of hawkers (thin, poorly dressed). I'm afraid they didn't get much from us - we picked a scrawny young lad to be our "parking guard", and crossed the road to the stalls of the traders - this is one of the largest craft markets in the region.
After some browsing, we soon found ourselves inside the stall of Oliver Moto (in the picture, the first on the left). Oliver is a nice young man with a relatively relaxed selling style. We liked his stock - plenty of carvings, mostly in wood, with some soapstone and a few in horn, bone, or tooth. On this, our first visit, his opening price for a wooden mask sounded a bit rich, so we shook our heads sadly. He soon confessed to quoting us a "hunter's price", and dropped about 20% from his starting price. Mrs P and I exchanged significant looks: we knew how this dance went. I slipped into my old role of distinterested spectator, and my wife dusted off her old bargaining weapons; the most important of these is that she never pays more than she initially intended to, and is genuinely prepared to walk away from a deal if the price is even 1% above her limit. On this occasion, the bargaining went fairly smoothly. Oliver played well, but faced an implacable and experience opponent, who, taking her time, eventually wore him down to a price that that surprised even me.
For readers who haven't shopped in this way, the game is played like this: the trader will generally open at a fixed - outrageous - multiple of their lowest acceptable price. For example, in certain markets in the Far East, we found a common multiplier of about 7; We found that a lower multiple is current in Okahandja, but I'm not going to tell you, dear reader: we like Oliver, and we hope he does well.
We returned to Okahandja for a hour or two towards the end of our trip, and dealt with Oliver again; his range is good, and having compared his prices with those of other suppliers, we're sure he gives good value (but the bargaining is up to you!). When we'ld finished with our purchases, we took his contact details (he has a mobile phone, but not an e-mail address); I think perhaps the goods he is trading could find a wider market, particularly the range of animal carvings (zoos) and drums (crusties, art students). One of the most revealing moments of our dealings in his stall came when he was writing down his postal address for us: spelling "Okahandja" - the town where he lives - required a short debate with his friends (brothers? colleagues?). The educational legacy of apartheid?