Touring Mondesa's streets on bicycle - Namiba

Instead of taking in the view of the township through the bus windows, entrepreneur Nande Junias decided to take his visitors around the dusty streets of Mondesa on bicycles.

It was an idea the Swakopmund native conceived after speaking to several tourists to get a clue on how they would best enjoy their experience.

“To truly experience the warmth, friendliness and humanity of township residents of Mondesa, you have to walk its streets, see the children play, hear the people's voices, smell the pavement barbecues, taste locally brewed beer – not to forget the food,” Junias said of the tourism bicycle experience.

“We wanted to create a situation where they [tourists] will see different cultures and meet local people in Mondesa, get to know Namibia better, learn about the different tribes in Namibia from Aavambo, Damara, Herero and the Ovahimba people. Our cultural township tours are all about the people,” he said.

The 31-year-old started his career as a tour guide 15 years ago with Hata Angu Cultural Tours at the harbour town. In 2018, he started his own tourism company, Nande Junias Explorer Tours, that operates from his house in Mondesa.

That year, his company was nominated as one of nine organisations from across Africa for the African Responsible Award. The award recognises African organisations that offer a shining example of how tourism can benefit local people, the environment and destinations.

He started with township tours by car and foot. Guests started giving him ideas on what they want to do when visiting Namibia, notably that they are looking for tours that are eco-friendly, including cycling.

Junias sold his laptop and added the money as start-up capital. He bought twenty bicycles and started a tourism bike tour route through his community.

He eventually employed 12 people, including seven permanent staff with two of them being chefs, while the rest are tour guides.

The company also has five freelance tour guides that take a maximum of 20 people on bikes per tour through Mondesa and the DRC townships. Tourists are taken to the open food market in Mondesa, walk the streets and visit local schools and kindergartens.

They also visit the DRC informal settlement and a local family that runs a community arts and craft centre.

“This benefits the local community through the arts and crafts they sell to travellers. You will also get a chance to learn about herbs of the Nama people and practise the click language test.

“They visit Herero women dressed in their cultural attire and learn about the history of Namibia and its people. They also have a chance to enter a local home, where they try local traditional home-prepared meals,” said a passionate Junias.

The tours end with a live performance by a local choir from Mondesa. The tours have been in high demand and Junius plans to expand the routes to Swakopmund town and Walvis Bay.

Mario Nuhl from Germany spoke of his unforgettable experience during his recent visit to Swakopmund with Junias.

“Nande is a nice knowledgeable person. He explains and shows you things you wouldn't discover yourself. He gave us a lot of information about the history and development of the township. We met different people and learnt about how they make a living.

“We enjoyed the food, the singers and the stories of the very nice Herero lady,” he said.

Another tourist from Italy, Milly Charlie said they had an unforgettable experience that they would not be able to understand until they experienced it.

“Nande came to our hotel and brought us to the township. First we visited a market. Then we reached a community centre where we had the opportunity to talk to people. After visiting some of the main places and listening to the story of this township [Mondesa], we had lunch at his house.

This has probably been the best experience in Namibia by now and I really recommend it,” said Charlie.

Junias says Namibians are also showing an interest in the tours.

“A week ago, I did a tour with some locals. They didn't know much about their community or town. We provide a discount for locals. They were very surprised by how we live, what we eat, what we do for a living if self-employed and also the history of how the township was started,” he said.

He encouraged aspiring young entrepreneurs, especially in the tourism industry, to know where they come from and their history. He noted that it is important to start businesses in their communities first, before expanding to other areas.

The company also offers historical township church visits on Sundays, township home cooking experience with a local family, tours to Cape Cross, Welwitschia and Moon landscape day tours, sand boarding, private safaris, Dune7, flamingos and Topnaar day tours, among others.

Source: The Namibian