This small town is 71km north of Windhoek. It has some good shops, a couple of banks, 24-hour fuel, two of the country's best open markets for curios, an excellent shop for biltong (dried meat), and quite a lot of old buildings and history – if you've the time to stop and take a look around.
Okahandja is the administrative centre for the Herero people, despite being considerably southwest of their main settlements. Missionaries first reached the area in the late 1820s, but it wasn't until 1849 that the first of them, Friedrich Kolbe, settled here. He remained for less than a year, driven away by the attacks of the Namas, under Jonker Afrikaner.
He fled with good reason as, on August 23 of the following year, about 700 men, women and children were killed by the Namas at the aptly named Blood Hill. It is said that after the massacre, the women's arms and legs were chopped off in order to take their copper bangles.
The small kopje of Blood Hill can be seen just to the east of the main Windhoek–Swakopmund road. Jonker Afrikaner lies peacefully in his grave, next to several Herero chiefs, opposite the church on Kerk Street.
Most overseas visitors coming through Okahandja are driving, but the town is also served by both coach and train services.
Intercape Mainliner's services from Windhoek to Walvis Bay stop at Okahandja's Shell Ultra, at 08.00 on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat, and those from Walvis Bay to Windhoek at 16.30 on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun. These cost around N$60 to Windhoek, and N$100 to Walvis Bay.
Trains depart from Okahandja for Windhoek at 03.30 on Tue, Thu and Sat, also at 05.10 daily except Sundays. They also leave for Tsumeb at 20.25 every Tue, Thu and Sun. They are very slow.
The town's post office
is almost opposite its pharmacy, and if you need a bank
then there are branches of Standard Bank and First National on Main Street, along with a scattering of 24-hour fuel stations
beside the town's main roads.
If you're stopping for longer then seek out the small information centre
(near the corner of Van Riebeck Road), which has the usual glossy brochures and an interesting, if brief, leaflet to guide you around the town's historical sites.In an emergency
, the police are reached on tel: 062 10111, whilst the ambulance is on 062 503030, the hospital on 062 503039, and the fire service on 062 5001051/4, 502194 or 502041.
What to see and do
By the side of the railway line, on Voortrekker Street, is a large open-air curio market
run by the Rundu-based Namibian Carvers Association. This, and its sister outlet on the southern side of town, are probably the two best places in the country for carvings.
Craftsmen here specialise in large wooden carvings. These include some beautiful thin, wooden giraffes (some 2m or more high), huge 'tribal' heads, cute flexible snakes, and wide selections of more ordinary carved hippos and bowls. Do stop for a wander around as you pass, especially if you're on the way to Windhoek airport to leave – this is the perfect spot for last-minute present shopping, and it's open on Sundays.Ombo Ostrich Farm
PO Box 1364, Okahandja; tel: 062 501176; fax: 062 502315; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About 3km out of Okahandja, on the D2110 northwest, this ostrich farm is signposted from the turning to the Okavango Wildlife Gardens. They have 45-minute tours (N$15 per adult, N$10 per child) covering everything you ever wanted to know about these amazing birds, as well as snacks, refreshments, crafts and curios.
If you're in town for an evening, then check to see if the Nau-Aib Community Hall (tel: 062 501041/51; fax: 062 501746) has any performances, as it is sometimes a venue for touring bands.
The town has many historical sites, including the graves
of a number of influential leaders, including: Jonker Afrikaner, the powerful Oorlam leader; Chief Hosea Kutako, an influential Herero leader who campaigned against South African rule in the 1950s; and Chief Clemens Kapuuo, once president of the DTA, who was assassinated in 1978. Note that casual visitors cannot access these graves.
Close by is the Church of Peace
, a Lutheran-Evangelistic church built in 1952, and also the house of Dr Vedder
, one of the oldest in town.
Just south of the post office, on Hoof Street, is a building known as the old stronghold
, or the old fort. This was the town's old police station, started in 1894, though now it is empty and falling into disrepair. Meanwhile to the west, Blood Hill
, scene of the 1850 massacre, is found between Kaiser and Duiker streets, although there's little to see now.