It might sound strange, but whenever I see a used tyre, I am taken back to a time when all I ever wanted was to stay outdoors. – A time when I’d make my way out of the house after school and slip back in just before 5pm, right before the ‘bosses’, i.e. Mom and Dad, got home from work. Those were the days before smart phones, laptops or tablets and other technological entertainment, the days before children spent their days marvelling at light-emitting diode (LED) screens, pondering how much better their lives would be if they owned the latest brand of sneakers or that quirky pink, heart-shaped sling bag. Those were the days of tyre racing!

Copyright: Alamy

After school the boys, Bufa, Tuhafeni, Shaningwa, Peter, Mathew and Lungameni, didn’t waste much time on lunch or homework. Instead they’d make their way into the street immediately, and if one of them didn’t pitch, they’d all march to his house and shout: “Dis tyre racing tyd, kom uit!”

Rights to Röder

The infectious, joyful noise made its way into our home through the windows into our living room, where I struggled to tackle my maths homework. I knew very well that Mr Minnie would not understand if my homework was incomplete. But how could I possibly miss out on the laughter and furious debate on who to select for the tyre racing teams.

Copyright: Alamy

Usually everyone wanted to be on the team of the street’s current racing champion, which often happened to be my big brother Tuhafeni. A referee for the race was elected either through the ‘inky-pinky-ponky’ method or the honour was conferred on the reigning champion from the most recent game. Needless to say that Tuhafeni was the referee about every second game.

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“On your marks, set, ready go!” – “Vrooom-vrooom” the contestants yelled, racing down the dusty, stony street. Boys poured water in the inner liner of tyres while they controlled the speed of their shiny-black, smooth tyres either with their hands or two wooden, smooth-tipped sticks.

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My friends, Namvula and Dardy, cheered on the boys with me. We giggled as some crashed into each other or pretended to fall because they would rather be disqualified than face the ridicule reserved for those that lost thrice in a row.

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The championships continued until early evening, but we respected the unwritten rule of reporting home before the street lights were switched on. For us tyre racing was the perfect way to bond and spend time together. It was how free afternoons, weekends and holidays were spent!

Rights to Röder

Although today many children are not easily entertained by outdoor games close to their homes, one will still find children in Namibia trying to fit in one or two more races before Mom or Dad call them back indoors.

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Or they make their parents work out as they sprint away from them, chuckling and screaming: “Ito dulu oku kwata nge – you can’t catch me!” You might even find adults grabbing a tyre to join in the fun. After all, Namibian grown-ups have their own tyre racing memories.

Rights to Manni Goldbeck

Apart from being converted into racing machines, old tyres in Namibia have a variety of other uses: they’re turned into shoes, flower planters, swings, dog baskets, and while staying at our Etosha Safari Camp, you might end up lounging in a tyre seat as you enjoy a drink.

What are your memories of tyre racing? What other games did you enjoy growing up in Namibia? What is the most unusual use of tyres you have seen in Namibia? Let us know by sharing your story in the comment section below.

Author –  I’m Nela, from Windhoek Namibia but born in a small village called Omatunda in northern Namibia. I am passionate about writing, research and photography, as it helps me gain knowledge about people and my country.