Our next stop in Namibia had us driving through even more barren land towards the coast. The landscape got downright otherworldly at points.
We spotted the occasional wildlife, including desert zebras in the distance, some ostriches and a cool hawk-like bird.
Among the strange things encountered on our drives in and out of Swakopmund was a shipwreck…
…and weirder still, the Free Republic of Wlotzkasbaken, a cluster of homes not connected to government systems. Thus, their water is supplied by personal water tanks on the roofs, and their power from generators. Our guide thinks it might be entirely inhabited by white people. What a weird little commune.
And our drive in even took us across the Tropic of Capricorn!
The town of Swakopmund itself is maybe not as exciting as the drives in and out, though it did provide a lovely place for us to do some souvenir shopping and enjoy some fresh seafood (who knew we’d be eating delicious raw oysters in Namibia?). Also, it was much, much cooler – an extremely welcome respite from the heat we’d been enduring so far in Africa.
But the big attraction in Swakopmund seems to be the adventure sports. So, naturally, we set off to check them out. (Alan and I, that is, while Ronnie and Rich enjoyed a more tame boat cruise.) First up was some fun in the sand dunes. Not that adventurous, and figuring our skiing skills might not translate so easily to sand boarding, we opted for the lie down boarding, which is pretty much like sledding, but instead of quickly going down a snowy hill, you fly down a giant sand dune at speeds of up to 72 km/h. (!!!!!!!!!) I know, because they whipped out a speed gun (like the ones that cops use) and tested our speeds and that was Alan’s fastest. That is fast, people. Very fast. Even with the “brakes” (read: dragging my feet in the sand in a semi-futile attempt to control my velocity), I reached a max of 54 km/h. To which our guide responded, “dude, why did you go so slow?” Ha! I may be adventurous, but I am still afraid of nearly everything in the world, so I have my limits.
The boards are pretty much just a piece of laminate board, super smooth on one side. You lie down on it, lift up the front, and WHEEEE! SO MUCH FUN! Not to mention the view of the landscape up there is awesome. Plus, you get a nice workout from climbing up the dunes in between runs.
To top off our day of desert adventure, we tried sand quad-biking. Um, horrible. Maybe I’m scarred from the memory of the time my brother and I rode a quad into a tree as little kids in Virginia, but I could not do it. I totally freaked out. One of the guides stayed behind with me to try to help me figure it out, but I got stuck going up hills that were maybe two feet high, despite his constant encouragement that “it’s so easy, it’s so easy. You just, go…” I wound up ditching my bike in the middle of the desert and riding on the back of his, and it wasn’t that much better. On the bright side, Alan loved it! He tore up those dunes like a sand badass.
Swakopmund is a coastal town with a fair amount of German colonial architecture and many German-speaking residents and visitors. It is the adventure capital of Namibia. There is skydiving, sand-boarding, quad-biking, surfing and more. Plus tamer options like boat trips to view dolphins, birds, a seal colony, etc.
Transportation: We drove from Hoodia Desert Lodge/Sossusvlei via Kuiseb Pass, and we stopped to view Kuiseb Canyon where our guide told us about the two German geologists who hid here during World War II. There is a book and a film called The Sheltering Desert that tells their story. We continued towards the coast and stopped for lunch in Walvis Bay before arriving in Swakopmund. You would not need a car to get around the central part of town, and I believe many of the activity vendors offer free pick-up and drop-off. There is also an airport and a train line. We departed for Doro Nawas/Damaraland, stopping at a shipwreck and for petrol in Uis.
Accommodation: We stayed at Organic Square Guesthouse, which is a few blocks outside the center of town. Decor is modern with concrete floors and such. Breakfast was fine though mostly cold options.
Food and Drinks: We had nice dinners at Tug (in town) and The Wreck (outside town), and we preferred the latter. Thus began our streak of being impressed by the seafood in Namibia (and later South Africa). Calamari and oysters were consistently excellent, and I enjoyed kingklip many times. We did not venture out for nightlife, but a friend mentioned Napolitana.
Activities: Jenni and I did a combo day of sand-boarding and quad-biking. I believe the name of the sand-boarding operation is Alter-Action. Quad-biking was at Desert Explorers. The cost for the package was NAD650/person, which included sand-boarding, a video thereof, an hour on the quad bikes, transportation and lunch. I found this to be excellent value.
My mom and Rich enjoyed their boat trip, which I think included onboard champagne and oysters. The town has plenty of craft shops, cafes, etc. and is nice to walk around. There is an outdoor, informal craft market by the beach. Skydiving is popular here. The aquarium in town is said to be nice. There is also Kristall Galerie, which holds some special crystal formations.
October 20-22, 2014 (Monday-Wednesday)