I’ve been through the desert…

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…on a horse with no name…  This song by the group America kept going through my head as we trek deeper into the Namibian Desert.

Monday, 8 May 2017

4:30 AM we get up and start taking down the tents and packing our things. Breakfast is a quick ritual and then into the bus for the long ride to Swakopmund. The surroundings become ever more dryer until we’re pretty much driving a straight black road surrounded by sand as far as you can see. Around 1 PM we arrive in Swakopmund, a relatively large city surrounded by sand in three wind directions and the Atlantic Ocean in the West. Our hotel, Europahof, is built in a Bavarian style, with white wall crisscrossed with dark wooden beams. If it wasn’t for the palm trees in the inner court yard, this could have been anywhere in Germany. Swakopmund has a long German history and this can be seem from the building style of many of the older buildings. Of course here too, there is a large shanty village housing many less financially fortunate locals.

Shortly after arrival and checkin, we visit the Activity Info Center where we can choose from numerous activities ranging from dessert tours and quad biking to sky diving. We choose for a tame tour of the Skeleton Coast that same afternoon, as neither of us has interest in jumping from a perfectly good working airplane. The drive along the Skeleton Coast is performed by Jay, a Californian who has been living here in Swakopmund for the last 15 years and proves to be quite knowledgeable about the city, it’s surroundings and it’s climate. During a stop at one of the stranded ships that litter the coast here, he explains how the climate in this area has resulted in this dessert here, using the beach as a giant school board. Along the way he points out the different sites of interest and show us that when he says a rock has a high iron content, he really means it. He demonstrates this by hitting a large boulder with a rock, an instead of the dull sound of rock hitting rock, we hear the load clang as if hitting a metal pan.

The absolute highlight of the trip is a visit to a seal colony, near Cape Cross. The area is littered with thousands of Cape Seals, basking in the sun with many baby seals dispersed among them. Jay chases away a few of them, clearing a path for us to a gate that leads to an enclosed boardwalk. On this path we continue into the dense colony of seals as far as the eye can see, but also right up close to individual seals, where we can watch the mothers weening their pups and fighting amongst themselves for the scarce room around them. It’s a cacophony of noise and an attack on other senses such as the nose, for the seals smell enormously due to their diet of fish, and they also leave around a lot of excrement.

At this time we need to return, for we have now travelled 120 km along the coast from Swakopmund and it’s starting to get dark. The return drive in the dark night is eery, with the only light coming from the headlights of the van and the nearly full moon. We arrive back in town just in time to join the others for dinner at Napolitana, a restaurant not far from the hotel. That night we sleep in luxury on a real mattress with clean sheets. No air-conditioning needed for the cold dessert night air breezes in through our open windows and gives us a comfortable rest.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

For the first time in a while we have the opportunity to sleep in, but for whatever reason we are wide awake at 6:30 and get up for breakfast in the hotel dining room. We have a day to ourselves which we plan to use to discover the town and generally just roam around. One of our destinations is the tower of the Woerkom House, which gives us a view of the city.  Along the way I stop to have a haircut.

During our walk we also visit the beach, the Pier, lighthouse and old prison which is still in use today. The prison is beautiful enough on the outside to be mistaken for a fancy hotel, but it’s not the kind of hotel you’ll want to stay at voluntarily. We return to the hotel late in the afternoon and pick a place to eat for that evening. The choice falls upon Kuchi’s, a very german restaurant with ditto menu. I am tempted by dishes like Eisbein, Wiener Schnitzel and Jaeger Schnitzel, but I settle on a Pepper Steak with fried potatoes and Gepke has Cod, most likely caught locally. After dinner we return to the hotel and both crash early and sleep more than 10 hours. We should be able to stay awake in the bus tomorrow when we drive to Sossusvlei.

Next: Sossusvlei

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