The Road Behind
Valley of Kings
The Road Ahead
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At 2 PM we are scheduled to go on a 10 km walk to the sossusvlei. It is a unique desert hike through the dunes -- everywhere you look huge red dunes. The dunes are considered to be very old and have a sharp mixtures of reds from the oxidized iron in the sand. The Namibia desert is 32,000 square kilometers of sand with the world's highest dunes at 200 meters. This bizarre landscape is included in every brochure of Namibia; it is definitely unique in the world. It is a perfect day for some exercise, just a bit cloudy keeping the desert temperature down. Scooter had a good time playing photographer/hunter, stalking a gemsbok buck, a huge black and white variety with dangerous looking perfectly straight three foot horns. It was probably not a wise thing to do but it is really hard to be a stupid tourist. They have the three foot horns for a reason. We really enjoyed the walk and then a couple of drinks at sunset before driving back to camp. We rode past Dune 45, a 150 meter high dune as the sun was setting. Tomorrow morning we would be climbing Dune 45 before sunrise. Dizzy prepared a great meal tonight: boerwars on the braai (bbq), potatoes, butternut squash and curried beans. I think they figured the natives were getting restless and we all needed a good meal. I ate too much and went straight to bed, scooter and I still really like living out of our little tent and we are enjoying the camping.
Up today at 5:15 AM and on our way to sunrise at Dune 45. The road to the Dune seems to be equal parts rock, gravel, and pothole. It takes about 30 minutes to get there. Sitting on top of a sand dune, in the middle of the desert waiting for the sun to rise is one of the reasons you come to Namibia. At 5:45 AM we are joined by thirty other people from other overland groups and we all begin our climb to the top. We spend the next 20 minutes climbing up the ridge of the dune, where the sand is the hardest but still not easy to climb. The clouds in the horizon prevent us from seeing a spectacular sunrise but it is still fun to be up and active in the fresh morning air. After a breakfast of French toast we go out to the Sesriem canyon for a walk through the not-so-spectacular 30 meter deep drainage ditch with 150 million year old deposits of conglomerate. Guess what it is time to drive again. At this point we have read three or four books and I am busy checking out what everyone else is reading hoping to trade.
We are going to the big city today. Our schedule will include driving, the one-store town of Solitaire, lunch stop, Walvis Bay and then spending the night in Swakomund. Despite our stops this day was the most of "nothing" that we had yet experienced -- mile after mile of gray rocky dirt. The first stop was just for fun at a tiny little town called Solitaire, it has a church, a store and a mayor and that is it. We picked up some snacks and Sahvanna cider for the ride. The end of the day's driving brings us back to the Ocean and Walvis Bay, a 45,000 hectare lagoon supporting 50% of southern Africa's flamingo population. The houses on the ocean in Walvis Bay say, "I may live on the edge of the desert, but that doesn't mean I can't build a beautiful house to live in." This is the spot for the rich Germans and South Africans who live in the area they even have grass in the yards. Then 30 minutes later we are at our destination of Swakopmund, Namibia's biggest holiday resort. It is a friendly seaside town with a heavy German influence. Tonight we stayed at the youth hostel in town, a large castle-like structure. Some of us camped in the yard and some stayed in the dorms. Scooter and I just could not get enough of our tent and set it up in a patch of grass outside of the kitchen. Dizzy fixed dinner in the hostel kitchen, tuna casserole that did not go over too well although it is my favorite. Apparently, the Europeans are not big fans of tuna. During dinner we had speakers from the Alter-action company tell us about sand-boarding and quad biking. These are our only optional activities on the trip meaning that they were not included with the African Routes package. Both activities sound fun so we sign up for the following day along with most of the crew. It was my day for dish duty so I hurried through the chore and got ready to hit the local pub, Fagan's. Dizzy and Dylan walked us through town pointing out the major sites; laundry, bookstore, and Internet cafe. Fagan's was filled with overland truck groups and a few locals. Swakopmund is a cute town, very civilized especially for being in the middle of nowhere. We all stayed at Fagan's until 11 PM, our latest night yet. We are all getting to know each other and a little more comfortable with each other now which makes it easier to relax and have fun.
Swakopmund began in 1892 and remained German South West Africa's only viable port. The first residents were soldiers. Then civilian homes came by ship having been pre fabricated in Germany. Today it is a tourist town due to its beach front location and colonial architecture. We had a free day today that we chose to spend like this:
We are all ready for an activity and Sand-boarding and Quad-biking with Alter-Action (e-mail: email@example.com) was today's main event. We drove back out to the Namibia desert, the oldest desert in the world, at 9:30 AM with about 20 people in vans. We had two options for the morning, you could either go sledding down the sand dunes on a small piece of paneling or you could go sand boarding down the dunes like a snow boarder. Some of our group chose to do sledding style sand-boarding while about eight decided on snow board style, including Scooter. Each group went their separate ways.
Starting out a little nervously, I collected my elbow pads, helmet, gloves, and board. The board is not specifically made for this activity; it is a piece of really thin wall paneling with wax on one side. We hiked up a big dune and looked over the crest our first ride "little Nellie"-- it looked huge to me and this was our practice slope. Lie down, face first, grab the top of the board, keep elbows tucked and hold on. All but one of us made it unscathed down the sand slope. Let's do it again, it was fun and has a great adrenaline rush. After the first run we did 5 more and 5 more hikes up the dunes. Every time was a thrill zooming along at 60 kph and eating part of the dune if you don't keep your mouth shut. It is as much fun watching others as it is going down yourself.
Scooter returned from the sand boarding and I could tell we had more fun. It turns out to be more work than it is worth. You use normal snow boarding equipment but the runs only last twenty seconds and you do not get much speed. If you find yourself in Namibia presented with the option of sand boarding or sand sledding, choose sand sledding you will have a blast.
We all met up for lunch and cold drinks to compare battle wounds and empty sand out of strange places. After a quick lunch we were whisked away to our next activity; the Quad-Biking adventure. I was not sure what this entailed but I quickly realized it involved motorcycles. We picked out our 4 wheelers and donned our safety gear. After three minutes of instruction and three minutes of practice we were off. Then we were off on a 40 km trek through coastal dunes. My bike was a simple automatic 125 cc that was definitely speedy enough for me. Scooter had a bigger manual 250 cc, much speedier. What fun this was -- more adrenaline rush speeding over the red dunes, up, down, across alongside the ocean. This was also another dirty sport and within minutes we were covered in white dust. Two people in the group took tumbles. Jan and Sico sustaining minor injuries and I got stuck in the sand sliding down a dune. All in all good fun. This night we had a pasta dinner prepared by Sam, special recipe and delicious then watched home movies by Karen and Scooter in our new cottage-like digs.
Today we left the security of our chalet compound and went to the grocery one last time before departing from the civilized world. We fill our cooler with cold drinks and ice. The bus has been cleaned inside and out and remains that way for at least the first hour on the road. The drive today is again long with few diversions.