Our flight was at noontime on Saturday, December 20th from the OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg. When we arrived in the terminal, we were on the upper level looking down to the waiting area for arrivals. There was a choir coming in dancing and singing as they walked into the arrival lobby. From where we were standing, we had a great view. I thought they had come to wish us a safe journey!!….Just Joking!!!!Actually, they were there to greet Rolene Strauss who had, the night before, represented South Africa in the Miss World contest in London and won! She is the second South African to have won the Miss World title. It would have been lovely to have seen her in person but we had to check in and a plane to catch. Our flight, on South African airlines, took 2 hours to Walvis Bay, which is on the coast of Namibia approximately 21 miles or 34 kilometers to Swakopmund. It is a small airport. We walked a distance from the plane to customs check-in. The airport is under construction and the temporary buildings were made of canvas and plywood….I really liked the “barb-wire” decor at customs!We found the Avis car rental office outside of the temporary terminal and picked up our rental car. It was a 5-speed, Volkswagen Polo….similar to a Jetta with very few “frills”. I haven’t driven a standard in years and having the gear shift on the left-hand side was a little of a challenge! We actually did go back and ask if they had automatic transmission but were informed that only the 4x4s were automatic. That should have been a clue to us…little did we realize how valuable a 4×4 would have been with all of the driving we were to do and the road conditions in Namibia! This was our first introduction to Namibia….we were told in one of our tours that they don’t use asphalt on the roads in that area but gypsum. They harden it with sea water and after baking in the sun, it turns from white to black. Due to so little rain in that area, the gypsum roads hold up well and really, they do look as though they are paved with asphalt. We passed Dune 7 which is just outside of Swakopmund and is promoted as the tallest sand dune in the coastal region. It stands at 1256 ft (383 meters). When we went past it, there were many people sand boarding on it. We had done sand boarding in the Atacama Desert in Peru. It was a blast!!! If you ever get the opportunity to try sand boarding, I highly recommend that you do it. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop to take a picture. I thought for certain we would pass that way again, but we didn’t. We stayed at the Beach Hotel in Swakopmund (sort of pronounced Swa-ko-mund). It is German for “mouth of the Swakop River.” The Beach Hotel is relatively new and we had a room overlooking the ocean. This was a little deceptive because at the time I was booking the room, I thought that our room was going to be directly overlooking the water. As it turned out, the hotel is located across the street and although we did have an “ocean view” we also had a view of an office building and a beach restaurant and cabana resort area.
I enjoyed our stay at Swakopmund. It definitely had the “kick-back” feeling of a beach town and many of the buildings had a European design, which was influenced by the Germans. We enjoyed walking along the beach, visiting the pier and walking into the city to visit the many shops and restaurants. It was a very clean city with streets lined with beautiful palm trees.
Our first night, we walked along the beach to the pier and had dinner at the restaurant The Tug which was at the entrance to the pier. We started out on the deck having cocktails overlooking the ocean. I had a Cosmopolitan and David had a Margarita…both were delicious. It got a little to chilly and we asked to move inside. The restaurant was actually built around a former tugboat the Danie Hugo which made for a cute interior…guest passed through narrow doors and hallways of the original tug. Dinner was just as delicious as the cocktails! I had their “fisherman’s platter” of kabeljou fish (codfish), calamari, prawns and mussels served with parsley baby potatoes and mornay (cheese) sauce. David’s delicious meal was calamari. I really enjoyed our meal there…oh and dessert was tiramisu…yummy! Another fun restaurant we ate at in the town was the Wurstbude located on the corner of First Ave and Vrede Rede Avenue.
We discovered it after our full-day tour to Sandwich Harbor. It was later in the afternoon on a Sunday and we were taking a ride up the coastline. This place had such character! It looked like a treehouse and you know how much I love treehouses….it is actually on my “bucket list” to live in one, one of these days.
It looked inviting, we were hungry and so, we stopped in. It was a small pizzeria that offered sandwiches, salads, pizza and pasta dishes. We had the vegetarian pizza that was served on a thin crust and cooked in a wood-fired oven. It hit the spot! The day that David had to work at the mine, I went on a half-day tour of Moon Valley. When I got back, I just wandered around the town to take photos of the buildings and buy a few souvenirs.
I bought just a few trinkets….one was a great folk art painting. The artist had painted the picture of a village on newspaper and used corrugated cardboard as for the corrugated roofs of the houses. I loved it and didn’t even barter with him for it.
The main craft market was located near the lighthouse and state house.
I wandered through it but didn’t really see anything that I couldn’t live without. There were many beaded items, carved wooden animals, bowls and carved nuts from the Makalani palm. Women from the Himba tribe had a booth at this market and were selling jewelry made from beads. It was my first encounter with this tribe and honestly, I was taken aback for a minute. The tribe is from northern Namibia and because of the very hot conditions both the men and women wear only a skirt made from calfskins or more modern fabrics of today. To protect their skin from the hot, dry climate, mosquito bites and also, as a skin cleanser, the men and women cover their bodies with “otijize paste” which is a mixture of butterfat and ochre. It gives a red hue to their appearance. The way their hair is braided and whether they have a headpiece or not indicates their marital status and whether the woman have had a child or not. I have never been exposed to anything like this before and wanted very much to ask lots of questions and take lots of pictures. I refrained from both for a variety of reasons…I didn’t want to appear as the tourist that I actually was and wanted to be sensitive to this culture. I was in the market place and would have felt obligated to buy something. Plus, since there were not indigenous of the area that we were visiting, I didn’t take a picture….I will save that for the next visit to Namibia. I must say, there were indeed very unique looking.
Swakopmund offers many outdoor activities. There are a variety of tours offered for the area. As I have previously mentioned, there was the 4×4 Sandwich Bay tour, the Moon Valley Tour, sand boarding on the dunes, quad biking in the desert. In Walvis Bay, there is a bird sanctuary for bird watching lovers. Then, there are all the ocean sports…kite surfing, boating, swimming and fishing.…both surf fishing and from a boat. Right next to our hotel, was the public fish cleaning area where fishermen could bring their day’s catch and clean them. They were mostly catching Snoek fish. This is what one looks like. You can see that the fishing was good that day. It was the original plan for David and I to move to Swakopmund when he was first assigned to this project. I don’t know if that is still the plan or if we will be assigned another project. If we do go to Swakopmund, I will gladly go. I really liked the area and all that it offered. Only the next time we go….we will have a 4×4 for those gravel roads!