Notes from Namibia: part six

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

When it comes to fabulous weather and wildlife, there is nowhere like Namibia, says Adrienne. Over the next few weeks, she will be sharing her notes from Namibia – arguably Africa at its most authentic – exclusively with CD-Traveller readers. Today: Activities in sand and sea

For some unknown reason that we ended up attributing to habit, we’d asked for breakfast at 7am. It was laid out for us outside John’s chalet. It was a fab spread – paw paw, hard boiled eggs, toast, peanut butter, jam and all washed down with hot chocolate.

I mentioned the 3-hour combi, which Ciara leapt at. Kathryn was similarly game for it. John had chosen shark fishing, but due to high winds at sea it had been cancelled, so he came with us too. Bad weather at sea had confused us – the cloud of the previous day had been replaced by our familiar crystal clear blue skies. The air was fresh too – perfect for a morning messing about in the desert.

At 9am promptly our leader for the morning, Paulus, collected us in a minibus. It was the same as ours, but so comfortable. We settled in happily, anticipating a comfortable journey out into the dunes.

The journey took around two minutes. We were dropped at Desert Explorers, just around the corner. Disembarking, we entered the reception building to pay, sign, indemnify and get our helmets.

Paulus introduced us to our quad bikes. We girls were given automatics. John and Paulus had manuals. Paulus gave us a safety talk – stay in his tracks and don’t lean. So long as we didn’t prat about we would be perfectly safe. The confidence this gave me was quickly shaken as we set off. It was a strange, uncontrollable experience. As soon as we left the tarmac the handle bars were whipped to the left and right with such vigour that I struggled and then, failed to control it. I ended up in a small sandy mound.

Paulus was quick to see and came straight over to me. As he appeared I was already getting myself back on track. All that was in my mind was that I had no insurance for this.

We continued on our way and I concentrated. The controls are all operated by hand, with the right thumb operating the throttle. My already sore thumb became something of a worry – would it last?

Gradually the dunes opened up and we sensed the space, light and isolation. Initially and briefly worried by this I was suddenly enraptured by them. I have often wondered what it was about deserts that people found so magical. Although I doubt my ability to put it into words, I suddenly and instinctively knew what it was. And with this understanding came a sense of being completely at peace with myself, for the first time in years.

We started to go up and down the dunes, winding our way through in the most convoluted and exciting way. We start off forming mostly zigzags up and down the dunes. As we went up we were leaned to the left. As we came down, head first, it felt like being on a rollercoaster. I couldn’t help it and found myself letting a loud “woo-ee!” escape from my mouth. And this was how it was for half an hour – exhilarating!

Reaching the top of one dune we switched off our engines. Paulus disappeared, leaving us a bit confused. He returned soon after, carrying several pieces of hardboard. Kneeling down in the sand he took out a large tin and proceeded to wax the boards. Sandboarding.

Ciara went first – she was positively champing at it to get up there. The steep side of it was scarily high. Ciara took it all in her stride and made a great first run. John went next, taking a tumble, but was unharmed. The controls were slightly confusing  – if you feel the board go to the left, touch your right foot to the ground. And vice versa. I went next as Cath was refusing to go. Paulus gave me a push. And I had thought quad biking was a rush!

This was surely the most fun you could have with your clothes on. Fast, smooth and stable, I steered easily. The run however was over in too few seconds. I wanted to do it again and again. From this position we were finally able to persuade Cath to have a go.

It took five dunes and 15 minutes to get the hang of the bikes again. Somehow I didn’t go so fast or as high the second time – perhaps I’d had my thrills on the boards? Some of the slopes were more precipitous this second time, the first almost defeated me, until I reminded myself of the sand boarding. Then it all became a lot more fun.

Paulus had been a great guide, really relaxed and fun. We’d been talking on my final climb up the big one. He asked me about England. I showed him some photos of the Hadrian’s Wall area that I had on my camera, and he loved the look of the greenness of it all.  I put him off though when I told him how big it is, and how many people live here. He also found the cost of living frankly scary, and who could blame him?

Back to careering around the dunes … We rounded a corner and came face to face with the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. It was the most amazing blue – perfectly mirroring the sky. We stopped again in our tracks, which this time was just as well as we were at the crest of a dune and it was a long way down. The view is incredible.

Once back we decided to make sure Paulus had a really big tip. Apparently he was paid less than the white staff even though he did the same job.

Once safely delivered back to the chalets I decanted the sand that had accumulated in my trouser pockets into a plastic water bottle. It was coming home with me. Whenever I look at it, it still brings a smile to my face at the happy memories I associate with it.

We got cleaned up and changed and headed off onto town in search of lunch and some sight-seeing. We were looking for Café Anton which I had read about it in my guide book, and which promised excellent patisserie. The layout of Swakop seemed easy enough – a grid, yet I still found it necessary to consult my guide.

Rather full after lunch we left and wandered down to the craft market. Instantly harassed I took myself off and stayed at a relatively safe distance, only approached by a solitary hawker selling key rings made from a palm nut. All were carved with decorative patterns. The seller was wearing a Liverpool FC shirt and was only too happy to tell me about how much of a fan he was. After he left I was able to chill out in the sun, convinced I was easy for the others to spot. I was however wrong, and I got quite a ticking off for wandering.

Dinner that evening was at the Lighthouse. We found it friendly and the menu, which like the previous night seemed to offer something for everyone. We drank a beer and then headed off to the shops to see if we could find some gifts that were a bit different. We found a smart-looking shop selling tribal artefacts among other things. We found a lovely selection of gifts – white lady candles for mum and dad, beaded gecko key rings and a Himba head scratcher, which I bought for a girlfriend.

We returned to the chalet with our swag for 5pm. Cath had struggled at the local laundry to begin with, but managed to get everything done she needed to. At 6.30pm we rounded everyone up and walked back across town to The Lighthouse.  And what a meal we had! After that we just collapsed into bed at 10.45pm – our latest night yet!

To read the next part of Adrienne’s African adventure, don’t forget to log onto the CD-Traveller website next Monday (November 21).



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