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Monday 13 Feb 2012
Swakopmund, Namibia

More German than Germany!

The alarm went off at 5am and I decided I might as well see what all the fuss was about regarding the sunrise. I also wanted to make use of the advantageous position I was in within the Sesriem gate. People who are staying outside the national park have to wait until it is almost sunrise before the gate opens and then partake in a massive speeding convoy to get to Sossusvlei for the sunrise.

Watching the sunrise...
Relaxing before the sunrise

As Sossusvlei hadn't blown my mind (plus I didn't want to have to pay for another bus ride) I decided to try out Dune 45 for sunrise. When I arrived it was empty and I was the first one to the top, but the lights I could see on the distant horizon betrayed the oncoming throngs of tourists and backpackers that were to join me to catch the sunrise.

Dune 45
Dune 45 at sunrise

Once the sunrise started it was all very pretty but over within 10 minutes and I was glad that I got to see Sossusvlei the afternoon before as the light was much better (plus bereft of tourists competing for the best advantage points). So top tip: ignore the morning rush and just visit in the afternoon (Deadvlei in the morning is the only exception though).

After the sunrise was over I went back to my lodge to shower, had brekkie and then checked out. The next destination was to be Walvis Bay, reached by more gravel roads (oh joy!). The tar road that goes through the Sossusvlei National Park seemed a little ridiculous as there was no way to avoid gravel roads on the journey to and fro... maybe it was to keep the uber-rich visitors happy that travelled here by helicopter!

Tropic of Capricorn
Tropic of Capricorn

The gravel road between Sesriem and Walvis Bay was a vast improvement on the road coming from Luderitz, and I was able to maintain a steady 120 Kph throughout the trip. I even somehow managed to avoid getting a chip on the windscreen as I gave oncoming cars (of which there were far more on this section) a wide 30 metre berth! At one point I passed the Tropic of Capricorn where I had lunch (a concoction of breakfast foods that I yoinked from the lodge before heading off) and then eventually the gravel roads finished and I was back on tar! Laughing

Reaching Walvis Bay I didn't know what to expect, but wasn't overly impressed. It was just a grid-like mesh of streets alongside a major shipping port, so I decided to continue on up to Swakopmund passing by several speed-traps that I'd been warned about. Predictably all the people I saw who were stopped were whites in expensive-looking rentals! The road from Walvis Bay to Swakopmund is situated along a stretch of Namib desert dunes and I noticed a Quad-Bike adventure centre that took my fancy, "For another day perhaps..."

German colonial...
German colonial building

Swakopmund had everything that I was looking for: charm and a genuine German colonial feel, whereas Walvis Bay could have been anywhere really. Swakop (as it's known locally) has been labelled "More German than Germany" and, even nowadays, is a refuge for visitors from Germany who wish to escape the winter back home, but not to go somewhere so different to Germany. Many retirees move here and I can see why, it has a lovely laid-back ambiance. Indeed if it weren't for the warm air and palm trees, you might well believe that you were back in Europe: it seemed to have the largest concentration of whites that I'd seen in Namibia so far and even some menial jobs typically staffed by blacks were being done by whites!

I found a hostel called Dunes Backpackers which was run by a lovely bunch of people and they sorted me out with an 11-bed dorm to myself for 14 euro a night. Nice!

Went out to explore, but as I was particularly tired from my early rise I just settled on getting a few beers and fish-n-chips. Curiously enough, the bar I went to had all-white staff and the waitress that served me decided to "upgrade" my meal to a more expensive option, without asking me first, then assumed I was giving her a 25% tip when I handed her $200. I had to ask her to bring back some change! Maybe she thought she'd get away with it as I had 2 pints of Hansa and an Erdinger in the evening heat! Schwein!

I unfortunately didn't get much time to explore Swakop before it got dark but it was a great place to relax and have a few beers with locals after my gravel road experience.

As an aside one of the odd things I noticed about the place (and it seemed all of Southern Africa did this) was to refer to traffic lights as "robots"!

"Jes go through thee roobooots end turn lift" ... mad mad world eh?

1 Comment for this Travel blog entry

Big Bro Says:

16 February 2012

Hi there, apart from the frantic driving and 'almost running over a family of baboons' bit, am enjoying your write ups! No photos yet tho?
Take it handy!

peterforan Replies:

22 February 2012

Nah, no internet connections

Sithern Efrika

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