African shoestrings – Namibia Day Seventy Two – Swakopmund

Our final day in Swako was actually spent in Walvis Bay, a small town, 30 kilometres south. We checked out of our comfy accommodation thinking we would find something in Walvis Bay, a decision we were later to regret.

This little nondescript town was never actually colonised by the Germans. The British who controlled the Cape colony (South Africa) and laid claim to it in 1878 and didn’t let go of it until 1994, four years after Namibia’s independence. This natural harbour’s popularity is because it’s the only decent port north of Luderitz and south of Luanda in northern Angola and has been a very strategic political, defensive and commercial position to hold.

Now Walvis Bay’s main attractions are its bird life, in particular flamingoes, and Dune 7.

Dune 7 is large stand-alone sand dune north east of the town that rises above the bleak landscape and overlooks the noisy goods train railway. The locals’ flock to it in their droves to walk, run, sandboard or simply sit at the picnic tables in its shadow eating sandy sandwiches or gritty sausages. The bird life on the other hand is much more interesting. The lagoon just to the south of the town is home to half of southern Africa’s flamingo population plus pelicans, gulls and plovers to name just a few. Close by is the Raft a pub/restaurant housed in a wooden building sitting on stilts over the water.  A couple of beers in there gave us a brief respite from the ever-increasing wind and in a rash moment we decided to return for dinner that night.

I have to say that it was one of the most amazing dining experiences either of us had ever had. The meal was nice we had some of the local fish species, Kobaljai and Steenbras and it was all pretty good including the service. What stole the show were the flamingos! From where we were sitting we could see the floodlight water and all night there was this constant flow of flamingos walking back and forwards doing their best to imitate the huge walking box robots from the Stars Wars movies. These wonderfully colourful waders gave us a show neither of us will ever forget!

What is forgettable however is the smelly cramped dog box of a unit we ended up staying in overnight back in Swako. We hadn’t managed to find anything cheap enough in Walvis Bay so we rang a place back in Swako without knowing what it was like. The women who answered the phone said yes it was free that night and the cost was N$100 plus $30.00 for laundry. OK I thought we don’t want any laundry done we’ll take it. What the laundry turned out to be was the cost of washing the bed linen after you had used it, assuming that you hadn’t brought your own. Well after sleeping the night in this matchbox with less facilities than a prison cell and having to listen to her winging about this that and anything else she happened to be an expert on, we told her to get stuffed, politely of course! Needless to say we headed out of there as soon as the sun was up.

Every town or city has the Café, the place to be seen at and usually has a specialty or two. Swako was no exception. The Café Anton was a trendy, probably in some eyes pretentious, indoor/ outdoor café overlooking the main beach. After such a shitty night we thought we’d treat ourselves to morning tea in the shape of a couple of German pastries and (finally) some good coffee before heading out. No doubt about its popularity, the locals were arriving in droves for both coffee and pastries and breakfast. It was a fitting end to our stay in Swako. It had been the only place in Namibia where we could take time out to get our fix of some western culture.

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Flamingos at Walvis Bay in Namibia

Flamingos at Walvis Bay in Namibia


African shoestrings – Namibia Day Sixty nine – Hentiesbaai

Terrace Bay is desert, black stone beaches and a grey sick looking ocean that yielded an endless abundance of fish. This is serious stuff! A couple of guys caught 82 fish each one weighting around seven or eight kilos off the beach! I don’t know that much about fishing but I do know that there are few places left in Australia where you could get a catch like that without a boat.

A few others must have caught a bucketload as well as it was being offered around (cooked that is) by one of the other groups at dinnertime.

This group was led by the ‘knowitall’ you know the type, there’s one in every gathering or group. Even though they were speaking Afrikaans his body language and actions told us “I know it all and I’m going to tell you”.

We were in the bar and he and his friends and family walk in and he just took over the bar. Frans, the barman, must hate arseholes like him just walking behind the bar and helping himself simply because they all arrived together and poor old Frans was a bit slow in keeping up.

Relaxing for a day or so gave Sue a chance to recover, which she did although she still felt off colour. I was hoping that the bracing air and relaxation would clear up my catarrh but that still stuck to me so much so that in frustration I started a course of antibiotics that we had brought with us.

The Skeleton park is infamous for its shipwrecks that dot the coast after hitting one of the treacherous sand banks and some bright spark thought the name ‘Skeleton’ was appropriate. It was one of these shipwrecks that got us into what we thought at the time was big trouble. Our next destination was Swakopmund some 350 kilometres south on the coast, via the Cape Cross seal colony. Bearing in mind our ‘reluctance’ to leave ‘Terrible’ bay, we set out early to ensure we had time.

Well we made good time along the salt road to the park gate at Ugab and then turned off to see one of these shipwrecks. The road had another of these heavily corrugated surfaces that have you bouncing around everywhere and just moving forward at more than 30 kilometres an hour was a struggle. Suddenly a buzzer went off and the oil light flashed on the dash. We both said “Shit!” stopped and turned off the engine. Like any part time mechanic, I was quite capable of opening the bonnet and checking the oil. Plenty there! I checked to see if the filter was loose. No that was ok as far as I could tell. Now we’re in a hire car which is less than a year old and still covered by it’s warranty, somehow fiddling with it didn’t seem the right option without authority. After all it’s my credit card imprint they’ve got as a deposit. So we did the right thing and slowly drove back. It didn’t seem to mind if we drove it at 20 kilometres an hour.

It took forever to get back to Ugab. There’s not a lot at Ugab in fact there’s not even a phone. Fortunately they did have a more modern method of communication than the pigeon, a two-way radio. The gatekeeper radioed the nearest mechanic in Hentiesbaai a small town some 137 kilometres away. His only option in these circumstances was to bring a tow truck.

All we could do now was wait and wait! Eventually Hennie turned up around 3 hours later which I guess wasn’t too bad. He took a quick look at the car and then we loaded into the back of his truck whilst we both climbed into the front.

Hennie was born and raised in Namibia and despite being white considered this was as much his country as anyone else. We talked about the fish, the up coming Rugby world cup (Namibia actually had a team entered) and life in general in Hentiesbaai. Hennie told us that there was around 200,000 whites in Namibia and then turned to us and asked “How many blecks ‘ave you goot in yoor ‘ountry?” When I replied that we had about 300,000 aboriginals. He looked at us and said “Thets nothin man, we got 3 million of them!”

Of course it turned out that there was nothing wrong with the car other than a loose wire on the oil switch in the engine which had somehow shaken loose. It cost N$1235 (US$124.00) to get us picked up from Ugab and I had to break the news to Werner. “We’ve fixed the problem mate” I told Werner on the phone and proceeded to tell him about the oil switch. We had already rang him and told him what had happened and needed permission for Hennie to look at the car which Werner got from Volkswagen. “Thing is, it’s cost N$1235.00 and they want to know how you gonna pay for it?” There was a pause. Somehow I had this picture of Werner looking to the heavens and saying “why me”. Anyway we ended up paying for it on proviso that he would settle with us when we returned the car.

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The inhospitable Skelton Coast in Namibia

The inhospitable Skelton Coast in Namibia