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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside… November 8, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Out of the city, Raaah!.

This last Saturday morning, I found myself aboard a catamaran cruising through Atlantic waters, supping champagne and swallowing down oysters in the cool morning sun. No, I haven’t won the lottery nor am I dating any millionaires. I was on my first well-deserved mini-break in Swakopmund. You may recall that I did not speak very highly of Swakopmund, and I would still not recommend visiting it, but I did have a very enjoyable weekend there. 

When mention of a Swakop-mini-break was first mentioned, I was thinking that there are plenty of places in Namibia that I would rather spend money to go visit. But Julian was running a workshop there, and Joost was already there with him chasing stories for the Big Issue Namibia, Jillian’s boss could sort us out with a beach front apartment at a cheap rate and after a bit of persuasion, I was in.Jill, Matteus and I took Friday afternoon off work, loaded the car with winter clothes, and headed off across the desert to the coast. After my last visit, I was prepared for a cold weekend of grey sunless drizzle; but as we descended from the last desert pass to sea level, I was pleasantly surprised to see the ocean sparkling in the afternoon sun. I wouldn’t say it was warm, and the 30mph wind carrying sand and all matters of debris certainly did not help, but it was a good start to the weekend. We met up with a tomato-red Julian and Joost and Selmi, Julian’s student from the college who’d been helping out with the workshop, and headed off to our lovely beach-front apartment for a beer at sunset. Ah, the sea. What a treat. I envisaged a weekend of surfing and hanging out on the stunning beaches. But I was mislead. All the quality waves I’d seen before were gone, and the wind was whipping up such a mess that it was just uncomfortable to have any inch of flesh open to the bombardment of sand that was flying around. The beaches were rocky, with huge ugly condos built right onto the shore; despite the sun, the sea looked grey and unwelcoming. We all endured the beach for a beer and then headed back to our apartment to de-sand, all feeling (rather spoilt) that we had seen better. 

Partying in Swakop  Industrial Walvis in the morning fog

Saturday morning we were up and out the beach-front apartment by 8am, racing down the coast toWalvis Bay. This strip of road is quite breath-taking as it is balancing between pitching desert dunes and the Atlantic Ocean, like the beach is just stretching on forever inland. We got to the Yacht Club, which is squeezed at the end of an industrial shipyard, degrading the stunning surrounding landscape. Yet a welcome distraction from this eyesaw was a fleet* of flamingoes, packs of pelicans and a jetty surrounded by the largest jellyfish I have ever seen (*is that the correct collective name?!). Our catamaran then pulls in and Archie, our skipper for the day, welcomes us to our cruise. The reason for this extravagance is because Joost is writing a story on boating tours on the coast for the Big Issue, and therefore we not only got excellent service but also a hefty discount from wildly unaffordable to mildly unaffordable – yee-hah!.

Hungry Pelicans  Hungry seagulls

Almost immediately, a pack of pelicans had joined the boat, and are fighting over the fish the First Mate, Isak, was tossing at them – they really are ugly yet fascinating creatures. We are then offered a glass of sherry to warm us up, as the coastal fog had started rolling in, creating a haunting ambience as we pass the many shipwrecks stranded in the bay. The cruise gently took us out past the wrecks, along the barren coast of dunes, to a guaro (bird shit) farm (pee-eow!), and over to Pelican Point. We saw so many different birds, some Benguela and bottle-nosed dolphins and thousands of seals (see Here doggy!). The skipper had been doing this for years and was very knowledgeable about the sea, its animals and the politics that surround it, and I got to learn heaps more about the sea. Around midday, we stopped and were treated to fresh oysters and champagne – yummy yum yum.

Tourists on the boat

After the cruise, we were invited to the yacht club bar, where we had Jaegermeister forced down our throats (before lunch!), and an afternoon of beer swigging with the local white Namibians ensued. There was much excitement as the Windsurfing Speed Record event had just taken place, and new records set; and Richard Branson was apparently in town, but noone had seen him. It got very hot, and after a morning on the boat, I managed to burn my hands, lips and scalp rather painfully (everywhere else was covered in clothes or sunscreen)! Needless to say, I look hot.

It was a pleasant enough afternoon, but the biting racist comments of these supposedly educated people were hideous, especially since Selmi herself is Ovambo. And these white men wouldn’t communicate with Jill or I, proving that they really see women as second class citizens. Swakop and Walvis are incredibly white dominated, with many signs in German, German architecture and amenities. The only black people you see in the town are service industry workers. And judging by the attitudes of the whites living there, they will have a long and hard fight to reach much higher above it. Sadly it appears that apartheid is not regarded as a thing of the past in white-powered places of Namibia.



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