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Adventures in Swakopmund

Some accidental, some planned

overcast 15 °C

Our two nights and one day in Swakopmund was full of shopping, adventure and food. (plus laundry). We also discovered that children come to school between 6:30 and 6:45 in the morning which is when the happy cries of children started outside our windows. In the grand scheme, it’s not a bad noise to wake up to. I don’t think school started that early (as the kids were still out running and screaming at 7:30 when we went down to breakfast) so I wonder if kids come when their parents head to work.

In this photo across the courtyard of our hotel (the sea is to my back), the school is the low rectangular buildings to left. The "city centre" is the tower.

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Let me start with the food we ate (for which there are no pictures. Darn it - failing as a Insta influencer)

Supper the first night as at the Ocean Cellar which was a pre-trip researched spot. It was in the same waterfront complex as the Brewery and Butcher. We made reservations for 6pm which gave us time to walk the beach front again.

The restaurant looks very posh - and we were in tourist gear. Mind you, that is how 90% of patrons were dressed. The actual dishes were quite interesting - looked one of a kind with slight irregularities in shape. They specialized in sushi - which we did NOT have. Paul and Jonathan had the Tom Won Soup (yes that is how it was on the menu) - which was very spicy and had a non-peeled head-on prawn on top. We have noticed that in both SA and Namibia, prawns come cooked but not peeled. It just makes for some messy eating. Ben and I split what was called a Caesar salad with oysters. There was nothing caesar about it - I would have called it a garden salad. Jonathan and I both decided to try an abalone dish which the restaurant has developed specially to show off this mollusk which is plentiful in the region. While the dishes were good and had great flavour (I had risotto and Jonathan had stirfry), none of the flavour came from the abalone. Ben had a seafood platter which required a platter sized appetite. Paul had the salmon. All were exponentially better than the food we had at the seafood restaurant in Cape Town. Notionally, they were the same dishes and but the quality and flavour was way better. For dessert, Ben had the creme brulee (whcih came with twio biscotti) and Jonathan had the champagne poached pair on a chocolate pecan tart. Both were perfect.

On Wednesday, I had grabbed sandwiches from the deli counter at the local Pick and Pay which we gobbled during and after the surfing lessons. We rewarded ourselves for surviving the lessons by heading to Anton’s Cafe which is a Swkaopmund institution. Amazing German pastries and coffee. It would be a great place to come for a mid-morning coffee break to watch the ocean.

The boys declared they were sick of restaurant food and just wanted to eat on our roof top terrace. So we ordered Indian take out and had lots of food which we shared with our driver. It wasn’t the best Indian food I’ve ever had . I am sure this butter chicken was made with Campbell’s tinned tomato soup but it hit the spot. The wind had also come up so the rooftop was a bit chilly and we had to share the rooftop terrace with two giggly young women and a young man who were eating a pizza.
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We did not eat at the restaurant called the Tug (yes, I know there is a nautical theme as it was on the waterfront but it just begs for bad jokes), or at the Village Cafe (which is a good coffee or lunch place and gets high ratings on Trip Advisor) or get fish and chips take out from the food truck along the water front or return to the german donut shop on the pier (although others in our group did. LIke always, there was more left untasted and unexplored.

We had an adventure filled day in Swakopmund. Some on purpose, some accidentally.

We had booked quad biking and a desert exploration for the morning to be followed by surfing lessons in the afternoon. Paul did quad biking. I did surfing lessons.

After breakfast (during I did not make a mess of cereal although Ben pointed out they had added signs to the cereal dispensers showing which way to twist the dispenser knobs), I left the boys and Paul sitting in the courtyard waiting for the driver and went up to our room to do some tidying up before heading out to shop. I started getting panicky messages from Paul asking the name of the company we booked with as there as “no quad biking” where he was. To make a very long story short, a van had pulled up and a guy said jump in and Paul and the boys did. The driver didn’t check names nor did he wonder why there were 3 people instead of the 2 on his manifest. When the driver figured it out, he started swearing in german (scheisse) which of course my family understood. And then some shouting in German between the driver and dispatcher started. Paul said the tour they joined was actually really good but in the meantime I had gotten our hotel receptionist involved who started tracking down drivers and companies. The receptionist arranged for the boys to be driven to the correct place where they had a grand time driving quad bikes in the dunes and looking at various desert creatures (including a snake and a lizard). The side winder snake was a particular nostalgic moment as it was watching Austin Stevens TV shows as a boy that seeded the "we'll go to Africa".
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Meanwhile, I had contacted the surfing people and arranged for them to pick me up as planned from the hotel but then swing by the quad bike place to get the boys.

So I spent my morning being a combo tourist and local. I had three goals: find a bank machine, get food for lunch and buy a few souvenirs. I found a simpler tourist store (if there is such a thing) run by a german lady that had some beautiful embroidery /linens. It was just around the corner from the Pick n Pay which was 90% local. I got lunches and then some snacks. I think our guide doesn’t know what to make of me as I am quite confident wandering around by myself and going to “local” places. It really isn’t fool hardy. I’ve seen more dangerous places in part of Toronto or Hamilton (where the beggars have mental health and addiction issues).
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In case you are wondering why surfing in Namibia - well it has a very famous wave (left hand barrel - whatever that means) that breaks for 2 kilometers. People come from all over to surf this wave. Of course, that is NOT where our lessons were. The sea conditions were less than ideal although our guide Tristan kept saying “it doesn’t matter for beginners” - I suspect it is because our big achievement will be to get on the board. It was cloudy and there was a bit of a wind which created double waves and some chop so it was harder to read the waves.

We first wiggled our way into our wet suits. MInd was extra thick as I had worried about the cold. I think victorians getting strapped into their corsets and layers of petticoats got dressed faster than me trying to inch that wet suit up over my hips. I’d like to say that my years of windsurfing plus skiing plus wake surfing plus wake boarding meant I was a natural but no. As Tristan demonstrated, you are to “pop up” on the board by pushing off with your arms and then springing to your feet in one fluid motion. I’m afraid I looked like an arthritic warthog struggling to get my feet under me on ice. There is nothing more bruising to one’s ego than to hear your instructor say “you need to be more flexible”. I of course blame the fact I was in a very thick wet suit that held gallons of water and which made moving impossible. I actually found the biggest struggle was to get out through the waves - every wave that hit me knocked me off my feet and threw me backwards so my walk into the ocean was literally 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. By the time I was in position to catch the wave, I was exhausted. After about an hour and a half, I decided to start peeling myself out of my wet suit and realized I must have been colder and tireder than I thought as I could barely make my hands move. And I discovered I had sand everywhere up under the wet suit. And caked into my hair. Clearly I spent more time being pummeled by the sea than riding the wave. I’m trying not to make parallels to life in general.
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After a restorative cup of coffee and pastry, Paul and I did some wandering/shopping. Paul wanted some collapsible walking sticks, I was looking for a hoodie for Ben and we were on the look out for tourist merch. I also needed to buy more ankle sports socks for the boys as the wind had taken away some of the socks which I had draped over chairs on our balcony to dry. (I later retrieved a pair from behind the rubbish bins which were directly below our balcony). We also grabbed 3 large bottles of water to add to the stash on the van.

Just around the corner from our hotel was a lovely little coffee/deli that also sold tourist stuff. I got some cookies for the bus, an engraved salt/pepper set, and Paul got a replacement ball cap. (of course, if you don’t throw out your original cap, it is not a replacement just an additional).

My most exciting purchase in Swakopmund was a book “Namibia - Fascination of Geology: a Travel Handbook”. (small detour - it was a lovely book shop with multiple rooms including a antique section - we reined ourselves in and didn’t even look about as books are heavy and we have limited luggage space). I had been super frustrated with not understanding what I was looking at - like why were there ridges of igneous rock through shale or why were there red sand dunes beside black conical shapes. Our guide couldl tell me that the red dunes had high iron content uh, yup, I’ve been to PEI and can quote the dialogue from Anne of Green Gables:
Anne: Oh Mr Cuthbert! Mr. Cuthbert! Why are your roads so red?
Matthew: well now, a fellow told me, it is the iron in the soil getting rusty
Anne (breaking into song):
D'you suppose that it could be
The wounds of tragic destiny dripping from a blood-stained family tree?
An evil spell that did compel the founders of this island
To meet their doom and perish horribly!

But that didn’t answer my question which was why were there black mounds beside red dunes. So, i bought a book which prompted our guide to say “oh you have an interest in geology”. My response (sharper than intended) : “no I just like to know what I am seeing”. I am moderately gobsmacked that no one in his 25 years of guiding has expressed an interest in the geology around them given that, as my book says, Namibia has some of the oldest and most interesting geology features in the world which is easily visible to the naked eye. And more pragmatically, there aren’t enormous numbers of animals to see which means all there is to look at is the interesting rock and earth formations - so you might as well do an informed narration on what there is to see so the poor tourists aren’t bored to tears by the stark landscape.)

I had been interested in a guided bike tour around Swakopmund in the morning while the boys quad biked; however there was a minimum group size so a party of one didn’t count. I had also contacted a company that had gotten really good Trip Advisor reviews for a bike ride to the townships. Unfortunately, it looked like a larger company bought out the one I had contacted and no one got back to me. I gritted my teeth slightly when our guide told us at breakfast that he had spent the evening with friends of his in the townships. I didn’t expect to be taken along with him but I wish he would have offered to help us do a cultural tour. It appears his expertise is limited to very typical tourist stuff which is not how I usually spend my time and is becoming increasingly irritating.

Posted by IronladyTravels 05:08 Archived in Namibia

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