Edit Blog Post
Published: August 14th 2016
My turn to do the blog again today, as Rob has been unwell and was unable to come on our planned excursion to Sandwich Harbour.
I made the short walk to the B&B on my own and almost jumped out of my skin when an Alsatian launched itself, barking, at a fence right beside me.
I was picked up after breakfast by a real character of a guide and the next 8 hours was spent in his company along with a pleasant French family, M. et Mme. Vincent and their four boys. On the way to Walvis Bay our guide told us a lot about the local area, the history and social situation. For example a substantial coastal development between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay was originally built to accommodate uranium miners, but following a disaster the uranium prices took a dive before the mine was established, so to cut their losses developers let the properties as relatively cheap holiday homes. Meanwhile the government is providing cheap housing to minimise the shanty towns that still exist but are far from plentiful in Namibia. Our guide explained that this social housing is very small and set in very little land, partly
to keep within the free water quota (no gardens are possible) and also to discourage subletting to those that might wish to build a shack in the grounds!
Walvis Bay is built on reclaimed land and a further section of the ocean is currently being dredged and delivered onto the low lying land in order to extend the town. The main industries are salt - huge pans produce two thousand tons per day - and fishing, the later industry providing the main employment. It started its days as a British whaling colony and was gifted to South Africa when they gained independence. It was retained by SA after Namibian independence in 1990, before being given to Namibia when the military base was disbanded in 1994. A housing estate now stands on the former site.
After stopping in Walvis Bay centre to let the tyres down and photograph the large numbers of pelican and flamingoes that gather in the bay, our route continued on the 'salt' road past the salt mine. The road is actually gypsum that is solidified with salt water. We then continued alongside the coast. Our guide told us that we had a very small window
to get through before high tide around midday but the tides were higher than normal and we reached a section where the narrow part of the beach between the sea and cliff was already being covered by the waves. Having heard that a colleague had decided it was too rough to go out I thought this would be where we turned around but after a few moments of consideration our driver got out and tested the sand to see how solid it was. Satisfied, he drove quickly through the short section before the next wave came in.
There were several hours before we could safely turn back, so on reaching Sandwich Harbour we started by climbing the dune to get the best viewpoint. After this we went on a nature walk, learning about some of the plants and wildlife, before returning to the vehicle for a delicious lunch.
After lunch came the really exciting part of the tour, as our driver took us back over the dunes. There were several heart-stopping moments where we had a more than 45 degree drop off the side of a dune, some of which were taken at an angle so that it
felt as if the vehicle was going to tip over sideways. The most scary moment was where we went up a dune only to come to an abrupt stop on the precipice and when we looked down the drop was almost vertical to about 200 feet. Our driver said 'I just wanted to see if there were any animals down there', but there weren't, so we continued, fortunately leaving the dune by a far shallower exit. We were rewarded with a couple of female ostriches followed by two springbok.
It was hard to find our route back to the road, as the original route used by the drivers had been flooded by the salt mine. We finally took a route via the Kuiseb riverbed and arrived safely back in Walvis Bay where we saw some dolphin fins a little way out at sea, then onto Swakopmund. I couldn't help thinking that here was an adventure that Rob would have really enjoyed so it was a real shame that he missed it.
By the way, I said that our driver was a character and I have probably demonstrated this by what he was prepared to do but he also
told us a bit of his life history. His parents were from Southern Africa but moved to Germany where he was born during the Second World War. His father was killed and his mother moved back and they lived in Cape Town. After his education he moved to Namibia but during conservation work he lost his right hand to a South African mine, left during the battle for Namibian independence. He is now retired but takes tours out on a freelance basis - an incredibly interesting person.
Tot: 0.363s; Tpl: 0.021s; cc: 18; qc: 76; dbt: 0.0257s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb