A Travellerspoint blog

The Ups and Downs of Namibia

A Day Trip to Sandwich Harbour

sunny

We had a lovely hotel in Swakopmund and it did a very good breakfast, however, because we were always in a rush to get ready for our tour, we never really got a chance to fully appreciate it - that all changed on our Sandwich Harbour tour day. Finally, we had a tour that left later and a morning to ourselves, so we ate a leisurely breakfast then went for a swim. Well, I say swim, but the hotel pool was more of a place to cool down rather than a place to swim, nonetheless it took a very good photo.

My husband took this free time as a challenge to get on with his big six and he began with a Tanzanian Kilimanjaro beer - the perfect poolside beer and indeed the perfect in-pool beer, too.

Peter with his Kilimajaro by the pool ....

Peter with his Kilimajaro by the pool ....

and in the pool.

and in the pool.

Around midday we were collected from our hotel and driven back to Walvis Bay where we changed vehicle, collected more passengers then headed out on our tour. We began on the Walvis Bay salt pans; our guide joked that all the world's snow is actually made in Namibia then exported to the North Pole etc. From our photos you can see why he said this.

Salt Production in Walvis Bay.

Salt Production in Walvis Bay.

Salt factory.

Salt factory.

Our driver drove us straight up a tall sand dune so we could get a good view over the salt pans. It is a surreal sight with salt encrusted stretches of sand and pink tinged pools of water stretching all around. Salt pans, are shallow artificial ponds created to extract salt from sea water. The seawater evaporates naturally from the ponds, leaving the salt behind for harvest. High algae concentrations affect the colour of these ponds. In the case of Walvis Bay, the pond water turns pink. The algae here is devoured by water-birds; in Walvis Bay the algae attracts large flocks of flamingos. These tend to be of two main kinds: the greater and the lesser. The greater flamingo is taller and lighter in colour; the lesser flamigo is smaller but more brightly coloured.

Salt pans and pink water.

Salt pans and pink water.

Peter in his surreal world.

Peter in his surreal world.

Flamingos.

Flamingos.

Flamingos.

Flamingos.

It takes an experienced driver to get to Sandwich Harbour. First, you must drive along a very long stretch of beach with the waves creeping ever closer to you. Then if the tide is so far in that the beach is impassable, or if you are just secretly a sensation seeker, you must drive up and down and up and down and up and down even more over the sand dunes. We experienced both of these scenarios: the beach on the way there; the dunes on the return journey.

Driving the beach.

Driving the beach.

When South Africa was forced to grant independence to Namibia in 1990, it retained control of Walvis Bay and there was a border region around this area. Our drive along the beach took us right to the former border line. Our driver told us that he was brought up in Windhoek and used to play for the rugby team there. Once when they had a match in Walvis Bay, the border officials put the whole team in prison overnight on a trumped up charge of not having the correct entry documentation. They then released them one hour before the game. The whole procedure was to mess with their heads and render them unable to play rugby.

Peter at the old border.

Peter at the old border.

Later in the desert one of our guides uncovered a Namib sand gecko. This is a species of small lizard that inhabits the dry areas of Angola and Namibia. It has very large eyes and only comes out at night. Its skin helps it stay camouflaged among the desert sand. It is translucent, and some of its internal organs can be seen through its skin. This gecko has webbed toes, to help it burrow easily in the sand. After we had all had a look at it, the guide placed it on the desert floor and it dug its way rapidly back under the sand.

A Namib sand gecko.

A Namib sand gecko.

Sandwich Harbour was once a small port which made its living through whaling and fishing. The buildings of Sandwich Harbour have long since fallen into ruins and are covered over by the desert sands. Only some of their rooftops are still visible.

The former port of Sandwich Harbour buried under the sand.

The former port of Sandwich Harbour buried under the sand.

The former port of Sandwich Harbour buried under the sand.

The former port of Sandwich Harbour buried under the sand.

There is a lagoon next to the sea in sandwich harbour. I climbed up a tall dune to get a view over it. The climb was torture. I made it about half way up and my legs felt so sore that I thought they were going to seize up. A group of French tourists who had climbed up before me were coming down and passed me saying: 'Don't give up. You can do it. Almost there." so I pushed myself on. After a while, I could no longer even stand up as I kept slipping back down the dune. Then I realised I had lost my hat and had to go back for it, then crawl back up once again. When I was nearly at the top, a French lady who was at the top called down that she would wait for me if I wanted my photo taken. I said: 'Great, thanks.' then began to slip back down. I crawled back up. I slipped back down. This continued for some time. Eventually, I did actually make it and posed for my photo with my heart pumping so fast I thought I was about to die. The French lady, who had waited for me, took off and ran, and I mean ran, up another dune nearby. I was left alone with a rather spectacular view. Then I started to try and go down. All the way up I had looked for hard firm sand I would not slide back down on and struggled most on the loose sand that fell downwards as soon as I stepped on it. Going down was the opposite. On the hard sand, I went down so fast I lost all control over my legs, but on the loose sand I could throw myself over and make my way down more slowly. The French lady who had taken my photo came tearing down at speed after me, calling to me: 'Come on let's go.' but I could only get down slowly. The funny thing was that when I reached the bottom, Peter whose eyesight is getting very poor praised me for looking so athletic on my descent. 'That was not me. That was that French lady over there', I said, but he would not believe me. It was lunch time and one of the guides came over and gave me a glass of wine. I felt I had truly earned it.

The dune I climbed.

The dune I climbed.

Half way - don't give up.

Half way - don't give up.

View over the lagoon from halfway up.

View over the lagoon from halfway up.

I made it!!!

I made it!!!

I really did.

I really did.

View from the top lagoon side.

View from the top lagoon side.

View from the top desert side.

View from the top desert side.

That athletic French woman runs up another one.

That athletic French woman runs up another one.

Safely back at the bottom I had wine and sandwiches and chicken wings and it was all lovely - except everything tasted like sand. I had sand in my hair; sand in my eyes; sand in my ears and sand up my nose!!!

A well earned wine!!!

A well earned wine!!!

After lunch it was back in the car and we drove to the top of a dune, then steeply straight back down; then up and down and up and down. I have heard of this. I think it is called wadi bashing. I have never had the slightest desire to do it, but actually it was not so bad and we stopped now and again to look at the views.

On top of the world.

On top of the world.

I believe I can fly.

I believe I can fly.

Enjoying the dunes.

Enjoying the dunes.

Steady on his feet.

Steady on his feet.

Desert living.

Desert living.

On the drive back we saw a plant called nara melon which thrives in the dry desert conditions and is eaten by some desert animals. We had been told we may see some wildlife such as jackals, hyena or deer, instead we saw, you guessed it ..... seals. Might even have been Nicholas again. Who knows???

Nara melon.

Nara melon.

Nara melon.

Nara melon.

Seals, seals and more seals.

Seals, seals and more seals.

Our tour providers.

Our tour providers.

Back home Peter had another go at the big six with a Maluti from Lesotho and a Castle from South Africa.

A Maluti from Lesotho.

A Maluti from Lesotho.

A Castle from South Africa.

A Castle from South Africa.

Then that night back in Swakopmund we ate dinner in The Tug Restaurant, located at the beginning of Swakopmund's pier. This restaurant is built around a tug boat called Danie Hugo which was constructed back in my home town in Port Glasgow, Scotland in 1959. It was owned by The Republic of South Africa Railways and Harbours Administration, Cape Town and after several years of service was broken up at Walvis Bay in 1985 before being converted into a restaurant in 1993. We had a very pleasant and enjoyable meal here.

The Tug.

The Tug.

The Tug.

The Tug.

Posted by irenevt 04:55 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert cars namibia dunes flamingos

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

What a great tour! The gecko is really cute, and I admire you for getting up that dune. When Chris and I visit this sort of place he is the one who climbs while I wait at the bottom ;)
And I believe we ate in that very same restaurant!!

by ToonSarah

Who won the rugby match between Windhoek and Walvis Bay? After that dirty trick, I hope Windhoek did. Loved the gecko; they are so cute.

I climbed a huge sand dune once when I was a teen and was winded even then. It's hard work. You never seem to get anywhere . . . ;)

by Beausoleil

Peter is obviously like you, Sarah. He stayed at the bottom with a beer.

Quite a good restaurant but quite shaky, when the waiters and waitresses were rushing up and down.

by irenevt

Apparently Windhoek won the match despite the trick. Our guide said they were a very strong team at that time.

Sand dunes are very hard work. I think climbing one once is enough.

by irenevt

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Login