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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 Comments (4)

Return to Windhoek

Last full day and return journey to Hong Kong.

sunny

Next morning we had to wake up early and eat a rushed breakfast again, because we were catching an early morning shuttle back to Windhoek. Once more we used Carlo's shuttle company and were very pleased to see them turning up on time.

On the journey back I saw giraffes and wild deer, but I could not photo them as we were speeding past in a van. We stopped at the same service station in Usakos as before, but we did not stop in Okahandja, instead we went through it via its craft market to drop someone off. The craft market looked very impressive.

Bye bye Swakopmund Beach Hotel.

Bye bye Swakopmund Beach Hotel.

Carlo's Shuttles.

Carlo's Shuttles.

Back in Windhoek we were dropped off at our new hotel - the Hotel Uhland. We were checked in by a friendly receptionist. This was the cheapest of our three hotels and maybe in some ways it was more basic, but it was still nice and it had a pool. Peter celebrated our arrival with another from his big six - a 2M from Mozambique.

A 2M from Mozambique.

A 2M from Mozambique.

We set out on foot with the intention of visiting Windhoek Botanical Gardens which was near our original hotel, but had been closed on our first visit. On route to the gardens, we passed the Alte Feste Fort again. It was still closed and we were about to continue onto the gardens, but Peter said, 'Wait a minute there's a group of people heading our way. Let's see what they do.' What they did was unlock the fort and go inside, so we followed them and asked the lady holding the keys if we could go into the fort. She told us, ' The fort's buildings are closed for renovation, but if you want to go in the courtyard and see the rider statue, you can.' so we did.

The rider statue is an equestrian statue of a German soldier of the Schutztruppe. It used to stand where the statue of Sam Nujoma now stands in front of the new Independence Museum. Then it was moved to the site of what is now the genocide memorial in front of the Alte Feste Fort. Many people wanted it removed as it represented a soldier of the group that committed atrocities against the native people in Namibia. There was a lot of debate about whether the statue should be taken down and destroyed or not. The statue disappeared one night and had been secretly removed to the inner courtyard of the Alte Feste for its own protection. I had already read up on this before we saw the statue. My own personal beliefs run along the lines that removing statues is denying history and not letting people understand how thing used to be. I think that is bad. Rather than taking statues down, I think it would be better to balance them with statues of people who opposed the people in the original statues. However, I will say I was surprised at the immense size of this statue and felt its presence to be rather intimidating.

Back at the fort again.

Back at the fort again.

Peter with the rider statue.

Peter with the rider statue.

Peter in the fort.

Peter in the fort.

Me in the fort.

Me in the fort.

After visiting the fort, we walked to the botanical gardens. It was located on a hill and on the hill next to it sat Windhoek's three castles. One of these is Schwerinsburg which is now the private residence of the Italian ambassador in Namibia. This castle was started in 1890 when Curt von Fran├žois built its tower. In 1904 the Schutztruppe sold Schwerinsburg to architect Wilhelm Sander. Seven years later Sander sold it to Hans Bogislav Graf von Schwerin, governor of the Gobabis District of South-West Africa. Von Schwerin employed Sander to convert the residence into a castle for him. The second castle is called Heinitzburg. It was also built in by architect Wilhelm Sander in 1914. Today it is a restaurant and luxury hotel apparently with beautiful views. The third castle is Sanderburg. This is the smallest of the three castles. It was built between 1917 and 1919 yet again by architect Wilhelm Sander. It is now a private residence.

One of the castles.

One of the castles.

A second castle.

A second castle.

The botanic gardens is free entry. It is set on a hill and has several well-marked paths through a variety of flora. As I was wandering around, I disturbed a porcupine, lots of guinea fowl and several more birds. There is a desert area hot house near the entrance to the gardens. Among other things it contained something that looked like a dead tree trunk, but was apparently a weltwichia, though it looked nothing like pictures of these I have seen. This unusual plant found only in Namibia is apparently an evolutionary link between cone bearing and flowering plants. As I explored the gardens further, I found the grave of a Damara chief who rebelled against German occupation and was captured and beheaded by the Schutztruppe.

Peter in the botanic gardens.

Peter in the botanic gardens.

This was labelled as a sausage tree.

This was labelled as a sausage tree.

Grave of the Damara chief.

Grave of the Damara chief.

Grave of the Damara chief.

Grave of the Damara chief.

Desert house.

Desert house.

I saw so many nest filled trees. Are they the nests of weaver birds?

I saw so many nest filled trees. Are they the nests of weaver birds?

This strange plant was labelled as a weltwichia.

This strange plant was labelled as a weltwichia.

When we left the botanical gardens, on the opposite side of the road we disturbed two dassies. For once I managed to get a picture before they ran away. Dassies are also known as rock hyrax. They look like oversized rodents, but are quite cute. We came across these before on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. There were quite good views over Windhoek from the hill near the botanical gardens.

Dassie.

Dassie.

View on the way down from the botanical gardens.

View on the way down from the botanical gardens.

Back down in central Windhoek we were passed by several open-topped trucks carrying groups of workers home. I also noticed lots of beautiful plants. Perhaps the botanical gardens had focused my thoughts on flowers and trees.

On the way home.

On the way home.

I liked these flowers.

I liked these flowers.

Plants, Windhoek.

Plants, Windhoek.

Cacti.

Cacti.

We also walked past the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre and the Pan African Centre of Namibia on our walk home. This had lots of interesting paintings outside it.

Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre.

Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Instead of going straight home, we went first to Joe's Beerhouse, as everyone had been telling us we had to try it. This restaurant was started up by German-born Joachim Gross, who had worked around the world as a master chef and opened this restaurant in 1991. It is an odd place crammed full of weird and wonderful objects. I sat on a seat that was shaped like a toilet and ordered some drinks. After all that walking in the sun the beer was certainly good. It would have been nice to eat at Joe's but we wanted to swim so we returned to the hotel for a swim then ate there. Food in the hotel was cheap but portions were small. It was all tasty enough at any rate.After dinner we retired to bed.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House

Joe's Beer House

Next and last day we ate breakfast, swam again. Peter finished off his remaining big six: a St Louis from Botswana and a Zambesi from Zambia. Then we were picked up by Tok Tokkie Transfers again and taken to the airport for our long journey home. This time passing through Addis Ababa was very very crowded and I found a large black stone in my chicken dinner on the flight to Hong Kong !!! This put me off eating quite a lot, but the Ethiopian beer was still good. Bye bye Namibia. Roll on next African adventure.

Our pool.

Our pool.

Our Pool.

Our Pool.

A St Louis from Botswana.

A St Louis from Botswana.

A Zambesi from Zambia.

A Zambesi from Zambia.

Bar by the pool.

Bar by the pool.

Misbehaving as usual.

Misbehaving as usual.

Posted by irenevt 04:24 Archived in Namibia Tagged statue pools rider shuttle windhoek Comments (5)

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