Monday, May 17, 2021

Where the desert dunes meet the ocean in spectacular view

The Namibian experience starts with a long drive on the Trans Kalahari Highway. It’s late afternoon as we arrive at the Mamuno/Buitepos border post to find the place teeming with hordes of holiday makers. We slip into a coma trying to work out the beginning of the queue in negotiating our way into Namibia. An ‘agonizing’ two hours later, following ridiculous amounts of paper work to ascertain we are not terrorists, we finally set foot on Namibian soil. Oh! and that was not before we paid the road levy. We are beaming with anticipation over the experience that lies ahead. It’s a 70km stretch of dry land and dull vegetation until we arrive at the first town, Gobabis, en-route to the capital city, Windhoek.

We are particularly impressed that we aren’t constantly slamming on brakes for some stray donkey or cow, characteristic of our horrible and life threatening roads back home in Botswana.

Only a few warthogs crossing the road in trickling randomness punctuate our travel. And before we exhaust our ‘credit bag’ on Namibian roads, we made a puzzling observation with their road signs.

For instance, they have road signs inscribed “No lines ahead” even though it was evident the road markings had long been done and appear quite prominently. A simple act of pulling down the outdated signs would restore Namibia’s pleasant appeal in the eyes of tourists.

After a two-hour drive, well after sunset and under the cover of night, we arrive in the capital city, Windhoek. Sonny’s face lights up ‘silly’ at the “Welcome to Windhoek” sign. No, he isn’t amused by the captivating and impressive lights of the capital city but rather that the city shares its name with his favourite alcoholic beverage, bottled in green ‘apparel’. We settle in for the night, marking our first day in “Hifikepunye Pohamba” land. True to tourist spirit, we ready ourselves to explore and get acquainted with Windhoek first thing dawn kicks in. Driving around the city one can’t fail to notice how spotlessly clean and immaculate the streets of Windhoek are.

Everything is in its rightful place; garbage in trash cans and not lining the streets. Open spaces are well-manicured with strategically planted trees and overall neatly maintained vegetation. No wild overgrown trees and shrubs and unruly weeds competing with gardens and conquering the streets. It’s abundantly clear the city council is on top of things with its mandate. The tall buildings are of exceptional architectural design and a marvel to look at.

It’s Christmas Day and Tebo packs our home prepared lunch and we set off in search of a family-friendly spot where we could enjoy our Christmas lunch picnic-style, with our kids, Thabang and Masa. Our GPS leads us to the botanical gardens in the city centre, just on the doorsteps of the national parliament. The grass is green and well-manicured.

Armed police officers patrol the park to ensure our safety and order. Kids play care-freely while adults can be seen romantically relaxing on the lawn and sipping on wine. We indulge in our Christmas lunch and pop our own bottle of sparkling ‘goodies’ and toast to Christmas Day. We are told we would have not done ourselves any justice if we left the capital city without experiencing the pleasure of “Katutura”.

Katutura is a high density and low income area of Windhoek; it has become synonymous with the entertainment culture of Windhoek dwellers. Namibia being a beef country, Katutura serves as a converging point for meat lovers where everyone gathers to indulge in the mega meat munching feast.

The ‘meat occasion’ is characterized by an array of braai stands, a ridiculous supply of fresh meat from the locals’ own cattle slaughters. Every beef cut imaginable is in supply, to prepare “Kapana”, an indigenous name given to freshly grilled meat. Kapana is served in an “eat from the grill” fashion. There is no need to couple it with “pap” or to have it in a dish. The Kapana lovers basically have their treat as a snack, over beer, eat as you go or as you ‘chill’. Literally hours go by with kapana lovers surrounding the braai stands going for seconds and thirds of their indigenous treat.

Justice is done with exploring Windhoek and we now head for the coast. We are anxious about what awaits us with the sea life and the amazing manner in which the sea coexists harmoniously with the desert. The coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay did not disappoint one bit. Geographically, we get acquainted with Swakopmund first on our drive and to say Swakopmund is beautiful would be an understatement.

Swakopmund is paradise.

A deck in the ocean provides a platform to spectacular viewing of the ocean and the town’s impressive property portfolio with mind blowing architectural designs of the beach houses. Next in the Swakopmund itinerary is the National Marine Aquarium. As Botswana nationals forming part of the SADC bloc, we are privileged to pay subsidized entry fees. We have a delightful tour of the aquarium and appreciate the diversity of the marine life.

A few kilometres out of Swakopmund, on our way to Walvis Bay, we are greeted by the breath taking Namib Desert presenting a marvel of sand dunes on the left and the Atlantic Ocean on the right. We enlist DareDevil Adventures and have an exhilarating one hour experience riding sand dunes on automated quad bikes. Quad riding is an adventurous and fun filled activity, with no prior experience required. You follow the guide’s instructions and you are good to go.

We head for Walvis Bay after the quad biking adventure. Our Walvis Bay itinerary is put together by Levo Tours, housed at the Walvis Bay Tourism centre. A lady called Ina meets us upon our arrival, explains our itinerary and leads us to our chalets to settle in for the night.

The seal and dolphin tour kick-starts our day. We meet our boat skipper, Pieter, at the harbour. We board the white catamaran and Pieter explains what to expect from the ocean tour. Following a few minutes of briefing, we sail away into the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. We are spoiled to a mouth-watering platter of sea food that includes fresh oysters. Pieter emphasizes that the oysters are pleasantly fresh and will not be causing any running stomach ‘drama’ associated with oysters older than three days. Wine is also served in abundance although Sonny is immersed in the local brew Tafel Lager, ‘cousin’ to his dearest Windhoek Lager, both products of Namibia Breweries Ltd.

During the cruise, we encountered dolphins and several lone seals taking a dip in the water and a rookery on an island dubbed the ‘seal island’ because of its impressive seal population. The highlight of the sea cruise was when ‘Mossie’, the Bay’s popular bull seal jumped on to our catamaran and we fed ‘him’ fish, pat ‘him’ and took pictures with ‘him’. Pieter only allowed Mossie on board the catamaran for a few minutes for the tourist’s amusement and close-up shots. However, a defiant Mossie kept chasing the catamaran to catch a ride for more fish from us.

After spending two weeks exploring Namibia’s most popular tourist destinations, sadly it was now time to head back to our entertainment starved country. While we had a splendid festive break in Namibia, we found it painful that our own motherland was not first choice holiday destination because of the stringent laws and regulations eroding the tourism sector and rendering entertainment almost illegal.

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