Vanda Kujbus

Friday, April 14, 2017

Swakopmund - the paradise of Namibia

Written by Vanda

We were promised we can spend a few days on the last resettlement farm, Skoonheid, which the DRFN is working with. However, apparently, we can’t just walk into Skoonheid, as to Donkerbos and Drimiopsis, the farm chief need to approve our presence there. I was told there are a lot of mopane worms there, and it’s the peak of their season, so I was really looking forward to going there. After almost a week passing by, nothing happening, I was still looking forward to, though, less optimistically.

As you might have noticed, in Namibia things tend to take quite a bit longer to happen. If someone tells you to wait for 15 minutes, there is a very high chance that you might get stuck waiting for an hour or more...

Well now imagine how likely are things to move forward when they don’t even tell you an exact date, and on top of that Easter holidays are coming up? You are right, none. Belinda tells us that the chief’s silence is not likely to change during Easter, so we took the courage to discover the Namibian seashore while everybody is busy with the holidays.

Moreover, since Belinda fought out a new office, it must be renovated before we could take it over, which will last for a few days (supposedly) and Easter is not really helping in terms of getting things done here either. All signals point to the coast, the city of Swakopmund, or Swakop, as the locals refer to is, the adrenaline capital of Namibia to be precise. It is a favorable destination for both of us, since Sigi likes a lot being on the verge of having a heart attack and I can see some desert wildlife.

After asking around what is the most cost-beneficial way to reach Swakop, we learn that the cheapest way to get there is through Windhoek and  get into another long-distance taxi – we survived speeding on 200 km twice already from Gobabis to Windhoek, so we are not intimidated by the 565 km ahead of us.  Already could hear ukulele playing in the background). Whatchout Namibian seashore – here we come!

Gobabis-Swakopmund distance

We also did a quick search on the accommodation, which apparently is much harder to find during the Easter time, we decided to pick one of the cheapest camping sites we found. After a night in heavy rain camping at Cardboard box, we feel we got upgraded to EXPERIENCED CAMPERS, and nothing could go wrong anymore right? The campsite we chose is called Mile 4 (what an interesting name), and it seemed a little bit off from the city center, but we decide it’s nothing for us! We have been in Denmark for so long, that we start to feel Viking skin growing on us already, small walk – bring it on! Rain? Bring it! (well, as long as it’s not longer than 1 night, since our tent is glad to share the joy of water inside the tent after all).

The hard, HARD morning

Since we needed to cover a lot of ground, so we started our morning early. Well, maybe even too early. Was way too hard to get up... Somehow Swakop does not sound as exciting at 5:30 in the morning. But the usual 5-minute discussion who is first to take the cold shower today wakes us up – you need to have good reasons for why the other person must take the shower first and ideas don’t come easily when you are half asleep. Somehow, it’s always nice to postpone to the last moment. It is just an added bonus to hear the other one suffers from the cold shower running down the spine. 

We are in the middle of our breakfast, when our driver-buddy, Speedy calls and urges us to be ready in – 20 minutes (What? So early??). And he did! Tt felt almost like Europe for a bit! 20 minutes were indeed 20 minutes, and we were ready to go – at least we thought at that time.

So, we are there sitting in a car and waiting to leave any minute now, since Speedy seemed so much in a hurry over the phone. However, we are the only two people in a car so far. What is the rush for?? We start to get a bit more irritated after TWO HOURS in the damned car while Speedy still tries to get more people. We got up so early for... well... for sitting in a car! Great! Thanks, Speedy, you’re the best! To get some use of our time (and mostly to hide our sleepy sulky faces) we go to a nearby shop to get some coffee. Maybe that will brighten the morning! That dark hot liquid, which sometimes smells like paradise is indeed magic!

We continue our wait in the car for a hopefully soon ride to Windhoek, and finally around 11:00 a couple souls show up and the car is full! YESSS! Off we go!

In Windhoek, he drives us to a taxi “rank” similar to the one from where people drive to Gobabis, but here the final destination is Swakop. Speedy walks around to see if he can find us a driver (how nice of him!) and comes back with a guy called Jack. It turns out he is just a family guy going on a holiday, not a “professional” taxi driver, so he is not aware of the price. Speedy helps him out and says 140 NAD (3080 HUF/10 EUR), and Jack agrees.

Jack and his family

We are doing a quick math: 130 NAD from Gobabis to Windhoek + 140 NAD from Windhoek to Swakop = 270 NAD (5900 HUF/19 EUR), not bad at all!

But then, something very interesting happens, the driver asks again “How much?” – to Speedy!! Wait what?? Why for him? What is happening here? Speedy asks for 40 and takes the money. What is this?? Apparently, we have been sold! Yes, just like cattle! Basically, Speedy got 40 NAD (880 HUF/2,8 EUR) (which is not that much to be honest, so we are not only cattle, but also cheap) just because he gave us away to this other driver! We felt a little violated… I guess should not be too surprised, white people sold slaves for hundreds of years, selling a couple white tourists to one another is at least a little “get back at us”.

Swakop - first impression

After the roughly 4-hour ride squeezed in a car, finally we see the water horizon! Savanna land slowly disappears, transmitting into endless yellow sand fields. This type of landscape is very new for us, our faces stick to the windows and it makes me to forget about Jack, our driver is sipping rum cola from his wife’s glass from time to time while driving at 190 km/h. I try not thinking about our gradually decreasing survival rates but overspeeding bears its fruit - A few kms later we see buildings emerging from the yellowness – the first sight of Swakop, a city, pulled up in the middle of the desert, yet again, as modern as any holiday town in Europe.

savannah landscape
Swakopmund horizon
modern Swakopmund

The smell of seawater also fills us up with excitement, sea somehow always does that. This is going to be awesome! We slowly get out of the car since places we never knew could hurt started to after long sitting hours, stretch out for a few minutes until our limbs start to function again – we have arrived! But wait, why are people wearing jackets? Namibians must be really used to heat, if they need jackets at this hour of the day! When the first breeze hits us, we start to realize that our wardrobe with t-shirts and shorts only might have been a little too optimistic. It is COLD. Well ok, maybe not THAT cold, but definitely not as pleasant as it is in Gobabis. Our plans of getting nice tans which people will be jealous of starts to leave us through our shivering hands and even blueish lips after a quick dip in the sea! To add some salt to the wound – since it’s Easter, all the shops other than grocery stores are closed, so even if we would like to buy some warm stuffs, we can’t. This trip is going to be very interesting.

After the initial shock of the unexpected weather, it was time to see our campsite. Jack and his family are so nice they offer to get us even there. Wow, people are so friendly and kind in here! I am falling in love with Namibia more and more.

After a not so quick drive (roughly 10-15mins from the city center), we reach the camping. It stands quite on the edge of everything, even behind the suburbs! Might be the secret of their competitive pricing! We start to have second thoughts about those walks to the city center. Then third thoughts about whether we are brave enough to hitchhike instead of paying for taxis.

After just a few meters walking inside the camping area, we get mixed feelings. If you can call a place lovely, if it spreads over a huge sandy area, which is quite scarcely booked, resembling a huge haunted desert, then this is going to be your favorite campsite! It is quite different from any other campings I have ever been in, so in our case I loved it. You can even see, hear and even smell the ocean!

mile4 camping
mile4 camping with ocean

However, by the time we arrived the wind has become so strong, blowing through our bones and it also tests our newly acquired tent setting up skills. After fighting the wind for 15, we manage to tie up our tent to the poles surrounding each campsite with hopes that it won’t be blown away together with us! Damn, Namibian weather seems to really test our investment in budget camping gear, huh?