HUMP Day: A Weekend in Swakopmund
We began our trip to Swakopmund at 9 a.m. on Friday. We all packed into a more compact van and took off for the coast! The drive was scenic as we watched the landscape change from a grassland savanna to desert to, eventually, ocean. We made a few pit stops before finally arriving at our first challenge of the weekend: Dune 7 (cue the dramatic music). Dune 7 is the second tallest dune in the world with the tallest residing in Amann, Jordan! It is about 1200 feet in height, and we were going to climb it!
After a couple of photos, which none can capture the sheer size of this sand dune, we began our ascent up the sandy mountain. A leg workout is an understatement. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the top of the dune and have such a spectacular view. The difference in elevation made it hard to catch your breath … especially those of us with asthma, but it was an amazing feeling to have accomplished a great feet. With a little encouragement, every member of our group made it to the top. We ran down the dune and dumped the pounds of sand from our socks. We hopped back into the van to head to the Atlantic coast! We enjoyed the sand, sea and setting sun. The water was quite frigid but it didn’t stop anyone from getting their feet wet. We checked into our bungalos and Gustav started a braai. The braai consisted of mutton (lamb), beef kababs, pork, sausages made of beef and lamb, a Greek salad, and garlic bread! Wow. All of the meat was cooked on our outdoor stone fire area over coals. We indulged and were left very tired from the long day.
We woke up from a great night’s sleep to hop on yet another van to take us to the Desert Explorers Adventure Center. There, we were fitted with hair nets, helmets, and a quad bike! We were instructed, briefly, on how to accelerate and brake on the quad bike and before we knew it, we were 4-wheeling on the dunes of the Namib Desert. We drove down steep drops, up and over dunes, and swerved over the dune sides. We followed in a caravan for an hour and arrived at a beautiful outlook where we were informed that we would be dune sledding! The guides basically handed us a thin piece of plywood with one side waxed to a shine. They call this the “Kalahari Farreri.” In order to not eat sand, you need to pull the front of the board up in a curve by the corners, your feet have to stay up, and your elbows out above the sand. It was a “requirement” to go head-first and one-by-one the group of us went sledding down the steep dune. What an exhilarating ride! We climbed back up the dune, for the second time this weekend, and headed to a much taller, steeper dune about twice the size as the first! This view was absolutely breathtaking, one I will never forget. It felt as if we were on top of the world looking down onto the desert below. The morning overcast was revealing the sun, and the patterns and unique colors of the sand became apparent. The second dune had a enormous drop off and the “Kalahari Farreri’s” took a curve towards the end! After an hour of dune sledding, we continued speeding through the dunes and towards the ocean. My nose knew we were there before my eyes did! Swakopmund is an incredible place due to the fact that you can be on one road and look left to see ocean and look right to see dunes.
After arriving back at the adventure center, we eagerly cantered over to the next challenge, and this time it had four legs and two humps! The camels were sitting down on their knees in lines of four. We were able to choose which camel we wanted to ride, so I chose a white camel, rightfully named Alaska! We were instructed to step into the harness that straddled the two humps, lean back and hold on. The camels unfold their back legs first and hop to their front feet. We sauntered off on a bumpy ride through the dunes next to the ocean, laughing for the entirety of the trek.
While some of our group members went skydiving, the others headed back to the bungalows to explore the beach just down the street. It was so calming and tranquil to take in the salty air and relax after two adventurous days. We ate a delicious braai for the second night in a row but this time we added an American summer tradition for dessert … S’mores. Our excursion on Sunday was by sea. We were taken further down the coastline to step aboard a sightseeing cruise! Little did we know, this was no ordinary boat trip. We had not been at sea for 10 minutes when a seal jumped right onto the boat for us to pet. We learned about their hairy coat that acts as a wetsuit to keep them warm. One side of their hair is slippery and wet to the touch while the underside is dry. We had three or four seals hop on the our boat for a joyride and some ordervs (fish). Pelicans invaded our boat from time to time and I was astonished by the depths of their beaks! We continued farther out to sea to pass many Atlantic bottle-nose dolphins who swam in our wake! Dolphins are some of the smartest sea life and have a large brain to body ratio. What we saw next was not only lucky, but heart-stopping. The first whale of the season, a humpback whale, spewed water from its blowhole close enough for the boat to be sprayed! What an enormous and mysterious creature. We all watched in awe. (And of course took our turns speaking whale and referring to Finding Nemo quotes).
We reached a peninsula named Pelican Point. Pelican Point alone is home to over 50,000 seals. The Swakopmund coast has around 1.8 million seal inhabitants. Since they are not surrounded by an of their natural predictors on the peninsula, they grow in population each year. There were seals of all ages as far as the eye could see! On our return we stopped along an oyster farm. Oysters thrive here as the water is a perfect temperature. Nets lay between thousands of barrels and small baskets sit in stacks to be collected. Between each barrel are approximately 7,000 oysters. 80% of these delicacies are shipped out to Asia while the remaining 20% are kept in Africa. Trays and trays of sea food ordervs were brought out and of course we all had to try oysters! We watched as they were cracked open right in front of us. The spread was impeccable and obviously very fresh … I even enjoyed my first oyster! Our long weekend ended by stopping by the tented markets on our way home this afternoon! A myriad of painted bowls, carved masks and chiseled bones were among the beautiful souvenirs available to purchase.
All in all I have no words for this unbelievable weekend … well as you read, I have too many words but we experienced more than I can even blog about. I am so looking forward to seeing the learners tomorrow at school. This holiday was a nice break in routine but I am ready to be back making a difference in the classroom!
“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life … if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” ~Roald Dahl
Taylor Buresch, a senior special education major with minors in cognitive disabilities and Spanish, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.