After finishing up week two at NISE with the amazing learners, the UWSP students boarded the bus for Swakopmund. Swakopmund is a small German influenced city by the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Here we were able to experience many firsts and live the high life – literally!
Our adventure begins as we near the coastal city. Dune 7 is the second largest dune in the world rising to a height of 350-400 meters and quite the tourist attraction. Honestly, attraction doesn’t cut it; I would have to say it is quite the tourist challenge. As we pull into the national park the dune looks big but not like it would be all that difficult to climb. So I ditch my shoes and take off running, but about 10 meters up the sand was burning my feet and I had to go back down. Disappointed in myself, I decided to put on socks and try again–this time I made it half way up and then gave up, but the others that made it to the top were cheering me on and waited for my arrival at the peak. I finally made it, it was my Sylvester Stalone Rocky moment! I felt amazing for making it to the top and owe it to the wonderful friends that I have made on this trip.
Soon after climbing the dune there was a pungent smell in the air; to pinpoint what our noses experienced would be impossible unless you know what the combination of sulfur and dead fish smells like. Having grown up near Lake Michigan I was aware that we were near a body of water, then out of nowhere appeared the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It really did just sneak up on me, I had no idea we were so close to our destination. We stopped along the highway near a small area of beach where we took pictures, wrote in the sand, and of course splashed around in the water! By this point the smell was no longer a bother and basically was non-existent. Feet full of sand we boarded the bus again and headed to our A-frame houses for the weekend.
After settling in to the A-frame we came together as a group and enjoyed a Braii–this is like an American barbeque; prepared for us by Gustav, our bus driver and trip adviser. The delicious taste of wood fired pork, lamb, mutton sausage and kabobs melted in my mouth. I have to say, the locals have grilling and cooking for that matter down to a science, I have yet to dislike any of the food here.
The next morning we woke early for a quad biking adventure. At Desert Explorers Quad Bike Tours, the same place Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt frequent, we loaded up 15 quad bikes and drove off into the dunes. This was my first experience on a 4-wheeler and although I started out hesitant, after about 10 minutes I had the throttle and breaking down and just enjoyed the views. We stopped a few times for some picturesque moments and about two hours into the tour we stopped at some steep dunes for some sand sledding. I have always enjoyed sledding in Wisconsin, minus the cold, so this was perfect! It was warm and the sleds moved at incredible speeds. I only made it down three times because I just couldn’t bear the climb up anymore. (I think we ought to inform them about the ski lifts!)
When everyone was too tired to climb up the hill anymore we got back on the bikes and split into two groups. Some of us continued to tour the dunes and the others went for a skydiving adventure. I was even more comfortable with the quad bike at this point and was happy to daringly go up higher on the dunes with more speed that sent me whipping the back around a bit. I was sad when we arrived back to the starting point but then found a new adventure–camel rides! The camels were friendly and the ride was very bumpy but it was a lot of fun, too. This was only a short ride, lasting about 30 minutes, but the saddles are not very comfortable so the time was suitable for the experience.
The free time that we had in Swakopmund was spent shopping at the German shops, enjoying coffee and visiting the beach. Many of the girls on the trip went on a boat tour to see seals, dolphins and whales. Although they only spotted one whale and no dolphins, the seals were enough to make the tour quite enjoyable for them. The pictures were enough for me and I chose to stay back and eat breakfast at a café that had a beautiful view of the ocean and then visit the local market for some bargaining and mingling with the locals.
Rebecca Wagner, a junior majoring in early childhood education at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.