Five steps for success in Swakopmund

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Do you want a crazy weekend Pointers?! Well, look no further than Swakopmund, Namibia. You will have to opportunity to climb the second tallest dune in the world, partake in a braai, skydive into the desert, quadbike over dunes and ride on the Kalahari Ferrari.

cierradunes20150611bStep 1: Dune 7
Be prepared for a 1066 feet climb! Describing Dune 7 is best done through the five signs of grief.

Denial: You try to start out strong … it doesn’t last long. The sand is hot, hot, hot. You deny the fact that your feet burn with every step, but in retrospect you should have ignored the guide’s suggestion to not wear socks.

Anger: As your climb continues, the thought crosses your mind that you must be halfway. How much more could there be? That is an incredibly wrong assumption. Your glance up shows you have not reached the halfway point. You begin to cuss underneath your breath about the stupidity of climbing up a pile of sand.

Bargaining: When you reach the half way point, you begin to plead with the gods. “Let it be done! End it now. I am too weak. One more step will be my last.”

cierradunes20150611cDepression: You have reached the three-quarters point where all anger and bargaining is done. All you have left is the reality that you are closer to the top than you are to the bottom. This should brighten your mood, but you can’t go any farther. The whole trek has been a waste. Your thoughts continue down this downward spiral.

Acceptance: There are mere feet left until you reach the top, but all energy has been exhausted. It is time to accept your fate – Dune 7 conquered you.

Turning Point: Pointers persevere. There were cheers of encouragement and lots of patience. And in the end, the seven Pointer students plus their guide, Graeme, made it to the top of Dune 7 in record time!

Step 2: Braai
A traditional Namibian barbeque! An authentic braai takes about two hours. The braai begins with dense pieces of wood. After the wood is going, then it is time to add the charcoals. The wire racks to cook the meat need to be heated long before the food is added. I would not recommend a braai for the vegetarians of the world! Lamb, pork, beef kabobs and sausage are the main course. It is even safe to eat the sausage raw (I apologize Pointers, but I was not adventurous enough for that). cierradunes20150611dOne can also enjoy grilled onions, potatoes and garlic bread. Come hungry so you can leave with the fullness of a braai stomach.

Step 3: Skydiving
Everyone needs the experience the incredible rush of skydiving. Before the dive from the sky, people react differently. Some run to the bathroom, others sit quietly and there are those who pump themselves up. This time around my mindset was set to pumping up! The preparation goes quickly. By the time they have you suited up, they are leading you out the door. The flight up to 10,000 feet takes longer than expected and the dive from the plane into nothing is breath taking … literally. The rush of the wind invites you to play. There are 30 seconds of free fall as gravity pulls you toward Earth. After the dive, you understand that this is freedom. As the parachute slows your descent, the true beauty of the Earth is in your view. My first experience with human flight is not my last.

cierradunes20150611eStep 4: Quadbiking
If you have never ridden a four wheeler before, you may be a little out of your comfort zone when it comes to quadbiking. It took a bit of adjustment, but once I began to feel the controls, I was flying up the dunes. With each dune, I tried to get higher than the last. I analyzed the best vantage point to find where my climb should begin. This gave me the longest drive down to build up my momentum. I could have stayed in the dunes all day.

Step 5: Sandboarding
Once you are far out in the dunes, do not pass up the experience of the Kalahari Ferrari, also known as sandboarding. The guides prepared each of our sandboards for us, so we could just enjoy the ride down. Sandboarding is comparable to Wisconsin sledding, but it is a lot faster and a lot warmer. cierradunes20150611fThree of us decided to make a train ride down from the highest peak in the dunes. Our zippy journey down left us covered in sand and with a broken sandboard, but it was worth every second.

Follow these steps Pointers and you will have a weekend to remember. A weekend full of adrenaline, laughs and accomplishments.


Cierra Bartol-Byers, a senior elementary education major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.