Swakopmund or Swakop as it is commonly called has been high on my list of places to go ever since I heard about its adventure fueled tourism. It is known as the adrenaline capital of Namibia and rivals Victoria Falls for the adrenaline capital of Africa. It also happens to be a beautiful German influenced seaside resort that may resemble something you’d see on holiday on the German Baltic or North Sea more than an African town. Aside from Sossusvlei, Swakop was my top priority and when it came down to deciding between Swakop and Etosha National Park; it was an easy decision. And as usual, it worked out great and I had a blast.
I took the Town Hopper shuttle 4.5 hours from Windhoek to Swakop and arrived on a rainy Monday evening at the Villa Wiese Guesthouse which was the sister guesthouse of Chameleon which I am staying at in Windhoek. I was lucky and my dorm room was empty. So I headed right out to get dinner at Kucki’s Pub which has the best and freshest line fish in Swakop. It was delicious but the bar was smoky and they didn’t have TV’s and I wanted to watch the Manchester United/Tottenham and Barcelona/Napoli games so I headed next door to Rafters and met up with some people I met at the guesthouse for the games. After watching Barcelona bludgeon Napoli we headed to another place I can’t remember the name of to play pool for the night.
After a good night’s sleep, I awoke to sunshine and was met by my guide at Desert Explorers to go quad biking the dunes off the beach at Swakopmund. This was actually a tough decision for me because I always figured I’d come to Swakop and go sand boarding but since it rained the night before and most people I talked to said quad biking was ridiculous, I opted for that. Again, great move-it was amazing!
My guide was actually the guide who took out Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when they were living in Swakopmund a few years ago for whatever reason; adopting a kid or something I think. So I felt pretty comfortable that he’d be pretty good and Desert Explorers was highly recommended.
My group was just me and a Canadian girl who was actually doing the quad biking for the second time in 3 days because she liked it so much. So the small group made for some awesome fun and fast speeds. It took me a minute to figure out how to work the quad and we were off into the dunes!
The dunes were massive, not as big as in Sossusvlei but as big as any beachside dunes I had ever seen. The only thing that even remotely compares (and barely even remotely) is Maspalomas in the Canary Islands. Some of the dunes reached up about 200 feet high. So I was stoked when the guide said, we’re going to do some really high turns at high speeds.
If you know me, you know I love action, fun and excitement. Quad biking in the desert dunes was in a word AWESOME! I cannot believe I had never done this before. I had had a few opportunities at different places but always opted for other activities. This will no longer be the case. I have a new vice.
We reached speeds of about 80km/hour at times and went horizontal on dunes up about 150 feet at top speed. It was such a rush and so much fun. We also covered some 50km in actual distance according to the guide. I believe it because we were out there over 2 hours.
The scenery was killer as you can see. You didn’t know where you were most of the time because your head was sideways much of the time or you were leaning one way or another trying to not fall over. I actually didn’t flip my bike even though I was doing some serious skidding and may have even prepared to flip or tried but those bikes are heavy and stubborn!
After seeing some local wildlife, in the name of deathly poisonous snakes that the guide dug up from the sand, we ended up the tour on the beach overlooking the icy Atlantic Ocean and the road to Walvis Bay. This is one of the most scenic in Namibia and only 33km long. This conveniently segways to my next move; hitchhiking to Walvis Bay.
Walvis Bay is an unimpressive place and I knew that going into visiting it. However, as a history buff and a guy who wants to see everything, I couldn’t resist. So I put my thumb up outside the Desert Explorers office and got picked up by a truck to head to Walvis Bay for a few hours.
Walvis Bay is historically important because it was originally claimed by the British before the start of World War 1 in order to keep it away from the Germans who had caused much havoc to current day Namibia. Afterwards, it was handed over to South Africa to administer as part of German Southwest Africa. In 1977 South Africa formally made it a part of the Western Cape; this angered the UN powers that be and eventually when Namibia gained independence in 1990 they laid a UN backed claim to Walvis Bay. This dispute was basically settled by the fall of white rule and Apartheid in South Africa. Domestic issues caused South Africa to just give it up and Namibia flew its own flag over the strategic port of Walvis Bay for the first time. To this day there is no signs of any border posts which used to make Walvis Bay a separate Travelers Century Club destination.
Once inside Walvis Bay, there really isn’t much to speak of. The main street is small but pleasant above. There is a massive port, a big library and lots of industrial type factories and warehouses. The main church is next to a meat market as you can see below and that’s really about it. I didn’t stay long, about 2 hours, and then hitched a ride with a very nice family back to Swakop to walk around the town a bit more.
Walking around Swakop is a very pleasant thing to do. The German architecture and very clean and quiet streets are filled with shops, cafes and little knick knack type things. Swakop goes all the way to the water where there is a long pier type thing that you can walk out on for a nice view back of Swakop; if you can stand getting pelted with mist from the harsh and cold Atlantic. I managed to do so and then headed back to the guest house to rally the troops for dinner. We headed to Napolitana which is a pretty good Italian place in town with good sized portions; which pleased me greatly. Afterwards, we headed again to play some pool and then back to bed.
I took the shuttle again this morning back to Windhoek where I am spending my last night here at the Chameleon Backpackers. I am looking forward to dinner for the third time tonight at Joe’s Beerhouse as I must get one more zebra steak before I leave. I fly out to Cape Town tomorrow morning, which I am really looking forward to, even though it’s only for 24 hours. I haven’t been there in 7 years so it should be fun.
One final note about my time in Namibia. Last night I was uploading these pictures you see here and was Gmail-Chatting with a friend back in New York City and another in Washington DC. Simultaneously, they both told me they thought they felt an Earthquake. I thought they were kidding but they obviously weren’t. So it was really weird there for a while, especially after looking on Facebook and seeing half of my friends posting about Earthquakes. I have lived my whole life on the East Coast and in the New York metropolitan area and that is the first I have ever heard of an Earthquake. So aside from remembering Namibia for an amazing time and a great place, I will always remember that as well.