Close Encounters with Seals

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Seals, Shops, Beach, German Beer

Flag of Namibia  ,
Sunday, November 18, 2012

Our guide had repeatedly told us that this last stretch of 290 km road would be the roughest of the trip. He was right. Our final big drive together took us further North away from the red dunes and then West towards the German colonial coastal town of Swakopmund. We stopped a couple of times along the way; I think mainly for our driver to have a few ciggies to calm his road frustration. The scenery at times was very like outback Oz, but there were some rock formations that were quite interesting and then just flat seemingly endless plains where I would glance up from my magazine 10 mins later and it appeared that we were in the same spot. Places where if your vehicle broke down, you'd really start to stress considering that for the last 2 hrs you might have seen just one other vehicle.

We arrived in Swakopmund (population 18,000) about 1pm and checked into a very nice hotel – definitely the luxurious of the tour – the former train station. We had the afternoon to ourselves and in fact I didn’t see the others until the next morning...this was Ross time. Time to chill, wander about the town and beach, and do a bit of bartering at the markets. I’m still annoyed that all this stuff I’d previously bought in other African countries is now showing up in these places. So much for uniqueness.

We had a lot of options for our full day, but all of us selected the marine boat tour. In hindsight I should have researched this a bit more to maximise my value for this day. I never wanted to do the skydiving or sandboarding on offer, but there was a 4WD dune tour that would’ve been good. The marine tour was ok, but something you could do anywhere. Except for the seals. After arriving in Walvis Bay, about half hr south of Swakopmund, we waited on the jetty for the catamaran. And then came a boat. I couldn’t help but let out a sigh and say "you’re kidding right". At this point, I had 2nd thoughts and hit up the 70+ yr old lady for one of her sea sickness pills.

Within a few moments of setting off from the jetty, there was a seal onboard! It had of course come for fish that the boat tour people have onboard, but it was tame enough to pat and get up close to brush his fur back into a mohawk. Pelicans, pink flamingos, dolphins, and loads more seals were then seen before lunch onboard in the sun that had finally come out. I proceeded to get the most sunburnt of the trip! Really annoying because I hate getting sunburnt and I had been so good with sun-screen to date.

The boat returned to shore early afternoon and we had a brief drive around the Walvis Bay lagoon, which is a RAMSAR bird wetland primarily for the tens of thousands of flamingos that call it home. Right adjacent to the lagoon is huge salt pans and mines similar to Dampier. I had really wanted to see the big dunes right up against the sea, but you have to go further south for this in a 4WD, so I was a tad disappointed not to see this and I should’ve organised it in advance. Instead we headed back to the hotel. We met up for dinner and beers at a German Brauhaus for our final meal together as a full tour group. Only 3 of us were finishing the tour in Swakopmund, with the remainder continuing on for an extra 4 days into the northern part of Namibia. It was a good way to finish the tour and a great steak.

A separate vehicle was arranged to collect the 3 of us heading back to Windhoek and we departed at 8am, just before the rest of the tour group headed off north. Everyone (except the seal clubbing Canadians) were pleading with me to continue on the trip with them and that the tour wouldn’t be the same without me, and that Ralph would never find a better co-pilot than me...I think this last bit was sarcasm as my co-piloting involved frequent naps in the front seat. But the rest was genuine I’m sure. And even tho I couldn’t pronounce most of the German names, it was a good tour group. I swapped emails with the Dutch who said to let them know if I ever came to Amsterdam and they’d show me about town. Good people.  And then we drove off for the 4 hr trip back to the airport. I had another 4 hrs at the airport until my flight. Despite the pilot strikes, my Air Namibia flight took off on time and after a bumpy flight (I didn’t like it at all) I was back in Accra before 7:30 pm. Great to have a direct short flight back and be in a similar time zone.

I will look back on this break with very good memories. I pinch myself to believe that I’ve been to Namibia. A place that until 2004 I’d not heard about, and then set my heart on going to at some point in life. To think that I’ve achieved this goal makes me very happy. And Cape Town too. A city that I’d be happy to return to for another visit and explore the Cape region in general. With this break, I concluded my 2012 international travels - a relaxing trip with epic moments in a continent that I love. I wonder what destinations 2013 will bring........
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