Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Namibia: Walvis Bay and Dunes 4x4

Other Posts: Trip Overview, Little Kulala Lodge, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, Sesriem Canyon And Scenic Flight, Swakopmund Sandboarding

We were picked up early this morning by Castro, the same person whom delivered us to our hotel from the airport the day before. Today he was taking us about 30 miles south to Walvis Bay. It's the industrial sister to touristy Swakopmund. We had seen Walvis Bay from the air the day before but driving through it gave us a new perspective. We saw the swanky resort area where Angelina Jolie delivered her baby. We passed by many houses that would fit in with Miami's modern architecture homes, but at maybe a 10th of the price. We also passed modern townships where the homes were cute cottages providing basic needs in the unit vs. the traditional corrugated/plywood images that usually come to mind.

Our day was starting with a catamaran cruise of Walvis Bay. The seaport area featured a few shops and restaurants to browse while waiting for your boat to pull up. Today's temperature was hanging in the low 40's. We did not expect to be this cold during the daytime in Namibia's summer.

There were 4 boats going out operated by the same tour company. We figured out the company pre-sorted us by language preference. Our boat was a hodge-podge of Americans, Canadians, and a few Europeans where English passed for their second-or-more language.

Our tour was fun but started off strange. Cornelius, our guide, started talking about the seals and birds we'd see. They were chumming to attract birds and this pelican jumps on board. It had a name. Then another pelican lands. A few minutes later a seal is on the boat and walking amongst us. There were still many seagulls trying to get some fish. Utter chaos.

It's looking at me!

The crew did their best to keep us warm by passing out blankets and shots of sherry. While cruising the bay we learned more about the marine life, history of the port, and other facts about the country. Parked in the bay were a couple oil rigs that were not in-use. The rigs are apparently safer here than up north in Angola. Cornelius also told us about how Namibia took over as one of the lead producers of oysters via innovative breeding (do oysters breed?) techniques. We saw a few dolphins, jelly fish, and a mola mola that everyone went nuts over (apparently it is the world's largest fish).

The real attraction of the excursion was "seal island" where a colony of Cape Fur Seals lived. This was pretty impressive, but nothing like what we would see later in the trip on the Skeleton Coast. On the way back to the docks were were treated to an oyster lunch and champagne. We have learned we still do not like oysters.

After our bay tour a few of us were escorted to a 4x4 for the next part of our day: the dune tour. We'd travel south along the coastline and take in some more coastal wildlife, then do some four-wheeling in the sand. Our first stop was in a town park to look at flamingos.

We drove by the salt ponds and production facility that we flew over the day before then turned off-road and onto beach driving. Nico, our driver and guide, stopped at one point and told us to get out. He started digging in the sand and pulled out a gecko.

Along the way we stopped at other scenic points and saw some random Cape Fur Seals, a jackal, and some more flamingos.



After a bit of driving we had a break near a small pond occupied by a couple of flamingos. We had a chance to look around and take in the sea and the wall of dunes behind us. Bathrooms breaks were accomplished behind a mound of sand. Nico laid out some snacks including dried fruits, biltong (South African style beef jerky), beers and champagne.

Now the "extreme" activity begins. Nico took us on a 4-wheel journey through the dunes. We raced up them and slowly took the steep downhills. We spent about an hour taking on the mounds of sand, stopping every so often for photo breaks of the amazing views.

We made it back to Walvis Bay unscathed. Castro was there to bring us back to Swakopmund. After a quick shower and change we took a fifteen minute walk to the popular Tug Restaurant, which is on the beach. We were not able to get a table, however we found bar seats. While enjoying a pre-dinner beer a South African and a Namibian sat next to us and struck up a conversation once they discovered we were Americans. The Namibian knew all about Chicago because of shows like Chicago PD and Chicago Fire and the South African had been to Chicago for a conference. They were both in similar industries as we were and enjoyed talking shop. We discovered things aren't too different in Corporate Africa as they are in Corporate America. Holly slugged down her first shot(s) of Jagermeister ever! Our friends eventually moved on to their business dinner. We enjoyed some large servings of kingklip fish with veggies and starch. Meal with a few drinks (including beers for our friends) and tip was $54. We called to have the hotel car pick us up for the price of 50 ND, or about $3.50. We had a nightcap at the hotel bar and enjoyed some of our last few minutes of wi-fi. We would be unplugged for the next 8 nights once we left Swakopmund.
We had a very long, but fun-filled day. The next morning we were leaving to head north to the Damaraland Region and visit Doro Nawas Camp.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

501st Legion at the 2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon

Lee, Laura, Stan, and Holly with the cosplay characters on the 2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon course. Characters are part of the 501st Legion. As mentioned in our half marathon report the 501st is an international organization of Star Wars fans that create accurate Star Wars costumes and Star Wars inspired characters. They are heavily involved in charitable efforts.





Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Race Bulletpoints and Photos

Dave here....

I asked Holly if she wanted to do a race report for the Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon. Her response was "Not really". I of course wanted to showcase some photos so I asked her for some bulletpoints I could include. Almost all the photos are from the 501st Area of the course. The 501st Legion is an international group of Star Wars fans that create true-to-character costumes. There were also some steam punk mash-ups and other Star Wars inspired characters. These folks were standing around Mile 8.5.

I didn't go with Holly to the start area as usual. This time I slept in an extra 90 minutes, drove to a Starbucks and had breakfast, then went to the estimated area for the 501 - it was the same place as last year. There must have been 100 folks in costumes here. I snapped some photos while waiting and talked with friends as they went by.

Once Holly and Stan arrived I followed them along the line of characters and snapped any picture they wanted. After that I got out of there and (visited Starbucks again) went back to the finish area to meet Holly.

Holly's Comments

  • Same stuff, different day: the pre-race skits, trivia questions, video clips, etc were the repeats for the previous two days. Mile one, including its character stop, was a rerun of the last two days. Character experiences in the parks were repeats.
  • Crowding: the corrals were jammed tightly as compared to the last two days. This made some of the early parts of the race difficult to maneuver around and get your pace going.
  • Dark: parts of the course, mostly in Disneyland Park, were super-dark. Same thing the earlier races but with the crowding it became more of a danger.
  • The race improved once they left property and hit the streets of Anaheim and Garden Grove. Roads were wide and allowed for spreading out.
  • The 501st area was the single highlight of the race. The characters were into it and were very supportive and cheering during the race. If this area did not exist Holly would have considered this a poor RunDisney event.
Get it?
Our friend Laura in Rey outfit with Cosplay Finn and Steam Punk Lady Fett in background
I will eventually have some video from this experience uploaded and posted. I've been busy trying to find the last collectible items in Far Cry 4 before moving onto Assassin's Creed: The Syndicate.
In April we will go to Disney World for its version of the Star Wars Half Marathon. We are guessing the 501 won't be in attendance since the whole race is on Disney property. We will see.