Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Namibia: Swakopmund Sandboarding

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

Our flight along the coast to Swakopmund (see this post) was beautiful. We landed mid-morning which gave us a chance to find a place for lunch and explore town a bit.

Swakopmund is a small beachside town that centers around tourism. Town is a mixture of old German colonial-era buildings along with many modern day styles. The main center of town was around 5 square blocks and easily walkable. There were plenty of shops, cafes, and other sites. This was the type of town we could see ourselves living in. We had lunch at a small cafe - sandwiches and beers for under $10. We bought some groceries and windowshopped the craft stores before heading back to our hotel: The Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment Center/Casino. The hotel was the old train station built in 1901. The room was a standard hotel room but we lucked out and got one of the few balcony rooms.

We were scheduled to be picked up at 2:30 for sandboarding, which is kinda like sledding, and at this point they were ten minutes late. We weren't worried but the bellman was since they are never late. After a call to the tour operator we discovered their mixup (we had a flight change a few weeks earlier and she still had us down for our original booking the next day) and they rectified it. We were picked up by a tour company (Hata Angu) van by a driver and lead guide and drove a few blocks to the supermarket. That's where we'd meet our boarding guides and pick up snacks. A few minutes later two kids came in the car and introduced themselves. By kids, we don't think they were 18 yet. This trip was thrown together very quickly.
We drove no more than 5-7 miles out of the city. To our right, the ocean. To our left, mountains of sand. We pulled in a parking area and were told step one was to climb the mountain. UGH! Somewhere in the back of Dave's head he imagined a 4x4 doing all the uphill work for us. Not today. This time we didn't have the aid of the spine of the dune. It was just straight up.
That was not fun! We were half-way exhausted and we didn't even do the activity yet. Sandboarding is done on a sheet of wood paneling with floor wax applied to the bottom. You need to pull up on the front corners to prevent plowing it straight into the sand. Dave forgets this step later. We "mastered" the bunny hill and then moved over to the big hill. The uphill climbs were killing us. Our guides were patient and encouraging us to keep going.
Dave's crash looked worse than it felt. As he was going down the roller coaster hill, trying to remember feet for brakes and steering and pull-up on corners, he sorta forgot everything as the shrubbery at the bottom got closer. He may have loosened up his grips on the corners and plowed the board into the ground. Sand was EVERYWHERE. He yelled up an "I'm ok".
We probably didn't get our money's worth because the climbing up all these hills was killing us and we didn't do as many runs as typical. It was fine by us because being in that environment was worth it and it was fun talking with our two guides.
We slid down the first hill we climbed to get back to the van. Awaiting us were sodas and chips. This was the cultural exchange part of the excursion where we just sit and learn about each other. We found out Namibian's adopted American Thanksgiving and Black Friday because they liked the concept and Romulus' favorite musician is Ed Sheeran. The popular music in Namibia right now is South African House. Our guides lived in the Swakopmund Township, a concept still held over from Apartheid and South Africa's rule of Namibia. The average Namibian earns $1800 Namibian Dollars a month, or at the time of our trip $130 USD.
First thing we did when we arrived back at our hotel was to get beers. Two beers were $50 ND and we tipped $10ND - not even a buck. The bartender thanks us profusely, like tips are a rarity. When we said we'd be back he said "Hallelujah". On our return later in the evening he jumped into action when he saw us and started opening beers. We almost had to yell stop from across the room since we wanted cocktails instead. We spent some time talking with him, mostly American sports since it's really the only reference they have of the U.S.

We walked to town for dinner and decided on a pizzeria. Their pie sizes were in metric which meant we had no idea how big they were so we ordered two. We easily could have split one. They were fantastic. Two pies, two big beers and tip cost us about $27 USD. After dinner we visited the hotel casino and played some slots. We decided we'd tolerate losing $200ND each, or about $14 U.S. Holly didn't fair so well, but early on Dave hit big on a bonus game rings. Our net profits were $60 U.S.

We had a relatively early evening since we had an all-day excursion planned the next day in Walvis Bay.



  1. Sandboarding? Something new

  2. The Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment Center/Casino and how it was there? Because I want to go somewhere here To be true my wife wants. I don't care