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Namibia Part 1: Germans, taxis and sand dunes

Namibia was my first real taste of Africa and somewhere I’d been wanting to go for a few years. I just wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do there. I’d read about Etosha National Park in the north, but other than that I had no idea what there was to see. In Windhoek I found a company that booked excursions and they organised a whole week of activities for me, including Etosha, together with accommodation, transport and some meals. The plan was altered on pretty much a daily basis after this. In fact, on the day I was supposed to leave the plan changed so I would be doing it the opposite way round. For a very German country, organisation is not a strong point.

I had a few days in Windhoek and then it was time to leave for my excursion. However, when I was driven to get my bus I found out things weren’t exactly as they had been explained to me.

In Namibia they don’t really have intercity buses. Instead they have long distance taxis, which is how I would be travelling to my next destination at Swarkopmund. None of which was actually explained to me at any point, I just had to kind of figure it out on my own.

I ended up stuck in a car with 5 other people I didn’t know, hoping that the driver knew where I was supposed to be going. Thankfully we made it to Swarkopmund, a nice colonial town on the coast where you’ll find many retired Germans. After a bit of confusion over my booking at the hostel I was shown to my room. A four bed dorm that I had to myself for the next few days. I was woken a little after 7am the next day by the owner telling me someone was there to take me on my tour. ‘Oh, really? Nobody told me.’ I knew I was doing two excursions that day but no idea what, when or how. Communication is right up there with organisation in Namibia.

I had just enough time to get ready and have breakfast before my guide returned. After collecting other tourists from around town we drove to Walvis Bay, some 45km away. The first activity was a boat tour around the harbour. Spotting all the marine animals that lived there – pelicans, seals, dolphins, flamingos and more. In the afternoon I had a 4×4 tour into the Namib Desert.

Seals covering a large sand island in Namibia
There were thousands of seals on this little sand island. Some swimming right up to the boats

Interesting fact. Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990, however Walvis Bay was still part of South Africa until 1994 when Nelson Mandela gave it back when he became president. There was even a border post between Walvis Bay and the Namib Desert. If that doesn’t mean much, have a look at the map below to see where it is.

The desert tour was a lot of fun. We saw more wildlife such as springboks and jackals before stopping for lunch among the dunes with an amazing view of the ocean. The drivers were great and I think they enjoyed the trip back, rallying through the dunes, as much as their passengers.

Sea meeting the sand dunes in the Namib Desert
Not only is the Namib Desert the oldest but it’s also the only place in the world where the dunes meet the sea

The next day I packed up ready to leave. I’d been told I would have two nights in Swarkopmund but had no idea where I was going to next or when. I now learnt that I was actually staying for a third night and had another excursion that morning. Ok, great. I was driven back to Walvis Bay for some quad biking in the desert (great fun) and climbed (well, crawled) up Dune 7, the highest dune in Namibia at over 380m.

Dune 7, the tallest sand dune in Namibia
At 383m, Dune 7 is the largest in the whole of Namibia

The day after it was finally time to leave Swarkopmund. I waited in my hostel for my pick-up who I was told would be driving me to Spitzkoppe. After waiting over an hour, a driver appeared telling me he was taking me to Usakos, a place I’d never heard of. It turns out he was a taxi driver and my actual guide would meet us in Usakos. He’d only been given half of the relevant information (not including that I’d already paid) and I knew less than that. Either way it was on to the next part of my week long tour of Namibia.

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