Wednesday, May 12, 2010


The ship was enshrouded in fog when we woke up this morning, but we weren’t worried about it. We were the first ones off of the ship and met up with our private guide, Piet. As it turns out he is the city planner of Walvis Bay, and does occasional tour guiding on the side. We loaded up in his little Toyota 4x4 and headed off for the sand dunes of the Namib desert. The fog dissipated shortly after we left town. The drive first took us through the “hard desert”, over the dry riverbed, and into the dunes. What an experience!

A few facts Piet told us: 1) none of the dunes are steeper than 39 degrees; 2) the dunes are made up of 93% quartz;

2) the black shadows that you see against the orange sand is iron-he took a magnet and brushed it across some of the black and came up with small flecks of iron;

3) the rose colored shadows are caused by small flecks of garnets (he thought); 4) the shiny flecks are mica;

5) when we went down one of the dunes, we heard a sound similar to that of jet engines-it is caused by oxygen trapped under the sand during wind storms.

The narra plant produces fruit that the Topnaar natives harvest-they dry the fruit like fruit leather and roast the seeds which you crack open like a pumpkin or sunflower seed, but it had a texture similar to pine nuts.

We stopped at one dune and Piet told us we could sand board down the dune. It was quite a long ways, and I politely declined. He said he had a smaller one we could go down. What a thrill! It was a lot of fun, and I didn’t wipe out and break a bone.

After we were done with the large dunes, Piet drove us back into town. He asked Jim if he liked oysters-Jim lit up like a Christmas tree. Piet asked how many he could eat-Jim replied one or two dozen. Piet drove out to a place where they sell oysters, picked out a bunch, bagged them up, and threw them into the truck. The wind was starting to blow, as it evidently does every day at noon, so we parked at the base of a dune (after driving down it) and set up lunch. Piet had rolls, meat, fruit, carrot and celery sticks, and “sausages” that were like salami that he said were made from some sort of game meat such as zebra, impala, etc. Then he started to shuck the oysters, and Jim proceeded to slurp them down. He ate every last one of them, and when he was done Piet asked if he had any idea how many he ate-Jim guessed twenty four. Piet informed him it was 32, and he was shocked that Jim ate all of them. He obviously doesn’t know Jim!

Once lunch was packed up, we drove through an old river beds looking for some of the shacks where a Topnaar family lived. There was no one home at the first one we came upon, just three donkeys laying out front. Piet drove a little further to show us the “gallery”. The father paints simple pictures of local wildlife and sells them for $10. He has them hanging in an outdoor “gallery.” He wasn’t home but his son was there washing a dog and said his father was fishing. About 100 yards was another family-a husband, wife, and two year old daughter. We tasted a small piece of the narra fruit leather and a couple of the seeds which had already been shelled. I asked Piet if I should give them some money-he said he would compensate them, and then gave them cans of Sprite, Coke, and beer.

Walvis Bay even has a golf course.

Piet picked up a local guy who would walk us around the Kuisabmond township and market where about 40,000 people from the Oshiwambo, Damara, and Herero tribes live. The homes here are very nice and all have electricity, running water, and sewer hook ups-nicer than the townships we saw in Cape Town.

There were several men and one older woman playing owela, a sort of mancala game.

As we strolled through the market we tried a large bean that tasted like a peanut and a mopani worm. Yes, we ate a worm. It was cooked, but not very good.

The Tutaleni township was not as nice as the Kuisabmond township, but still has electricity, running water, and sewer.

Walvis Bay has a very nice fire station that Piet was responsible for getting built. The fire chief was a very nice man. He let Jim walk up to the top of the training tower to take pictures, and then they had us slide down the fire pole. Piet then took us to a bakery where he bought us each a tasty pastry.

Our final stop was at the lagoon to see the flamingoes. They are everywhere along the shore line. In the peak season there are up to 60,000.

There is a sea salt company along one side of the lagoon. The ponds where they collect the salt were fascinating to see.

Piet dropped us off at the ship around 4 PM. It was an amazing day!

1 comment:

  1. You are such a marvelous journaler! I am so enjoying your trip and the beauty captured by whoever is the amazing photographer! Thanks so much for sharing. Becky