Walvis Bay, Nambia
Walvis Bay is a small, but busy industrial port – most of the 50,000 residents work in the port area, but there is also a sizeable fishing fleet and a local operation that extracts salt from seawater. The town itself is orderly – surprisingly clean – but the retail establishments reminded me of the United States of 30 years ago…everything is what I would describe as ‘K-Martyish’ – old fashioned & cheap-looking. The country itself is bordered by Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, & Botswana.
After docking on Thursday morning, we once again had to go through the ‘face-to-passport’ meeting with Immigration before we could disembark – seems like there could be a better, more cost-effective & proficient way to process passengers as this requires about five local government officials, and then two hours to administer everyone. Once cleared, we took the local shuttle bus to the city. We window-shopped for a few hours and then returned to the ship. Our tour was scheduled for Friday morning, and we didn’t feel there was enough to see locally to warrant investment in a taxi.
Up bright & early, our tour left at 8:00. There were only 42 of us, divided into groups of six and loaded into 4X4 jeeps – seven in total. We were off to do some dune plunging! Covering nearly 9,000 square miles, the Namib-Naukluft National Park is Namibia’s largest – the region is entirely desert – many dunes tower at nearly 1,000 feet – the landscape is a breathtaking sand dune dream that is eerily similar to the sea. When we first hit the dunes, I mentioned to Cheryl that the area reminded me of our desert back home – really nothing out of the ordinary – and then we hit the REAL dunes…the Arizona desert on steroids – unbelievable! None of us were prepared for these massive mountains of sand – we expected sand dunes…small rolling hills we would sprint over – these were instead, very intimidating, towering peaks! Our vehicle was nearly vertical on certain dunes – I thought many times we were going to flip, but true to their reputations, these Land Rovers remained intact. Both of us are quite sore with even a few bruises in some places, but nonetheless glad we did it. What an experience. One comical situation I’ll share with you. We obviously had no access to bathroom facilities. The guys of course, had a much easier time as each time we stopped, all we had to do was duck behind a small dune. There was a rather heavy lady who apparently thought she was adequately hidden behind one of the dunes when in fact, she was in clear view. Down came her britches, fanny in the air, with 39 onlookers shaking their heads. To make matters worse, she had bad hips – she couldn’t get up – two women had to be called to her rescue to hoist her back to an upright position! Poor gal…felt so sorry for her! After nearly 4 months at sea, we’re all one big happy family anyway!
Everything in Africa seems larger than life, and what I’m about to define for you is no different. They have Flamingos here. When we read the tour description, it said toward the end of the day we would drive through a fresh water area adjacent to the sea where we might see a few birds. We’ve all been to a zoo or various types of nature reserves where you see a Flamingo or two – perhaps a dozen. You may think I’m exaggerating here when I say the pink Flamingos in Nambibia congregate by the tens-of-thousands…that’s right…TENS-OF-THOUSANDS! If we didn’t have these pictures to share, you’d think I was overstating. There’s something about this particular fresh water area near Walvis Bay that attracts the Flamingos and retains them – it’s because the water level is always low and the birds can easily find their nourishment in the soil only a few inches under the surface. I never thought I’d get excited about spotting birds, but this was like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie – absolutely phenomenal, and something you just wouldn’t expect to see anywhere. Our jeep caravan parked for about 30 minutes and we all got out and snapped photos – amazing display of nature at its best!
We were back to the ship by 3:30 and once again, were required to have another ‘face-to-passport’ meeting with Immigration officials along with all the other passengers. Such a waste of time & money – but no way to avoid it. If all passengers aren’t cleared, the ship cannot sail.
Off now to Jamestown, Saint Helena – 1,200 miles west of Africa – one of two stops before reaching Brazil on April 21st. Looking forward to some warmer weather – daytime temps have been averaging about 65 degrees as this is the Fall period for Africa before Winter arrives.