To say that downtown Swakopmund on a winter Sunday is quiet, is to suggest that the Arctic is a tad on the cool side. It is not just quiet, but post-apocalypse silent. You could have a snooze in the middle of a major intersection without interruption.
It feels a bit like being on the set of The Truman Show – complete with pastel coloured Victorian doll-house architecture. It does have a West Coast USA vibe in fact with funky little cafes and art shops. Just no people or cars.
At the sea front though there were one or two other survivors of whatever Extermination Event had afflicted the rest of the town. Small knots of people – some in Sunday best – were having a stroll on the pier. The mighty waves roared underneath us shaking the wooden piers of the pier. Stocky, bronzed fishermen cast off into the swell. The sun had burnt off the fog and a warm breeze was ruffling the palms.
|It’s a one stop shop at the aquarium
At lunchtime we made for the Tiger Beach Bar for what were reputed to be the best calamari in Namibia. Its a great spot on a gentle bit of beach. Though probably not if you are a squid.
We all felt a woozy from several busy days, though the sun and the Windhoek lager probably contributed. We should insist Tom has a soft drink next time.
He chose the day’s next activity: Sand Boarding! It’s like Snowboarding but, erm, on sand. Actually without the snowboards too. They were available but we went for the lying down option on some high-tech, purpose-built “bits of fibreboard”. We waxed them and had the instructions about lying down head first, gripping the front and bending it up, keeping our feet in the air unless we needed to steer and trying to avoid getting a mouthful of sand. Philippa was the first to go down what looked like an awfully steep bit of dune, but away she went, and almost down the next slope as well. She was a natural! Tom was more cautious; “hmmm… don’t push me, I’ll just eeaaase myself over – no I’m fine. Er, count me down THEN I’ll go” etc etc, but soon he was flying down the slope too.
I went next and found a new way of braking at the bottom; simply open your mouth and fill it up with sand, thus ensuring there is less to slide on.
Our knees and elbows took a beating and walking back up was murder. Steep, deep sand that swallowed your boots. But it was brilliant and the slopes got steeper and longer. P flew down the two-stage hill and simply didn’t stop at the bottom. She was a tiny spec in the dunes, zipping along as if on a tiny hovercraft.
To his great credit Tom volunteered to be first over the biggest and steepest dune of the day, raising eyebrows among the too-cool-for-school boarders with us who had decided that what we were doing looked like a whole lot more fun. Off he went, speeding down the hill like a freight train and coming to a stop with a graceful starfish-chucked-into-the-sand rolling technique, which I am sure is what the professionals use.
The boarding folks drove us from the big dune straight to the Jetty restaurant at the end of the pier. We had sand stuck to our faces and matted hair and arrived to find a smarter place than we had expected but we got a table overlooking the sea and the setting sun. P and I contemplated our weary limbs and skinned knees as T tried to convince us that we needed to go the next day as well.
When we emerged to walk home, there was a stiff wind blowing and a sea fret blowing a fine mist in our faces. It was seriously cold and we only had the thin shirts we’d been boarding in. We scuttled home through the deserted, foggy streets to warm beds and dreams of giant sand hills.