Sand, Beautiful Sand

We struck out finding a mooring to rent. We asked at the yacht club, and no one knew. We found a number for the commodore, who told us they have none available. The local boat tour operators said none available. Yet there are plenty of empty moorings. The second morning here we saw a Sunsail Charter crew cleaning a boat nearby, so I dinghied over and asked them. “Oh, the mooring you’re on belongs to a boat that is up on the hard; just stay there, no problem.” Okay, that works.

We also struck out finding a 4×4 we could rent and drive out into the desert. Nothing available. But while we were asking one of the waterfront tour operators about moorings, she booked a tour for two women from Germany, and…we thought…maybe we should switch gears and do a tour instead of wandering about on our own. What a good move that turned out to be! We declined the harbor tour in the morning (cold, damp, and besides we have a seal hauling out on the back of our boat — we don’t need to book a tour to see ’em). We signed up for the afternoon tour to see the desert sand dunes.

Herman was our guide, and in his very cool Land Rover it was just the 3 of us and the two Germans. Herman turns out to be a rather special character. One of 6 people with permission to go anywhere in the national parks. A vast knowledge and a wicked sense of humor. We drove out the point that makes Walvis a bay. It’s just a sand bar, largely covered with salt pools drying in the sun. We “peppered” him with questions about how the salt works works. He had the answers, and I think he warmed up more and more to us in appreciation of our thoughtful inquisitiveness.

Then south along the desert/beach. Fast. Herman is a test driver for BMW, and it became ever more clear that he is an expert in driving in sand. We got stories about overturned self-drives, and vehicles stuck in quicksand. There were seals on the beach (some alive, some dead), springbok, jackals and ostrich. But mostly amazing sand dunes.

Herman dropped us off atop a particularly beautiful dune, and told us to meet him at the bottom — lunch would be ready. Very nice to take off the shoes and walk in the hot sand. And a very nice touch that lunch included chilled oysters on the half shell (raised in Walvis Bay, and perhaps the best I’ve ever had), and champagne!

On the way back we told Herman we were hoping to visit Dune 7 tomorrow. Everyone says you have to go to Dune 7. He gave us the name of another guide who might be able to take us there plus other destinations. We had an enjoyable sushi dinner at a restaurant near the yacht club, that had photos on the wall of boats competing for the world speed record under sail. Checking online, we see that the record was set 4 years ago in the lagoon right there in Walvis Bay. And the record is…65 knots! That’s hard to imagine. Wish we could have seen it happening. (That record, which is about 75 miles per hour, is over a 500 meter course.)

Next morning we call Herman’s friend Matthew, and we find he is available (despite a cruise ship coming in; he despises cruise shippers), and will give us a tour to the town of Swakopmund and the “moonscape” and Dune 7. So again we are off and touring. We got to see some interesting places, but for me at least, the day was about climbing Dune 7. You have to see the pictures, of which I can’t resist providing too many… On the way back Matthew let us stop at a supermarket to top up our supplies, and he also invited us to his house for coffee (surprising his wife by bringing guests home unexpectedly).

A little more wifi at the yacht club before heading back aboard to cook dinner. Tomorrow we will clear out. Matthew is going to meet us at 9 to take us to customs/immigrations, at the other side of town. Then off to St Helena, 1200 miles (about 8 days) toward Brazil.

Leaving Cape Town and Table Mountain behind.
Leaving Cape Town and Table Mountain behind.
Ah, life at sea ain't bad.
Ah, life at sea ain’t bad.
Lots of whales around the first evening, but the best I could do was this shot of a fin slapping the water.
Lots of whales around the first evening, but the best I could do was this shot of a fin slapping the water.
After 4 1/2 days we pick up a mooring here in Walvis Bay, Namibia. Note the fog receding, resulting in a nice sunny day from about noon to 4pm. The rest of the time is cold, even though technically we are a little north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
After 4 1/2 days we pick up a mooring here in Walvis Bay, Namibia. Note the fog receding, resulting in a nice sunny day from about noon to 4pm. The rest of the time is cold, even though technically we are a little north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Lots of Cape Fur Seals in the area, including this one drifting around our mooring buoy.
Lots of Cape Fur Seals in the area, including this one drifting around our mooring buoy.
When the sun shines they like to haul out on any available surface... Brings back memories of the sea lions in the Galapagos!
When the sun shines they like to haul out on any available surface… Brings back memories of the sea lions in the Galapagos!
Despite most Americans having no idea where Namibia is, this is a touristy waterfront. Mostly Germans. Tourism is a rapidly growing industry here.
Despite most Americans having no idea where Namibia is, this is a touristy waterfront. Mostly Germans. Tourism is a rapidly growing industry here.
First stop on our tour is to see flamingos. The oil rig in the background is simply parked here, taken off station because it is not profitable to operate with low oil prices.
First stop on our tour is to see flamingos. The oil rig in the background is simply parked here, taken off station because it is not profitable to operate with low oil prices.
No Regrets in the background...
No Regrets in the background…
Just across from the flamingos -- a suburban neighborhood in the desert.
Just across from the flamingos — a suburban neighborhood in the desert.
Driving (did I mention Fast?) along the shore.
Driving (did I mention Fast?) along the shore.
National park on the right; no-rules playground on the left.
National park on the right; no-rules playground on the left.

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Our vehicle, with a map of Namibia on the hood.
Our vehicle, with a map of Namibia on the hood.
They say this is the only place in the world where the dunes of the desert extend right to the ocean!
They say this is the only place in the world where the dunes of the desert extend right to the ocean!
Like pictures of waves, it is hard to capture the scale and the steepness. You didn't want to stand at the top, for fear of slipping and falling/sliding down a long, long way!
Like pictures of waves, it is hard to capture the scale and the steepness. You didn’t want to stand at the top, for fear of slipping and falling/sliding down a long, long way!
Time to head inland (Herman says we now leave the moguls behind and head for the big stuff).
Time to head inland (Herman says we now leave the moguls behind and head for the big stuff).

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Springbok, through the car window.
Springbok, through the car window.
Ostrich, through the car window.
Ostrich, through the car window.
I found this AWESOME.
I found this AWESOME.
Liam adds to his collection of sands from around the world.
Liam adds to his collection of sands from around the world.

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Dropping in for lunch.
Dropping in for lunch.
Chilled oysters on the half shell...in the desert...very, very nice!
Chilled oysters on the half shell…in the desert…very, very nice!
On the way back, there are jackals lunching on a dead seal.
On the way back, there are jackals lunching on a dead seal.
And lots more flamingos...
And lots more flamingos…

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Next day Tour #2 takes us first to the town of Swakopmund. Walvis Bay was controlled by the British; the Germans came there but then moved on to Swakopmund to get away from the British rule. Walvis Bay remained a disconnected part of South Africa when Namibia was defined. It was incorporated into Namibia only within the lifetime of our young guide. So his was born in Walvis Bay, South Africa, and now holds dual citizenship as a resident of Walvis Bay, Namibia.
Next day Tour #2 takes us first to the town of Swakopmund. Walvis Bay was controlled by the British; the Germans came there but then moved on to Swakopmund to get away from the British rule. Walvis Bay remained a disconnected part of South Africa when Namibia was defined. It was incorporated into Namibia only within the lifetime of our young guide. So his was born in Walvis Bay, South Africa, and now holds dual citizenship as a resident of Walvis Bay, Namibia.
The old (no longer used) train station.
The old (no longer used) train station.
A steam driven tractor intended for travel in the desert. It didn't work -- it got stuck.
A steam driven tractor intended for travel in the desert. It didn’t work — it got stuck.
The "moonscape."
The “moonscape.”
So this must be a lunar rover? Or a batch of cruise shippers.
So this must be a lunar rover? Or a batch of cruise shippers.
Winding down into the craters...
Winding down into the craters…
...to this oasis (literally; there is water here), where we stopped for lunch.
…to this oasis (literally; there is water here), where we stopped for lunch.
We encountered a non-indigenous animal there!
We encountered a non-indigenous animal there!
Then back on the road. A very straight road!
Then back on the road. A very straight road!
Our first glimpse of Dune 7. We thought we would be trying sand boarding...
Our first glimpse of Dune 7. We thought we would be trying sand boarding…
...but recently the rules were changed...
…but recently the rules were changed…
Walking up is going to be enough of a challenge.
Walking up is going to be enough of a challenge.
Some people go for the direct frontal ascent...
Some people go for the direct frontal ascent…
...but our guide suggested we take the ridge up the side (while he snoozes in the car).
…but our guide suggested we take the ridge up the side (while he snoozes in the car).

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Going first is surprisingly harder than following in the footsteps.
Going first is surprisingly harder than following in the footsteps.
Lots of rest stops!
Lots of rest stops!

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Photos of me are courtesy of Liam.
Photos of me are courtesy of Liam.
A young lady taking the direct route.
A young lady taking the direct route.
And getting to the top just as we do.
And getting to the top just as we do.
We did it!
We did it!

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We will be taking the direct route down...
We will be taking the direct route down…
There are many downhill styles. We won't be practicing this one.
There are many downhill styles. We won’t be practicing this one.
Okay, Nora, go for it!
Okay, Nora, go for it!

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Back to our aquatic home; reclaiming our territory from our visitor. Time to update the blog and get some sleep before setting off across an ocean tomorrow!
Back to our aquatic home; reclaiming our territory from our visitor. Time to update the blog and get some sleep before setting off across an ocean tomorrow!

5 thoughts on “Sand, Beautiful Sand”

  1. OMG! Love the pics! Fyi, Bill’s dad was stationed on Ascension Island and they toured St Helena while there. He brought home postcards and other souvenirs. Have a great trip!

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  2. Wow, Zeke! I am kind of speechless. You guys are REALLY THERE! Looks like totally amazing land. I absolutely love the flamingos. And the dunes are awesome. I wish you good winds and safe travels to St. Helena.

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  3. I found myself grinning like the storied Chesire looking at the photos. I know I’m not getting the “scale” of things in the photos, but holy smokes, it looks gorgeous!

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  4. Maybe the greatest collection of experiences yet! (That and the Komodo dragons.) My own experience with large dunes on the western shore of Lake Michigan (paltry in comparison) makes me really appreciate that climb. Jackals, flamingos and ostrich, oh my!

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  5. What an amazing experience that must have been. Beautiful sand waves…like Tsunami sand waves…..for ever…it must have been fun coming down Dune 7! Whosh! Continued safe and fun journey to St. Helene.

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