3. Walvis Bay


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Mar 9th, 2011
3. Walvis Bay

We will soon see land for the first time since leaving Cape Town. For me, Walvis Bay is a name from a school geography book, a whaling station in the old days. What does the town live on now?

Unusual activity on the fore deck (out of bounds to passengers) attracts our attention. The sailors are getting the huge coils of mooring ropes ready. These have massive loops on the end, and are stored on big winches. Some of the ropes are as thick as a sailor’s thigh, and need two men to lay them out on the deck. The sailors ignore us, used to – or maybe embarrassed by -  the crowds of passengers staring down at them.

A neat little Namibian tugboat comes churning out of the harbour to meet us, she is called the Nyati (buffalo), reminding us we are still in Africa, and her crew wave good-naturedly as we goggle at them and take pictures. The Nyathi nudges us expertly right up to the side of the dock. Our crew cast out their ropes, navvies on shore loop them round the bollards. This is so much more fun than getting off an aeroplane.

Nyati the Tugboat

The top deck of our ship is higher up than anything else in Walvis Bay except the dockside cranes. From here we can see a clean, flat little town with many small houses and palm trees. The town ends suddenly and beyond it there is nothing but sand dunes to the horizon.

The ship’s crew get a gangplank rigged and set up a gazebo on the wharf. Luxury coaches arrive – these are for those passengers who have pre-booked an organised tour. We have to wait while these paying VIPs file off the ship, form groups round their respective lollipop lady, and go off in their coaches.

For the rest of us, it’s do as you please. We are informed that it’s a short walk into town and we don’t need our passports, just our cruise cards. Since James has to upload some files to the Amanzi website, we must skip the Walvis Bay exploration and get a taxi into Swakopmund which is 10 kms along the coast. We are told that this is the most likely spot to find an internet café, and that in any case the town has more to offer a visitor than Walvis Bay.

The drive to Swakopmund goes along a well-maintained coast road with the sea on one side, on the other, beige sand dunes. There are occasional tiny tufts of grey-green vegetation to be seen, and I notice quite a few vehicle tracks slicing over the dunes. Apparently these are made by quad-bikes, hired out by a few adventure centres along the way. At one point we see hang-gliders using the top of the dunes for a jump-off point. That makes four uses for a sand-dune that I know of. And, the beginners will at least get a soft landing…

In Swakopmund, which exists on some unseen source of water, the architecture is a weird mixture of German and Dutch, with African colours and patterns. After the internet café (R20 for an hour) we explore the little town on foot, visiting the lighthouse and beachfront area.

Swakopmund Lighthouse - closed today...

Everything in the town is neat and tidy, but there is an air of exhaustion about the place. Maybe it’s the relentless heat. To our disappointment there is no local beer available to sample at the beachfront pub! Just bottles of Windhoek or Castle lager.

James hoping for beer

A lone European person bakes dark brown in the sun on a towel on the small beach as we sip our drinks. There are some strange-looking desert trees in the gardens near the lighthouse; they remind me of the ‘Truffula Trees’ in the Dr. Seuss book.

Weird desert trees

There is not much else to see in Swakopmund in the short time we have available, so we return via the waiting taxi.

The taxi driver is interested to learn we are from South Africa. He expresses great admiration for Julius Malema. That, he says, is the way a man can make money in this world. And still so young! Here in Namibia, he adds, there’s not much chance for younger citizens in politics.

The pavements outside the port are lined with curio sellers – one of which has a small crowd of animated German tourists in front of it, snapping away on their cameras, zehr gut. As we pass we see that the curios are being sold by two Himba tribeswomen in full ochre daub and elegant mud hairdos, bare breasts and all. OK, granted, that isn’t something you’d see in Cape Town.

Back on the ship, we hurry to get ready for our 6pm supper. The PA system is repeatedly calling names of some passengers, late back on board. This evening there is a Mexican dinner theme, but none of the food is spicy. The ship is still in port by the time we are finished and take a stroll on deck. A couple of passengers have gone missing, and the Melody is waiting to see if they will turn up. There are dire threats in the company literature about keeping the ship waiting. The offenders will face an extremely stiff fine.

The Ship Waiting

After supper we fetch email, and very annoyed to discover that our medical aid, which declined to provide cover for us while we travel, has decided to charge us for a full 3 months’ contributions prior to termination – we were told that one month’s notice was needed. A useless expense. So now we have a battle on our hands with unreliable internet connections.
The ship tells us to put our clocks back one hour before retiring. Morning will come sooner than expected.



  • Vee

    07 Apr 2011

    Yikes, what a scary assessment of RSA politics — Malema can make good money! Love the pic of thirsty James!

  • Peter

    07 Apr 2011

    Those Himba tribeswomen are only partially up to date in their marketing plan… anywhere else they’d make a fortune charging for the photos.
    But a lot less than Malema, of course.

  • Sounds like a very entrepreneurial taxi driver…

  • Connie

    08 Apr 2011

    Malema is his ideal – OH.MY.GOSH. No hope then, is there..hey, did the tardy passengers ever turn up or did they get left behind????

    • Jan

      () 08 Apr 2011

      We think the tardy passengers got left behind, and flew to the next feasible point, Dakar (there is only a small airstrip on St. Helena), but this was never confirmed!

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