November 13, 2016:
All day yesterday, we sailed down the fabled (and scary) Skeleton Coast of Namibia, so-named because of the high number ships which wrecked upon its treacherous shores. From the roughness of the seas, we can understand why. However, we were so far offshore we were not able to see the spectacular red sad dunes which characterize this area.
This morning found us pulling into port in Walvis Bay, Namibia. We could see the towering dunes which run along the coast, but here, the dunes are colored with iron instead of garnet, so they are more typically sandy looking. We are now firmly in the grip of the Benguelas Current, which comes up from Antartica around the Cape of Good Hope, bringing very cold, nutrient rich waters, which explains the diversity of sea life one can regularly see (and also, the sudden proliferation of fishing vessels).
Coastal Namibia is an interesting place because it seems to be a study in contradictions. All around are these somewhat bleak looking sand dunes with almost no vegetation, and yet the region is actually teeming with wildlife (most waterfowl( because there are about four main rivers which mostly run shallowly underground, yet create vast areas of wetlands which serve as breeding grounds to huge flocks of migratory birds, including vast colonies of nesting flamingoes. Then there are the people …here we are in the heart of Africa; yet most of the people we see are Caucasians, owing largely to the fact that this part of Namibia was both a British and Dutch colony, and those colonists’ stamp is everywhere.
Our first stop was at the estuary area right outside town, to see the flamingoes. Even though we only stopped for about 5 minutes, I think I took close to 100 pictures, but I’ve tried not to bore you with the following.
Next, it was on the Dune 7, which is a large park located right next to a huge sand dune.
Having taken the requisite photos, we moved on toward the coastal resort town of Swakopmund, via a stop at a weaving collective (Karakul Weavery), where the artisans weave extraordinary rugs out of Karekul Wool.
Finally, we stopped in Swakopmund, and gawked at the lovely Cape Dutch architecture. After a brief visit to the local museum, which had a completely diverse (read: random) set of exhibits, including everything from stuffed animal dioramas to a display about native inhabitants, we wandered out into the town to explore, shop and take more photos. Then it was back to Wallis Bay.
One of the noteworthy things to do here is to take a whale and dolphin tour, but as it was Sunday, most businesses were closed. However, our naturalist on the ship had told us about a huge fur seal colony. A young taxi driver came up to us and quoted us $20 to take us out to the colony. However, the art of B.S. Is obviously learned at an early age here, and before we left the town limits, he was already re-negotiating the price. We set off and it soon bega e obvious he had no idea where he was going. Luckily, Jim had his GPS, so off week we went! Unfortunately, the semi-paved road soon ran out, and we still had no idea how close the seal colony was. note to self: pre-order a tour before we land in the future. Finally, we could drive no further, but we could see a couple of 4 wheel drive vehicles nearby, and I hailed the drivers. One couple told us they had seen a few I seals off in the distance. From where I was standing, all I could see was a few indisguinshable lumps on the beach, but I decided to go for it. The good news was I found two live seals; the bad news was that I found four dead seals and no babies.
Anyway, I decided we had achieved our mission, so we asked the taxi driver to head back. This, OF COURSE, led to another discussion about the inadequacy of his fare (after we had already jacked up once). After agreeing on a FINAL rate that neither party found agreeable, he deposited us back at the ship. In short, we were happy to sail away.