Swakopmund is a weird town. It has very much of a German feel to it and yet it is surround by desert. The town is on the coast and full of tourists and booking agents for all of the activities which take place here. People seem to speak many languages, mainly German, Afrikaans, English and then some local tribal languages as well. While staying here, we are sleeping in a hostel, which is a welcome change from camping.
The main reason for coming here was for the adrenalin activities. The first of these was sand-boarding. This is supposedly unique to Namibia and involves sliding down sand dunes at speeds of up to 80km/h. There were two options; stand-up and lie-down sand-boarding. Those doing stand-up used a modified snowboard to travel down the dune. It was popular with those who had snowboarded before. I chose the lie down variety. The idea was to lie on a piece of hardboard about 150x80cm at the top of the dune and then let gravity do the rest. The hard part was waling back up the dune again. During the morning I did about 8 runs and reached a top speed of 69km/h. The whole morning was great fun and one of the best value optionals of the whole trip. It only cost $30 and included lunch and a DVD.
We were taken directly from the dunes to the airport to meet the people from the skydiving company. They were all very friendly, and excellent and calming nerves. After paying, selecting our jump suits and receiving a bit of training, we were driven to an airstrip away from the airport. Recently the airport has increased its passenger fees, so the skydive club now takes off from some land a short distance away from the airport.
It was only possible for 2-3 jumpers to go up in the aeroplane at once so with 14 of us jumping there was quite a lot of waiting. I went up in the second flight. The flight provided some stunning views of the dunes, coast and Swakopmund during the 20 minutes which it took to reach 10000ft. Shortly before reaching that height, I was strapped to my tandem partner, Dries. My cameraman climbed out onto the wing first, the the pair of us moved to the door and Dries jumped out with me attached.
The feeling of free fall is quite indescribable. You don’t really get a falling sensation with your stomach being left behind. The ground is so far away that it doesn’t really appear to be getting any closer. At 200km/h, the wind rushing past is very strong. It really does feel like you are flying. 35 seconds of free fall seemed to last only a few seconds and then the parachute opened. During the 5 minute decent, I was able to have a go at steering the parachute, before handing the controls back to Dries who executed an excellent landing. The whole experience was amazing! I would recommend it to anyone and am sure I will do another jump myself sometime!
On Tuesday I used a free morning to make use of one of the many internet cafes in town, and explored the seafront a bit. Then in the afternoon, we gathered to go quad-biking. I opted for a semi-automatic bike. It was faster than the automatics, but easier to drive than the full manual bikes due to the automatic clutch. The latter could only really be driven by people who had ridden motorbikes. During the 2 hour ride, we traveled about 60km through the dunes. The most fun bits were driving in arcs up and down the side of steep dunes. We also got a bit of air time by going fast over sand ridges. The photos is one of the few I have of the whole tour part way through our quad-biking trip. There are only 18 of us left now.
There are many restaurants in Swakopmund with excellent food and reasonable prices. My favourite so far is the Napolitana which is conveniently located between the two buildins which make up our hostel. They pride themselves on their portion sizes. On the first night I had an entire rack of pork ribs. Some people had two! Despite the large portions, the food tasted delicious. I have also tried some new meats here, including Eland, Springbok and Zebra.
We were supposed to leave Swakopmund yesterday morning. Unfortunately, Pumba (the truck) has broken down. There is something wrong with the steering and a spare part is needed to fix it. The nearest one is in Arusha in Tanzania. To add to the problems yesterday was a Muslim holiday so none of the couriers were operating. The part should arrive soon, but we still have to stay here two nights longer than planned. Last I heard was that a different truck was on its way from Windhoek to pick us up tomorrow, and then Pumba would catch us up in a few days.
There is only one week left of the tour so without any room to make up time, we are going to arrive in Cape Town two days late. Fortunately this means we will not have to skip any of the activities on the way down from here.
If we had to get stranded anywhere, Swakopmund is not a bad place for it to happen. There is plenty of thing to do here. Besides all of the adrenalin activities, there is the seafront, curio markets, a cinema, good shops, fast internet cafes and excellent places to eat.
Yesterday I had quite a relaxing day. I finished my book, did some shopping, caught up on some news on the internet, and explored the town a bit more. In the afternoon I went to the cinema and saw X-files: I want to believe. It wasn’t anything special, but it filled the time and only cost about £2.
Today I have just had breakfast. I don’t have much planned for today. Later, I will put this post online, then there is a museum I might visit. In the afternoon I may go to the cinema again. I will also need to sort out all of my bags at some point because I am very disorganised at the moment.