Sunday, 29 April 2007

Swakopmund - aka Little Germany

After driving back to Windhoek over the Spreetshoogte Pass (try saying that with a mouthful of toast!) we spent a couple of pleasant days at Chameleon Backpackers, camped on their lawn with a handful of others - including Martin from Manchester, who had come all the way on his motorbike!
Our next leg was a shuttle bus to Swakopmund - a strange little town with the Atlantic on one edge, and the Namib desert on the other, and in between a collection of German-inspired buildings housing antique shops, cafes, bars and upmarket safari outfitters. All very un-African, but again kind of pleasant in a strange way. We found coffee at the Village Cafe much to our liking, and spent a part of each day there reading the Namibian newspaper - enjoying most the letters to the editor on subjects ranging from road conditions, how to sort out Namibian football in time for 2010, and the neighbour's bad habits; all written in the most vehement and flowery English - fabulous with a cappuccino!
We did a tour into the desert with Tommy - a local character if ever there was one - and a couple of older Afrikaans farmers from near Pretoria, up in Namibia on holiday. They didn't have much in common, except a disregard for the abilities and potential of black Africans, which they communicated to us in no uncertain terms. When we told them what we were planning, the farmers in particular were actually quite concerned for us. I'm sure they think we will come to a dire end (hopefully they are wrong!). Anyway, back to the Living Desert tour - where Tommy leaps out of the 4WD every now and collects sand beetles (huge, black things that really scoot along) so he can feed them to the snake, chameleon, lizard, skink, scorpion, etc, that he also finds for us. It was a great few hours, we learned loads about the desert and how things survive there (basically only because of the sea fog), and got a really fun 4WD trip round the dunes too.

Fun in the desert, watching out for scorpions and snakes.

Our next leg was another train trip - from Swakopmund through to Otjiwarango, scheduled to arrive at 12.30 at night, so potentially another problem for us that was too complicated to solve from afar. We had a beautifully printed train ticket, advising that departure was 4pm, and that we should be at the station 30mins beforehand. We also had read in our (not so) trusty Lonely Planet that Swakopmund Railway Station was a building of true beauty... You will guess correctly from this that the train didn't leave at 4pm, and the railway station was basically a brick hut in a dusty plain. We waited patiently at the station, read our books, did a puzzle, ate our sandwiches, watched the other passengers (who watched us). We are both amazed at how well behaved African children are. They are quiet, patient, nice to their siblings, helpful to their parents and never seem to grizzle or need entertaining.
There was plenty of time to take photos at Swakopmund station.
The train arrived at about 10pm and possibly because many of the passengers had given up on it, was pretty empty. We had a sleeper carriage to ourselves, and slept comfortably till about 6, when it got light, and the train turned into a game viewing carriage. How good is that? This also meant that we didn't arrive at Otjiwarango in the middle of the night, but about 8am - and before we knew it, we were in a taxi to the Shell Garage a few km away, and then onto a minbus to Tsumeb. We had arranged to collect a rental car there the next day, as we really weren't sure when we would be arriving, but were able to arrange to collect it on our arrival, and by midday were zooming up the highway on our way to Etosha National Park.

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