Namibia: Walvis Bay to Swakopmund
After the debacle of our original attempt to get Tonka onboard the “Atacama” bound for Walvis Bay in Namibia back in July (which ended with him on the back of an AA lorry due to faulty service he had received at a garage just two days before!), he was finally shipped on 8th August on “Amber Lagoon”. And so on 9th September we too were Namibia bound, flying from Heathrow with South African Airlines via Johannesburg. Having endured two months of the Siberian and Mongolian winter earlier in the year, Josi was on a high, looking forward to the long promised warmth and sun of Africa. Alas, she was to be disappointed again. As we stepped out of the airport we were met by an icy wind tearing in straight from the Atlantic. Welcome to Walvis Bay!
Being too late for the one transit bus into town, we negotiated a ride with a very friendly Budget rent-a-car employee who was about to head that way. And so, an hour after landing at the tiny warehouse-like building of the airport arrivals hall, the wheels were finally turning on the start of our epic road trip. The fact that the wheels were not yet ours did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm – tomorrow we would collect Tonka from the port.
For centuries this stretch of coastline was considered too inhospitable for settlement, being fringed to the North by the Skeleton Coast and the Namib-Naukluft Desert to the South. All that changed however, when Walvis Bay was discovered to be the only deep water harbour between here and Angola, and since then it has become the main coastal gateway to Namibia.
Checking into the excellent *OysterBox Guesthouse*, we were shown a spotless room with ocean view looking out over the flamingo dotted lagoon. Perfect. But still cold!
Feeling exhausted after our 22 hour journey from London, we headed out for an early dinner at “The Raft” – a large but slightly wobbly pier at the end of a planked boardwalk. Fresh battered calamari, three types of local fried fish, grilled Oryx steak and an excellent South African Riesling – all for £30. Sadly we both knew that Tonka’s limited pantry would not offer up such delicacies in the months to come.
The next morning we took a stroll across the shore of the lagoon – by all accounts one of the three best coastal bird-watching areas on the continent. Flocks of flamingo jiggled their legs excitedly – their feet churning up silt while their beaks simultaneously sifted through the salty buffet. “Doing the flamenco” said John. Evidence of the super-rich waters which bring professional anglers here from all over the world was everywhere – shellfish and stranded jelly fish lay strewn across the beach and shawls of countless tiny fish jumped in unison like ripples across the surface of the water while seagulls and cormorants plunged in after them. Even on this barren stretch of coastline the incredible diversity of Africa’s wildlife was already becoming apparent.
Down at the docks later that afternoon we waited like expectant parents as Tonka’s container was unloaded into the yard. Relieved to see that the seal that had been placed on the container back in the UK was still intact, we breathed a second sigh of relief as the doors were prised open and with one turn of the key, Tonka sprang to life. With customs formalities dealt with, we pulled out on the road leading North to Swakopmund. And so it begins.