Travelogue Namibia 3: Swakopmund

SWAKOPMUND
27-29 September 2021

With a spring in our step for the daily desert rise-and-shine on a work-free workday, we started the day with running a loop of our camp, down to the main gate and across and around a neighbouring camp we discovered had been hiding behind the rocky outcrop against which our chalets were nestled. Thankfully we were out early enough to benefit from the flat and dry desert course, before the sun sapped all energy and any will to move at all.

Having worked up an appetite, we were grateful for the leftovers from the braai the night before, wolfing down our Oryx, fried onion and cheese steak rolls.

We packed the truck and hit the road, with 346km – of mostly dirt road – to contend with to get us to Swakopmund.

The Namibian countryside is so vast and varied that parts of the journey seem disconnected, like you’re on a completely different road on a completely different roadtrip to the one you were on a few kilometres back (or a few kilometres forward, for that matter). Sure, a lot of the view is arid, deserty desertness… But then a massive charcoal-coloured rocky outcrop will appear, or you’ll drive through a deep gorge that must have been a raging river at some point, or tightly overlapping golden hillocks that looks like someone took to the land from above with a massive rotary beater.

Most of the journey is flat and wide dirt road, dry and compacted to allow for some speed, but rocky enough to caution against going too fast lest your tyres pay the price. The bits through the gorge can be quite harrowing though; steep and narrow, and making us grateful for the stability of our big, heavy double-cab truck with its 4×4 capability that we hoped not to need.

Arriving in town, we had little trouble finding our Airbnb accommodation since it was adjacent to a substantial landmark, the sparkling new Platz Am Meer shopping centre. In a light and bright modern complex, our fully-kitted duplex promised to serve us well for the next couple of nights.

Hungry from a long day’s travel, we dumped our bags and headed straight out. Surprisingly, the temperature had dropped radically and it was barely 20 degrees! Fortunately not windy as Luderutz had been, so perfectly manageable with a change of holiday uniform, into jeans and a hoodie.

We found a cosy garden cafe called Wurstbude, across the road from the beach and sheltered by overhead vines, and settled in for a leisurely late lunch/early dinner, with a very cosmopolitan mix of samoosas, seafood, pizza and goulash.

Although it was chilly, it was still worth a walk back across the Paddock Gardens to the Platz Am Meer, and braving a seafront terrace table for the sunset. It was good to round off the day with making plans for the rest of our stay, before heading home for movie night.

We awoke to a grey day. Not quite raining but not quite not raining, the air was thick and wet. Not great for sightseeing… But perfect for a morning run along the promenade.

With no clear intention, we ran around the beach side of the mall and past the pretty Paddock Gardens (that already had the sprinklers going).

Conveniently, there was a paved path that ran along the beach – literally, a few metres from the water, not the usual roadside pavement! – on the whole stretch between our mall and the waterfront and lighthouse on the other side of the strand. It was an easy run, at sea level and in a light mist from the cool morning. As an added bonus, our loop encompassed the local Park Run route, so another box incidentally ticked.

Juices flowing and appetite stoked, we showered and jumped in the car to go explore Walvis Bay.

The roads were good, but there was not much to see en route bar the odd sprout of a suburb on the sea side and sand, sand, sand on the inland side. We stopped for a photo opp at Dune 7, so-named (according to Google) because it is the 7th highest in the world, at around 383m. To give perspective, the Big Daddy at Sossusvlei the day before had been around 350m… Although it did look a lot bigger, probably because of the context of the setting.

There are 4×4 and quad biking excursions available at the dunes and, judging by the odd trail of footprints, some souls choose to hike up and barrel down, but we had a different agenda so kept moving to Walvis Bay.

We planned our arrival as a drive-through experience to see us to the quayside for some fresh seafood, but had to make an obligatory stop to photograph the flocks of flamingos treading gingerly in the shallow foreshore.

The modest waterfront had a handful of restaurants and shops; we chose the anchor and were soon feasting on delicious fresh battered hake and fried calamari.

We had left Ian at home, working, so made our way back once our lunch was done.

After a rest stop, Chris and I drove to the Swakopmund old Town – no more than a few kilometers away – and used an online walking tour to self-guide through the quaint little town, making note of what to show our friends when we returned as a group later.

The town is remarkable since most of the buildings date to the turn of the last century and have been maintained in pristine condition. The town has all the old-world charm of yesteryear, but look like they were painted yesterday!

Being a holiday town, there is a high concentration of pubs and restaurants. The walking tour circuit had given us a chance to see a lot of them up close – and review the menus displayed outside.

With experience on our side, the evening’s running order was a relatively simple choice: Butcher & Brewer on the waterfront for sundowners (because it housed Swakopmund craft brewery), then Fachwerk beer garden (because it was the oldest building we’d seen, 1899) for pre-dinner and lastly Brauhaus for dinner (because the internet reviews placed it as undisputed best German food restaurant in town).

It was a winning combo. We were back at the waterfront well in time to enjoy a couple of draughts while lapping up the seaside view. Then we had a fun game of giant Jenga in the Fachwerk beer garden, while the other patrons were participating in a very leisurely game of Bingo. Then the Brauhaus dazzled us with perfect schnitzels, eisbein and crunchy bratkartoflen (roast hash potatoes).