13 October 2018
Ian and I awoke just before our alarm at 06:30, enjoying a luxurious shower followed by an equally luxurious breakfast, laid out with Germanic precision in our apartment at exactly 07:15. Oats, yoghurt, honey, breads, marmalade, meats and cheeses and a boiled egg each…. Meanwhile, Cornelia slumbered on, having to be stirred into action, so as to be ready for our scheduled pick up at 08:00 by Living Desert Adventures.
Our driver, Letitia, arrived ten minutes early, prompting accelerated scoffing of Cornelia’s first-ever boiled egg. We clambered onto an immaculate Land Cruiser minibus, where we were joined shortly afterwards in downtown Swakopmund by an amiable German couple (Tom and Sylvia) with their children, Pit and Milla. Our ‘family bus’ – as it was soon christened by Chris, the jocular, chief guide- then joined two, similar vehicles on the edge of the desert. Chris proceeded to host a fascinating tour of the dunes. Cornelia’s attention wavered somewhat at times, but she was excited to hold a legless lizard, and wasn’t at all fussed when it tried to make an escape from her hands. She helped me photograph a gorgeous web-footed gecko, which posed perfectly on the sand for us.
He went on to find and hold a venomous scorpion (which are safe as long as they don’t feel threatened, which is when their tails curl up) and uncovered a sand viper, just by spying a black dot in a sand dune. (This black dot turned out to be his eyes!) It was remarkable to watch him!!
He also found a large stately chameleon, who was delighted to be fed live mealworms and happily accepted them in return for us taking his photo!!
It has only rained twice in the last decade and the local river has not flowed since 2011. The guides’ ability to find the creatures (all endemic to this area) under the sand was astonishing. They showed us how the flowers of the ‘dollar plant’ turn into ‘wheels’ which are blown across the desert, where they lie dormant until the rains come. They then fold back into seed pods; a process impressively demonstrated by the guides with a spritzer bottle. Otherwise, all of the flora and fauna survive on ‘microrain’; actually a chilly mist which blows in from the 12C Atlantic Ocean most mornings. The guides all said it was unusually cold and we were glad of our extra layers and long trousers.
Bob and Tonia, the only other English couple on the tour (all others being German) were from Devon, having lived in Christow for several years and now residents of Chittlehamholt (?). He is a retired HSBC banker, who knows several of Ian’s colleagues, including being a good friend of Andrew Maynard there, reinforcing the simple yet unbelievable concept that the world can indeed be a very small place (and that everyone knows Andrew!!!)!
After playing in the dunes (and being fed cinnamon piggie ears pastries by Tom and his generous family, much to Bugsy’s delight) we headed back to Swakopmund at around 13:30, where we were dropped off at our apartment by Letitia, who lingered awkwardly before we realised she was expecting a tip.
Warmed by a cuppa (but still full from breakfast) and with the sun just breaking through the grey but unbountiful clouds, Ian was despatched to the local supermarket with a long list, while I tried unsuccessfully to persuade Cornelia to nap. Instead, she had a snacky lunch of crackers, popcorn and crisps (she couldn’t believe her luck!!) and then we both showered (that sand gets everywhere…) and called Grannie Annie for a chat.
Ian returned later, with almost all of the required provisions. Plus a frivolous pack of ‘Ultra Mel’ custard. We then walked along the seafront promenade (Cornelia was on Ian’s shoulders) – fronted by many, extremely-expensive looking modernist houses, to meet up with Suzanne, Manuel and Elia. Along the way, we were joined by an enthusiastic dog who followed us joyfully almost all the way to our friends, who were waiting patiently at the bar, in the sunshine, cold beers in hands. The dog eventually met up with one of his friends, and the owner said she would return our friendly hound to his owner on her walk!!
The kids ran off to the playpark together immediately, and Ian went to order a couple of beers for us, only to discover that the bar was now closed. It was only 17:00!
He offered to supervise the children while the three of us went to the next door bar, close, but just out of sight. Suzanne, Manuel and I sat and enjoyed a rare treat of being able to sit and talk and drink beer, without having to have our attention lingering elsewhere until Elia came back first, shortly followed by Cornelia and Ian. I think Cornelia was annoying him a bit by wanting lots of attention from Suzanne, whom she adored.
We decided to eat at The Lighthouse, where we were drinking our beers and were seated inside. The bon homie continued there, as we feasted on steak and red wine. I was given Manuel’s oryx steak in error, so that was a new food for me! I swapped it in favour of my juicy steak though, which was melt-in-the-mouth tasty. Cornelia finished her spaghetti bolognese in record time –
We decided to push our luck and have a second bottle of red while the kids amused themselves watching Peppa Pig (I know, lazy parenting, but they needed it and so did we!), eventually saying our final farewells and promising to reunite back in the U.K. next year.
We walked back along the promenade to our apartment about twenty minutes away, enjoying the sound of the waves crashing fiercely against the rocks, and watching the stars twinkle. It was the perfect end to a perfect evening.