The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 20 - Walvis Bay, Namibia

Monday, April 20 - Day 77 - Walvis Bay, Namibia

Dick is up at 4:30AM not having slept well and sees the pilot boat come alongside. At this time it is clear but when he looks out again, it is very foggy but we are creeping into port. Carolyn is up a little before the alarm goes off and, once dressed, we head for a continental breakfast in the King’s Court. By a little after 6AM we are in line to clear immigration and are among the first 30 or so to go through the make-work process. Supposedly they want to match your face with your passport but the man checking us never even looks up form stamping and writing. We could have been anybody and he would never have known our passports were false. But we are done and they even started about 10 minutes early so not too long of a wait.

Back to the room for cameras, etc. and we are on the dock at 7AM but, as usual, no driver. A man calls the gate to see if he is there but he is not. Showing extreme patience (NOT!), Dick heads off to walk to the pedestrian gate with Carolyn trying to catch up and he is not there either. Dick pulls up Carolyn’s email on his cell phone and, sure enough, we have an email from 7PM last night with all the particulars of where we will be met. These arrangements have only been made and paid for since last August! Surely they could have gotten these details to us in a more timely fashion especially since Carolyn had reconfirmed date and arrangements with them by email on the 18th!

What do we do now.....well we begin to walk back to the ship but we are stopped by a port guard and told our driver is on the way and he does pull up within a minute or so. Profuse apologies; he was held up getting his permit to enter the port. We won’t ask why this can’t be done in advance!

So, we are off down the very misty coast with Burger, a descendent of South African Boers. His great grandparents fought against the British in the Boer war and then migrated to Botswana and then Namibia. He and his parents were born in Namibia.

Our goal is an area known as Sandwich Harbor some 28 miles south along the coast and whatever wildlife we can find. We pass the lagoon and see a large flock of pink flamingos and are told that most of them are now gone to their winter quarters in Botswana. In the summer their can be as many as 60,000 of them along the shore of the lagoon!

We pass the salt works where up to 2,000 tons of industrial salt are harvested from the sea by evaporation each day! Now we are on soft sand and our 4-wheel drive Range Rover is essential if we are to make any progress. We make steady, if bumpy, progress through the dunes and down to the beach where we can drive on the hard, wet sand at this low tide time. it is still a very misty morning. We see various birds and even scare up a sleeping seal.  

Eventually, after driving up onto a narrow very rough rocky ledge that looks like it could shred the tires, we reach the area where dunes up to 600' high come right down to the beach and after some more miles we reach Sandwich Harbor.  The sand is very red in places due to the garnet crystals mixed in the sand.

Sandwich Harbor is now a broad shallow bay known for the birds that summer here. In the late 1800's through the early 1900's it was actually a harbor used by the mining operations along the coast, but has long since silted up. But, where is it? Now all we see is a broad bay and one or two small, very deteriorated and dune covered buildings where the dunes meet the beach. We are here at the wrong time for the birds, but scenery is other worldly with the monster dunes coming almost straight out of the water and the many small lagoons with some birds around. This is a place that is meant for beach combing and watching the world go by, but unfortunately Dick is not a beach person and the sand is very soft and it is a little cold for Carolyn and her achy knees.

We go a little further south in search of birds and then turn around because it becomes a no admittance bird sanctuary and, by the way, "the beach past here has areas of quick sand." Just so you know!
Carolyn had declined to do any dune buggy type riding in these high dunes but before we know it we are off the beach and heading into the high, SOFT, sand of the dunes. The sun has broken through the mist.  It is fun and the views are spectacular for a few minutes and then we get stuck for the third time. Burger tries all the gear shift tricks, lets air out of the tires twice finally down to one bar or 14 pounds, digs the sand out from in front of all four tires (several times) and we finally get moving again. We are way off the beach with no cell phone service! Not a comfortable feeling, but we are moving again for about 100 yards when something in the very hot engine decides to set up a squealing howl! Burger and Dick agree that that does not sound good. Open the hood to find nothing noticeably wrong. At least all the belts are in place and the fan is turning. The howl begins to diminish and soon goes away. Carolyn, who had told the tour provider no dune ridding, Dick and Burger all agree that it would be best to return to the beach ASAP which we do. On the way out of the dunes we spot a pair of ostrich. Even though we see lots of foot prints we don't actually see any other animals, but it is obvious that the dunes are full of wildlife!

This little experience has put a damper on our enthusiasm and the ride back toward Walvis Bay is quiet and a little strained.  We spend some time at the salt works now that the mist has cleared and then Burger offers to show us the seal colony out by the lighthouse. Too stupid to know better, we agree and head off on a 15 mile drive down the beach in very soft sand only to find we can get no closer than 500 yards from the seals. BFD!!!

Carolyn is in need of a restroom and we stop at a lodge built on the point by the lighthouse that the English captured from the Germans while it was being shipped Kenya as WWI started and was then installed here. Burger talks to the manager and Carolyn is allowed to use their facility. Don’t ask why this lodge is here or how it stays in business. On the way we stop at the old railway loading dock for the lighthouse. Next we stop by an old ship wreck for a photo or two of the Queen Mary and up a little ways for some flamingoes and then on back up the beach to the salt works and back to the lagoon. Much of the salt produced here turns pink as it dries and in today’s light the pink color reflects up into the low clouds and turns them pink as well.

Lunch is included in this deal and we stop back at the lagoon to eat a tuna salad lunch and take photos of the flamingos. 

Burger is a nice guy and we enjoy visiting with him but this day has not turned out as asked for and planned and neither of us is a "Happy Camper." At our request, Burger takes us into Walvis bay proper and helps us look for a Jack pin. During this time we find some huge pelicans playing around. He then takes us back to the ship, using his morning pass to drop us quite near the gangway.

Back in our room, we discover that Dick has gotten grease all over his pants; one of two pair he has for the rest of the trip. This whole deal is going down hill fast since the ship’s dry cleaning machine is out of order and the repairman will not be here until the ship reaches Southampton on May 3rd!

Blog writing time. Picture downloading time! Cooling off time! Wonder what is for dinner? Will the ship sail at 5PM as planned or will they fail to find the woman missing from a ship’s tour? Heard that little story coming back onto the ship. Tour returned one short. How does that happen?!!

Answers...the women is brought back to the ship and reunited with her furious, the ship does not sail on time, they announce we are leaving then a few minutes later they announce we are delayed because the turbine went off line and has to be restarted....we go to dinner and have beautiful tasty rack of lamb finished table side and baked potatoes with all the trimmings. We polish this off with cream brulee and key lime pie. We cool off by writing a letter to the tour group about the less than wonderful day. Mainly pointing out we paid for and expected a full day tour and if they had done what Carolyn originally asked for we would have been perfectly happy. The Sandwich Harbor tour was fine and quite scenic, but was not a full day tour like we paid for, We will see if this results in any action on their part.

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