Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

Leaving the sheep for some sand castles

Swakopsmund is slightly different to other Nambian towns. It has a certain charm about it being on the ocean. It’s a bit like Weston-Super-Mare, but it’s down with the kids. With plenty of busy holiday accommodation, lovely views, fishing trips out to sea, museums, good coffee shops, easy promenades full of arts and crafts wafting around the ambient streets – albeit with prices higher than those in Europe; town also offers a lot of places to get a drink! We only “mildly” indulge.

The road system also seems to have been designed by a ultra-efficient german who obviously thought the unimaginative grid system was best. Although everything works and is organised neatly for tourists who want to plan ahead and have everything relatively easily spoon fed to them; if you’re just not into following the sheep or having everything so wordly-western, it could also be seen as a bit of a let down. It could in fact be, Weston-Super-Mare…just with a little more sunshine and a lot more Germany.

We head up the coast to escape town. We have some seafood pasta and afterwards, Penelope rolls over a few sand dunes without any serious fears, and takes the edge off it being too much fun.

We check out a couple of shipwrecks from the beach and look forward to heading back across the desert in search of anything that moves amongst rocks and in dark crevices.

I’m looking forward to looking up at the night sky again which is about as light-polluted as a pasty Brit’s arse in January…

Before shooting for the vibrant sand and tyre-anyalating gravel, we caught up with Johannes – an e-cigarette-doting, impressive Afrikaans adventurer who founded the Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA). As much as we discussed the last of the desert elephants (which the organisation monitors as well as fights for their survival through various political and wilderness hazards), it was interesting to swap stories of the bush and hear his tales of sailing renegade around the Cape of Good Hope the wrong way in a boat so ill-equipped, nobody would do it with him.

Johannes has also motorbiked through most of Africa while cultivating a rather impressive beard. So much so, on both accounts that admittedly, I’m slightly envious. He has just received the bad news of his dow (traditional sail boat) sinking off the coast of Tanzania after a couple of so called friends failed to maintain it while he let them live on it for free. They left it dilapidated, almost totally submerged off the coast of Tanzania and simply sent him a photo to show that they were no longer on it. This is not Africa, it’s just rude.

While chatting, as mentioned, we only indulged “mildly”, but we still managed to discuss plans involving some canons, a safari-eccentric tea party, a herd of goats, some undiscovered waterways which we want to explore unmotorised, and possibly a double decker bus. A future “sailing” safari project is definitely on the cards…

From the rolling dunes south of Swakopmund, where camels wander off into the see-breezy, orange hills; it’s a lengthy drive south to reach Mother Nature’s record breaking sand castles… the largest sand dunes on Earth. Many of them tower above 200 meters, dwarfing most cityscapes.

The highest dune in the desert is over 385 meters. Getting up some of them is not a walk in the Park! Passing through four different dry worlds on route to the Sossusvlei Dunes, it’s a spectacle one can only grasp if witnessed first hand.

The desert is unearthly and massive. It receives some loving attention from the volatile but cooling sea to the west and bouts of damp mist roll in over the sandy mounds and gravelly pans. These early morning ghosts bring some of the only water the sands ever see. Here the insects, the reptiles and the shrubs make do with dew drops to survive and cool their nests. After the sun comes up each day it burns the sand into its forever-transient, scorched sherbet state.

The coastal town of Luderitz is next. Little did we know how much we would dice with death…

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Where am I now?

After extensive work and tours through Southern Africa, most of my time is spent between Malawi and Europe.
Go Untamed Safaris was striding into top gear, but volatile poitics in 2019, Covid in 2020, the impacts of Russia vs the World as well as insesent corruption forced my hand.
The dust is now settling. Everything has changed. New chapters are about to be written.

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