The Living Desert!

April 18, 2010 - Walvis Bay, Namibia

We sailed into Walvis Bay, Namibia at about 8 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, but didn’t get off the ship until about noon.  It turned out we weren’t really missing that much because, after a lot of drama getting on the shuttle, Erich and I finally made our way into the decently large town nestled right along the coastline here in Namibia.  Apparently, they don’t do much around here on Sundays because there was literally not a thing open.  The first two pictures in the album from Namibia are what we saw when we got off the shuttle.  Picture 6, 7, and 8 are what we ended up doing the rest of the afternoon as we hung around the ship all day – goofing around and taking funny pictures.  Our cruise director, Jamie, invited all ten of the singers and dancers to go ride ATVs with him on the sand dunes the next day, so we weren’t really that disappointed.  Also, every passenger on the ship was invited to a barbecue in the desert under the evening stars, so there was almost no one on the ship that night.  We had to greet them as they returned to the ship, but it was small price to pay for having the entire place to ourselves all evening.  We said hello to each guest as they re-boarded the ship and then headed to bed. 

The next morning, we all woke up in time for a crew drill and a quick department meeting before going to the sand dunes.  It was so cool!  We arrived at the tour guide’s office around noon and started getting lectured on the ‘oldest desert in the world’ – the Namib Desert.  Our guide’s name was Fanie (pronounced FAH-nee).  He was a really nice, down-to-earth guy who knew a lot about the desert and the various artifacts found there.  He reminded me of my dad because, though he had a job to do, he loved tooling around on his pimped out ATV!  My dad manages a landfill, but still finds time to go ‘play in the dirt’ every now and then.  We spent nearly three and a half hours exploring the desert, reaching speeds of probably about 30mph on the ATVs.  The first thing we learned to do when we got out into the dunes was descend an extremely steep slope by cutting the gas and holding down the rear brakes.  This allowed the ATV to slide down the side of the slope safely.  It was so much fun!  The best part of the whole day was that all ten of the singers and dancers were together with our boss and having a really good time.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Jamie, our cruise director, films educational segments in several of the ports we visit and has the Broadcast Manager, named Diana, edit them into episodes.  He calls them “Jamie’s Journeys” and we were fortunate enough to be a part of the one he filmed during our excursion today.  He had all ten of us run down a huge sand dune together, laughing and tumbling as we introduced the segment.  At another point in the day, we all lined our ATVs up at the top of a huge dune and descended it together.

We saw so many things as we explored the desert, it’s impossible to remember them all.  I never thought there would be so much to look at in a desert, but apparently because of the heavy fog (i.e. precipitation) that comes off the ocean, there’s a lot of life here.  You can tell, too, from the quantity of remnants left behind by villagers once living throughout the desert.  Fanie told us they would bury their dead right underneath their homes, but as wind and time took their course, those remains would often become exposed, as we saw clearly on our journey.  We also saw the fossilized remains of a muddy river basin which held the footprints of extinct animals, enormous elephants, sea birds, and buffalo.  The villagers also left behind various beads, knives, cups, and pot handles.  Amongst these artifacts, we also found rhino horns, elephant tusks, and giraffe jaw bones.  I couldn’t believe that all this was just lying about in the desert for anyone to come and see!  We were lucky enough to see some living life as well, such as a variety of beetles and insects, fruit, and even an impala.  The impala was probably the coolest thing to see because it was a charmingly statuesque mammal living in the middle of a desolate wasteland.  Impalas can jump up to 10ft high and reach speeds of 60mph.  The last thing our guide showed us before heading back was how to find water.  He started digging in the sand with his bare hands and a few moments later, he found water.  It was unbelievable to see just how quickly he was able to get to it.  We headed back to Fanie’s office to drop off our ATVs before returning to ship in time to sail away. 

Overall, Walvis Bay ended up being a great port because we got to relax a little the first day, but then had a truly unforgettable, unique experience the next day.  I will remember exploring the Namib Desert by ATV the rest of my life, and I can’t wait to do something like it again!


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