Category Archives: Windhoek

Windhoek

My favourite things to do in Swakopmund

Namibia is one of my all time favourite places to visit. I spent many happy years traveling back and forth for work. It didn’t seem like work to me – it was a pleasure and a privilege to travel to that beautiful country. In my spare time, I did get to see a bit of the country.

Windhoek-Swakopmund Roadtrip

The changing scenery on the road from Windhoek to to Swakopmund
The changing scenery on the road from Windhoek to to Swakopmund

The coastal town, Swakopmund, is about 261kms (162 miles) from the capital Windhoek. Off course you can fly to Swakopmund, but then you’ll miss the sheer beauty and stark scenery change from bushveld to rolling sand dunes, all in the space of 3 hours. Rent a car at the Hosea Kutako International Airport and make the trip – the roads are good, and there are 2 towns in between Karibib and Usakos where you can stop and get refreshments. This road trip itself is an event to savour. Put on your favorite music and enjoy the drive.

Cafe Anton

Legendary coffee shop, Cafe Anton, sublime coffee and delicious German cakes and pastries
Legendary coffee shop, Cafe Anton, sublime coffee and delicious German cakes and pastries

This coffee shop is legendary and any visit to this quaint desert town on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean is not complete without a visit to this warm and cozy German bakery. The coffee is sublime. The home-made cakes and pastries made from traditional German family recipes are mouthwateringly good! Cafe Anton is part of the Hotel Schweizerhaus. Sit on the patio and look over the palm trees at the rolling Atlantic waves, and if you happen to be there at sunset, be prepared for a wonderful experience.

Sandboarding

Zipping down sand dunes on a piece of masonite is thrilling. Alter-action are one of the many adventure providers in town. In addition to the masonite boards, they introduced snowboards to skim down the dunes. You can choose how you want to do it – masonite or snowboard. I chose the masonite, the snowboard just looked too daunting for me. There are about 6 routes to skim down, and you move from one to the next. Off course, the fun part is going down – because to go down again you have to climb up the soft sand dunes. This operator provides water, and at the end a light lunch. They also take photos and video as a memento of your experience. Remember your sunblock and hat.

Die Muschel

Fairy cakes at Die Muschel served with style
Fairy cakes at Die Muschel served with style

This is a bookshop with a coffee shop on the patio outside. Let me get this out of the way – the coffee is sublime, and the home made cupcakes divine, served in style with folded napkin and little silver fork. Now to the rest. It’s a book shop and an art gallery too. Browse through the english and german books, and admire the local art, for sale, on the walls. It’s in a cute little arcade in the centre of town, and is popular with locals and tourists.

The Beachfront

Swakopmund jetty over the rolling waves of the Atlantic, with the Tiger Reef Bar in the distance, and the dunes of the Namib desert just behind it
Swakopmund jetty over the rolling waves of the Atlantic, with the Tiger Reef Bar in the distance, and the dunes of the Namib desert just behind it

This is not one specific place – it is actually a walk you can take, along the beach or on the paved palm-fronded promenade. Start at The Mole, the sea-wall originally intended to be a harbour, but now protecting the beach. Admire the beautiful bungalows and double storied beach houses, until you get to the restored jetty. If you feel hungry, try the restaurant at the end of the jetty and enjoy spectacular views of the town, the sea and the desert. while enjoying sushi, tapas or seafood  Or you can lunch at The Tug, the boat shaped restaurant,in front of the jetty. Continue along the beach until you get to the National Marine Aquarium. After visiting the Aquarium, walk along the beach to finish the day off with sundowners at the Tiger Reef Beach Bar while watching intrepid kite surfers ride the strong wind and sea currents.

Swakopmund is a friendly town which offers so much more than that mentioned above. Visit sites like Trip Advisor, for more information. It’s a popular tourist spot, with natural, cultural and heritage sights to visit, and activities to do for anyone and everyone.

Being in Namibia

I spent many years traveling to Namibia on projects and came to really enjoy the country. It is beautiful. It is a land of contrasts with scenery that leaves one open-mouthed in wonder.

When I changed companies 5 or so years ago I stopped coming to Namibia, and I’ve missed it. Now I’m back for a short holiday. I wondered if it was going to feel different, as so often things do when one tries to recreate a feeling or experience. And I can honestly say that it feels just as good as it did 5 years ago. This country grounds me.

It takes 2 hours by plane to arrive in Windhoek. Half-way through the flight things become very turbulent as the plane encounters fluctuations created by the rising of the hot desert air which creates thermal bubbles.

Coming into Windhoek’s airport – the Hosea Kutako International Airport – for the first time can be very alarming. Especially if you’re a tourist from Europe or America. Because there is just deserted scrubland and steppes, it looks like the plane is about to land in the middle of nowhere. I have, on many occasions, witnessed the alarmed looks on tourists’ faces as the plane comes in to land, thinking that the pilot is making an emergency landing! After the turbulence of the descent, they can be excused for thinking that :-)! Relief floods their faces when they see that the plane is actually landing on tar and not on sand.

The airport is about 45 kms east of Windhoek and the drive in to the city is starkly beautiful. Immediately striking for me are the colours of the land. The gradations of colour in the mountains  – greys to browns to violet and then to pink as it meets the azure of the clear sky – grounds me immediately, making me feel close to nature. In fact, wherever one is in Namibia, one is close to nature.

Road from Hosea Kutako airport to Windhoek
Road from Hosea Kutako airport to Windhoek

After spending Wednesday visiting all my old Windhoek haunts (and a shopping trip to Maerua Mall) I started the drive to Swakop on Thursday morning. I could’ve flown directly to Walvis Bay but deliberately chose to come the long way. From Windhoek to Swakopmund is a 4 hour drive, and one of my favourite road trips of all time. I have done it 5 times, most of them on my own. One can drive for 20 kms without meeting another car. It is a time for thinking and reflection. I drove most of the way listening Linkin Park’s Living Things playing rather loudly, lost in my thoughts.

Trans-Kalahari B2 to Swakopmund - outside Usakos
Trans-Kalahari B2 to Swakopmund – outside Usakos

I will always remember the first time I drove to Swakop in 2005. It was in a Toyota Condor, a huge vehicle for one person but that’s all Avis had. I remember nervously looking at the petrol gauge every 10 minutes or so because it moved very fast DOWN towards EMPTY. I left Windhoek at noon on a Friday and wanted to get in before sunset. I was naturally nervous about running out of petrol in the middle of nowhere so I played it safe and topped up at each of the only 2 small towns on the way – Usakos and Karibib. If I ran out of petrol I’d be spending the night in the car. I made it in just as the sun was setting and it was spectacular. Some of my best sunset photos have been taken in Swakopmund.

This time I am visiting a dear friend who lives there. Today, it is windy and cool outside, the sky is clear. Yesterday evening we went for a walk to the beach and back. This morning we’ve been for coffee and shopping for the braai tonight. Despite having been warned, I came totally unprepared for the chill. My friend says that winters are warm in Swakopmund and springs are cold.

Swakopmund sunset - Main Beach and The Mole
Swakopmund sunset – Main Beach and The Mole

It’s good to be back. It will not be the last time. In fact, I may even move here one day :-)! Now, where’s that property section of the paper…

 

A storm over Windhoek

Incoming April storm in Windhoek, Namibia

I love photographing natural phenomena like storms and sunsets. I am not a professional grade photographer nor do I have professional grade equipment. I take loads of photos. Out of all those photos a handful will be stunning, for me. There is a certain pride, “Did I capture that? Wow!” I especially love capturing the progression of sunsets and storms and then seeing them in sequence, moving very fast, like a stop-frame movie.

A few years back I spent a lot of time in Namibia. It is such an amazing country. The colours of Namibia is what I remember the best. The raw naturalness of the landscape. No matter where one is, nature is right there. It is beautiful, and dangerous, a land of extremes.

Windhoek is boiling in summer, and freezing at night in winter. It is a small city by comparison. It is a charming city, its architecture a mix of German and colonial. It is a city is built on hilly terrain. The Hosea Kutako International Airport is located 50 kms away from the city because it is the closest strip of flat land where a runway could be built.

The road to the airport is a good well maintained road, well marked and sign-posted. It is a beautiful drive. From the centre of Windhoek it takes about 30 minutes to get there. There are passing lanes in case of slow traffic. If one is lucky, game can be seen on the side of the road. The recommendation is to stick to the speed limit (it’s a respectable 120 kms per hour) in case of needing to brake suddenly to make way for crossing animals.

This post’s photo was taken atop a koppie in the western suburbs of Windhoek. I used to love driving to the highest points in Windhoek to see how many storms I could see in a 360 degree radius. It was amazing to see 4, sometimes 5 storms in the distance. Sometimes they moved over the city. Sometimes they didn’t.

This particular storm moved in right over where we were. There was thunder and lightning. We stayed until the rain started, then rushed down the track to the car. It was exhilarating.

I haven’t been back for 4 years and I miss Namibia. Hopefully I will make it there this year.