Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Surreal Day in Walvis Bay, Namibia (Nov. 17, 2010)

We had another formal night and the Captain’s cocktail party where they honour those passengers who have sailed the most with Princess. I think the winning couple had something like 652 days, not as many as we have seen on other cruises, but way more than we’ll ever have. Nancy and I taking it in…

Four lovely sea days!! We crossed the equator on November 13 and the next day they held a ceremony at the pool. Those who have never crossed the equator are called Polliwogs, and upon entering the domain of his Royal Majesty, King Neptune, all pollies are subject to various initiation rituals, performed by those who have done the ritual before. Upon completion of the ceremony, the pollies are then known as Shellbacks. It’s a pretty messy affair as we have seen on one other cruise.

The band was playing and it was a very breezy day…

The pool area is lovely. One thing we have noticed about the small ships is that it is never crowded. It is so nice…

Lailen and Jim…she was one of our favourite bartenders.

The ceremony begins with King Neptune and his Queen Double D making their entrance.

People do volunteer for this ceremony, although I think this lady might have been regretting it. They dump all kinds of goop on you. Seriously, I think the ceremony should come with protective eyewear!

How icky is that?!

This guy was brought before King Neptune on charges of gluttony. I think that could have applied to a lot of us. The crew was yelling at the crowd for “thumbs down."

They decided to remove the excess food he had been eating…

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What a mess! The people used to jump in the pool to clean up, but thankfully they didn’t do that on this cruise.

The ceremony turned into a bit of a food fight!

And everyone tried to shower off the gunk...

The poor crew…I am sure they hate crossing the equator!

Then it was on to Walvis Bay, Namibia. According to archaeological findings the Walvis Bay coastline was home to small groups of Topnaars, the indigenous tribes, for thousands of years. It was discovered in 1487 by a Portuguese navigator while searching for a sea route to the East. It wasn’t until many centuries later that North American and European whalers began using Walvis Bay as a hunting ground for whales.

The flag of Namibia...

With its large bay and sand dunes, it is also the tourism activity centre of Namibia. Our private tour was taking us to Sandwich Harbour to visit the dunes. Our guide, Ernest, met us and we were off with six of us on board. I hoped we would manage to stay out of trouble today. Nancy and Ernest getting acquainted…

We passed along what the locals refer to as Millionaire’s Row...


And stopped at the beach for our first flamingo viewings. The coastal wetlands attract as many as 20,000 flamingos to the shallow lagoons…and some big jellyfish!

They were very pretty. The adults are pink and the young flamingos are a gray colour.





Our vehicle for the day. It was nice that everyone had a window seat.


They were letting the air out of the tires in preparation for driving on the sand.

It was very foggy and quite cool. Ernest showed us this tree, which collects all the droplets of water from the fog and manages to sustain itself in a difficult climate.

Huge salt pans dot the landscape. Between 180,000 and 400,000 tons of salt are recovered here each year for shipment throughout Africa.

The salt piles are almost whited out against the background...

A steep climb up the dune…

These are vegetated dunes. Previously it was all vegetation, but the sand has moved in and covered most it leaving only the hardiest.


This Land Rover is travelling with us, although it will regret it later!

Hyena and jackal tracks…they catch birds and lizards and they eat dead seals…all part of the circle of life.


A dead seal…we saw many of them. The water here is very cold as it flows from the Antarctic. The seals body temperature gets too low and they come onto the sand to get warm. Sometimes they are unable to make it back to the water and die.

As soon as we would stop, the seals would start smelling the air trying to figure us out. Then they would head for the water.


This seal ran (flippered?) right in front of the truck. 

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Lots of fish to be caught…

The fog is starting to lift…


Jim and Kim in Namibia…I can't say I ever thought I would be here, or that it would be so beautiful!

The fog makes everything almost appear to be one colour.

I walked over to the dune, but I had no intention of trying to climb it! Crikey...it looks like I was drunk!

The six of us…Nancy and Joe, Ivor and Judith (who are teaching bridge on board the ship), and us…

The jackals were wary of us, but not afraid. Ernest explained that they are used to the fishermen, but if you tried to get too close, they started to back away.

How cute is that!



Beautiful cormorants flying by…it really was a birdwatchers paradise…


We were starting to see some colour changes in the surroundings as the fog lifted…


Lovely reflection in the water…

The cormorant with its wings open was drying itself…

The sand was covered in beautiful seashells. In the photo they looked white, but up close were different colours.


At this point, Ernest decided to take us on a nature walk. He was very knowledgeable about the birds, animals, flora and fauna, but I don’t think any of us thought this was the kind of tour we were on. We started out with good intentions…


These jackals watched us as we walked by, and one of them started to follow us…





He was stalking us now…in a nice way!

The blue sky was breaking through at last…

Ernest was going to take us around this whole point. One by one, everyone started dropping out. Jim and I slogged on...

Neat to catch the shadows of the cormorants on the dunes…

This is sandphair and looks really prickly, but was actually quite soft. Ernest convinced us to take off our shoes…

More flamingos…

The colour of their wings when they opened them was just stunning. I guess it will have to remain in my memory because I was never quite able to capture it.

One of the guys in the other vehicle decided to climb the dune. You go for it!

His wife was at the bottom and he was the tiny speck more than halfway up.

We had left our whole group behind by now. Ernest still thought they were going to come along and kept waiting for them, until we convinced him it wasn’t going to happen! They were just little specks in the distance...

Amazing what survives in the desert. The flowers had a very light perfume.

The bracken bush collects water and when you squeezed the buds, you got quite a bit of moisture from them.

And we were still walking. The sand was bloody hot by now and we were trying to stay on the grasses or in the water.

These flamingo feathers are what was left from a jackal or hyena kill. Ernest showed us that it was an adult as the feathers were pink (not that we can see it!).

What a beautiful day it turned out to be…

This scrubby looking stuff contains the nara fruit. The fruit provides food for humans and animals. It is rich in Vitamin C and was discovered long ago by sailors to prevent scurvy. The seeds inside are similar to sunflower seeds and provide protein and oils, which have a natural UV protection.


We are almost at the turnaround point…

Getting ready to head back…

Jim and Ernest…

The dunes run for 500 kilometres down the coast without anything man made to disturb them. The Namib Desert has some of the tallest dunes in the world.

I was so happy I brought my shoes! The sand was boiling hot by now!

And we made it back where Ernest set up our chairs for a picnic lunch.

Our mates next to us were trying to find some shade.

Lunch is served! Lasagna, salad, German bread and pate….yum!!

It was delicious!

Look at the brilliant sky!

This hut is what remains of a small settlement that was near the water. The other dwellings are buried in the sand behind. Isn’t that amazing? Ernest showed us a picture of what it looked like in 1947. The sand has reclaimed the land once again.

We were flying along the beach and there was very little room between the water and the dunes. The tide was coming in and we weren't wasting any time. 

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Yippee! Riding up and down the dunes…


Here come our travelling mates…

And here is why they weren’t so happy to be travelling with us. Ernest got quite excited when he saw some sort of neat bush or bug to show us. He saw a large cormorant and slammed the Land Rover in reverse to show it to us. Unfortunately, the second Land Rover was right behind us. That was a shock! We hit them quite hard…another adventure. Everyone was OK but a bit shaken up. However, later Ernest got a call from them when their steering quit and he had to go rescue them.

This is their guide…he found this hole that a jackal had dug to find water. It’s amazing that you don’t have to go down that far before you find water.

You can see the jackal’s claw marks…

Lots of nara fruit here…

Ernest ran up the dune when he saw a tiny lizard. That man was amazing. He captured it and brought it back down to us, slightly out of breath. Most people would have a hard time walking up the dune.

The roots of an old nara plant.

See the little tubes that allow it to retain moisture…

Ernest flew out of the Land Rover again to bring in this beetle to show us. The beetle's grip is so unique that Adidas used the same concept for one of the grips on its sneakers.

Another dead seal…phew…they stink!

Back into the lower hilly sections now…


And we’re headed back to town past the flamingos...



The one on the right looks like a big pineapple…

Nice city, or what we saw of it…



Ernest found us a wine store…

And we were back at the port!

Lots of salt ready for shipment…

And it’s all aboard…next stop is Luderitz!

It was a fantastic day in Walvis Bay!

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