On the peaceful beach promenade of Swakopmund a cheerful park bench looks out on a chilly Atlantic Ocean that churns, crashes, foams, rumbles and roars.
After weeks in the deserts and bushland of Namibia, tasting the most delicious cinnamon crepes, as well as date and walnut muffins, was a treat. Cafes surround the town square where souvenir sellers spread their wares.
Swakopmund is a funny little town of early 20th century architecture – German of course as this was German South-West Africa from 1884 until the end of the First World War. The still noticeable German population are known as “Sud-Westers”.
As with many colonial regimes in Africa, the German rule was a tragic one for the native peoples and Namibia has seen many years of suffering before achieving its current stability.
Thankfully now they’ve replaced street names like Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse and Bismarck Strasse with more appropriate heroes such as Sam Nujoma.
Typically in the mornings a spooky sea fog rolls inland for kilometres – this is what sustains most of the shallow-rooted plant life on the gravel plains of the Namib Desert.
On the gravel plains south of Swakopmund lies a pile of apricot-coloured watered silk, with folds and shadows of dark titanium sand. These dunes are a popular spot for sandboarding (talk to the Desert Explorers Adventure Centre).
The sandboarding was a lot of fun. I opted to just slide down the dunes on a piece of plywood rather than struggling with all the snowboarding gear. Being light I went airbourne again and again. The landing was not quite so exhilarating and I had egg-shaped bruises on my hipbones for weeks afterwards!
To get to Swakopmund you should drive through Walvis Bay, where a shallow coastal lagoon contains thousands of pale pink flamingos. They strut along the shore, feeding in the shallows, and take off if you get too close, displaying their bright salmon pink underwings.
Swakopmund is a charming town and a perfect rest stop on a Namibia road trip itinerary. It’s so unexpected in its Europeanness and the hotels, cafes and restaurants are a refreshing change if you have been camping in the wilderness for weeks!
There is a museum with exhibits on local heritage and cultural history. Architectural highlights include the railway station (now a hotel), the Hohenzollern building and the lighthouse. It’s also a perfect place to stock up on souvenirs.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you had a cinnamon crepe in Swakopmund, Namibia?