The adventure capital of Namibia

After reaching the milestone of hitting our most western place during our trip, we were off to the adventure capital of Namibia, Swakopmund. This would be a wonderful place to explore the vast dunes and the ocean. Also, it meant finally a good place to get a haircut again.

During our travels so far, we had not visited a place even remotely like this. It is difficult to describe in a way that makes sense to someone who has never been there. It does have a relaxed coastal vibe along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and of all the cities we visited during our trip, it is the one that has a city center that resembles a European city center most. Furthermore, it is a town with a lot of touristic activity, as it is situated between the sand dunes of the Namib desert and the Atlantic Ocean. Here we also felt the odd 'Hollywood vibe' that we had experienced in other places in Namibia. 

We had arranged a perfect place through AirBNB. We were close to the dunes and not far from town. We unpacked Gigi COMPLETELY and stored all our stuff in the apartment. It was time to give Gigi a well deserved thorough cleaning. With enough room in the apartment and accompanying little garden, we could finally have every inch and corner cleaned. 

Besides a good cleaning, we had also planned for Gigi to be serviced. It was quite some time ago since the fuel filter was checked and we also wanted a new air filter. This was high time, as there were some strange fumes coming out of the exhaust. We went to one of the mechanics who were recommended to us and they had some space for us in two days. Since the fumes were quite new to us, we had them checked. They did some quick checks, conclusion: probably nothing and most likely some bad fuel we had bought along the way. 

We spent some time at different coffee shops and went to some really nice restaurants. It really felt like we arrived in some French holiday town. In the meantime, every time we went for a drive with our car we smoked up the entire street. Either the fuel was REALLY bad, or we had some other problems. Anyway, first it was time for some adventure! We rented two fatbikes and biked around in the dunes, our first experience in the dunes!

One of the activities we could do from Swakopmund, was the so called 'Living desert' experience. The desert seems to be completely desolate, but under the sand there are many animals that survive the harsh conditions. We were on our way to find them! Our guide, Wolfgang, was amazing. He was really careful and clearly showed a love for anything that lives in the desert. Due to the desert meeting with the ocean, there is an almost guaranteed misty morning every day. A small beetle, called a Toktokkie, uses its body to gather the moist from the air. This makes it a 'water bomb', that feeds the Namaqua chameleon, the palmato gecko (web footed gecko), the shovel snouted lizard. These animals in turn feed the venomous sidewinder snake. These are 4 of the 'small 5' that are most likely to be found in the Namib desert. The fifth is the dancing white lady spider. In contrast to the former 4, we were very unlikely to see the dancing white lady spider, due to its nocturnal habits. To protect them and their reproduction, they are not dug up during a living desert game drive. 

The other 4 of the small 5 were quite likely to be seen. With the naked and untrained eye, it is almost impossible to see them. Fortunately, Wolfgang is not untrained. After being pointed into the right direction by one of his colleagues, he spotted some specific markings in the sand. We had to wait in suspense as he made sure he found was he was looking for. When he found the animal, we were asked to make one line and stay in that line, in order to not accidentally step on one of the tiny animals that might be hiding. We thought that if there was an animal, we would see it. But as soon as we reached Wolfgang, we learned that even if we see only sand, there might just be an animal hiding somewhere. 

Hiding under a very thin layer of sand, with only the eyes sticking out and with scales with exactly the same colors as the grains of sand, was the highly venomous side winder snake. Wolfgang knew exactly what we could do and what we definitely should not do. We watched the snake for some time and headed on. Within no-time we saw the gecko and the chameleon as well. Since we were with a small group, we had enough time to take some beautiful photos. Getting low enough for the 'perfect' angle was difficult at times, but it was a wonderful challenge. 

During our drink and snack break, there was suddenly some commotion. A small scorpion was making its way to us. Although there are quite some scorpions in the desert, they are not commonly seen. We were really lucky! The little scorpion was super active, so taking a good photo was quite impossible, but we did manage to get some shots. Then we went on with the trip and we were lucky enough to also find the shovel snouted lizard on the way. Wolfgang was really amazing in what he was able to tell us. He also told a lot about how the Namib desert got to have different colors of sand. From the orange/red Kalahari desert in Botswana, a lot of sand with iron particles flows through the Oranjerivier, on the border between Namibia and South Africa, to the Atlantic ocean. In the Atlantic ocean, the oxidation gets washed off the iron particles. The particles are blown east into the Namib desert, where they are light grey/light brownish. As they are blown eastward over time, the particles slowly oxidize again and turn orange/ red as they are blown further east, until they reach the Kalahari again. From there, the cycle starts again. 

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