I write from the South Atlantic after a hectic few days (and catching up on some sleep). Our voyage from Cape Town to Walvis Bay was conducted with a good south-east force 7 gale up our backside and a large swell. It is at times like this when one realises what wonderful sea-keeping qualities this class of ship has; what could have been ‘uncomfortable’ was in fact quite reasonable.
Walvis Bay, Namibia, lies in just that, a bay; nestled behind a sandy peninsular, protected from the elements to a great degree, I first called here in the 70’s, loading bags of fish-meal for Europe on a cargo ship. Since then it has expanded of course, however I remember that back in those days, a couple of our Engineers ‘borrowed’ a steam train one night and took it for a jaunt around the docks 🙄 . Today, the port is going to expand even further, there are grand plans to dredge vast amounts of sand and make it one of the foremost ports of Africa.
The area was settled by Germans and Swakopmund, 13 miles to the north, is the principal coastal town and it was here that Karen and I headed for photos and sightseeing. On the way, the first thing that strikes you is the sand; the main road from Walvis to Swakopmund has a relentless battle against the encroaching dunes, for here lies the western edge of the Namibian desert, a few hundred meters away lies the sea of the Skeleton coast, (so named because of the number of shipwrecks), whilst to the east, a vast expanse of ‘nothingness’.
Swakopmund on the other hand, is a lovely town with Germanic architecture, wide streets, (wide enough for a wagon and a span of oxen to turn) and very friendly people. It relies heavily on tourism, the Namib desert providing opportunities for trekking, 4-wheel expeditions, camel-riding, skydiving, dune-buggy riding, to name but a few.
Having wandered around the town, (me photos, Karen shopping), we walked down to the beach. Here we found a pier, built in 1905 to take arriving cargo from ships, (which previously had to be brought ashore by boats, onto the beach). Such is the power of nature here that, not long after it had been completed, the nearby Swakopmund River, in full spate, washed sufficient sand off the beach to leave the pier high and dry! It took several years for nature to reverse this inconvenient occurrence. At the end of the pier we partook of a wonderful lunch, fresh sea-food (obviously) being in abundance as the passing Benguela current brings a plentiful supply of fish. To my delight, grilled sardines were on the menu, one of my favourite meals; as expected, it was wondrous.
For the past 3 or so days I have been involved in discussions with our corporate officers about a change of itinerary. 2 of our forthcoming calls were to West Africa and in particular, to areas where there is an Ebola virus outbreak. While any risk is very low, it is apparent from my many chats with guests, that it is foremost in their mind. As their well-being is my responsibility, I thought it prudent to avoid these ports if possible and so it came to pass. We are now by-passing Gambia and Senegal and instead going to 2 calls in the Cape Verde Islands, one an ‘overnight’ and adding St. Lucia as another Caribbean port. I am hoping this be well-received and allay any concerns that they had.
So, as I write, we are heading for St. Helena, another of my regular calls during my Mail-ship days, very ‘British’, it is a delightful island and one which I know our guests will enjoy.