Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 1st – Dinner in Namibia’s Desert

We've finally crossed the Atlantic, and arrived in less-than-exotic port of Walvis Bay. But, what Walvis Bay itself lacks in charm, is more than made up for by the wonderful access that it provides to Namibia's vast arid deserts, with their timeless haunting landscapes.

Just the view of the city from the ship confirms that it's the desert that dominates everything here – the city only creeps a few blocks back into the desert sands which appear to be ready to swallow up the entire town. Actually, Walvis Bay is growing relatively fast, and with a population of about 70,000, it's the second largest city in Namibia. However, a trip into town on the shuttle bus confirms that it has a frontier feeling to it – it's wide empty streets having a bit of a "Wild West" atmosphere. That said, it's all very clean and has a modern feel to it, although it doesn't have any specific attractions in town.

So, we came here for the desert, and we certainly got it that evening, with a spectacular "Silversea Experience", that took pretty much the whole ship into the desert for a complimentary dinner experience.

We were loaded into vans for the bumpy trip out of town and onto the rutted gravel roads that cross the desert, passing huge dunes constantly changing colour as the sun went down. Just as it seemed we were being driven to the middle of nowhere, we rounded a dune, and came upon our desert encampment. Here, with nothing but sand all around us, was a luxurious marquee, where fabulous food and entertainment were laid on for us – it was a surreal experience.

Tracy had scarcely been able to walk for the last couple of days after her Jacobs Ladder experience in St Helena, but now she had the feeling back in her legs, we decided to test her strength by climbing up the dune overlooking our camp. We struggled our way to the top just as the sun was setting over the sea in the distance – a breathtaking view.

Going down was certainly easier than going up, and we bounded down to the bottom, where a couple of camels were waiting to take us on a brief camel ride – at least this experience made the bouncing van trip to the desert seem comfortable.

In the camp, we were treated to atmospheric music from a marimba band and inspiring singing from a fantastic local choir, before we sat down to a tasty feast that had somehow been prepared for us in the middle of nowhere. As the desert sky turned pitch black (sadly it was cloudy so we couldn't get to appreciate the stars), we watched a mesmerising couple of fire dancers spinning round balls of fire on ropes, to the hypnotic beats of the marimba band.

A quite wonderful evening - one that reminds me how privileged I am to be doing this.