July 25, 2013

Days 9-11 (a pretty big deal)

Spent a few days in Swakopmund, which is something of a Bavarian Stepford town bound between the Atlantic Ocean and a vast desert of dunes.  In Namibia.  If you've ever tried to picture Africa, this probably isn't what you imagined.  

Entering Swakopmund

With its German architecture and wide, well-paved streets, you can feel a wealth that's not only out of place but a bit ostentatious as well.  It's a town where South Africans have beach vacation homes where they come to partake of the adrenaline-rush tourist activities for which Swakopmund is known: Skydiving, sand-boarding, and quad-biking on the dunes.  


Something that looks suspiciously like Starbucks but had a great balsamic veggie wrap

In case of tourist troubles necessitating a figurative life raft

Week 1 of the trip had been trying.  It was cold; I was sick; and there were too many people.  Of course, many of the people were very, very nice.  But nice doesn't much matter if you're not able to get the proper allotment of alone-time to recharge.    

So I took some time.  Walked around town alone and spent time at an internet cafe/craft shop (replete with buttons, beads, crepe paper, and ribbon), where I tried to convince friends from home to fly out and meet me in Victoria Falls, to embark on the second half of the trip independently.  I also applied for a cool-sounding job that requested a working knowledge of Portuguese.  

But after getting all that out of the way, I went on a Dolphin Cruise, drinking a champagne flute of brandy in the early morning fog and watching pelicans swoop around us.  And while there was a paucity of dolphins, seals were plentiful, including several who jumped on board to say hi.  

Seal colony

Surfing our wake



But the biggest score was the sighting of a gray whale on our way back to shore.  Gray whales were thought to be extinct in the Atlantic Ocean for some 300 years, with the first southern hemisphere sighting only one month before.  Apparently, for marine biologists, this is a pretty big deal.  The Wikipedia entry for gray whales even has an update from our sighting in June, 2013:  

The gray whale is distributed in an eastern North Pacific (North American) population and a critically endangered western North Pacific (Asian) population. North Atlantic populations were extirpated (perhaps by whaling) on the European coast before 500 AD and on the American coast around the late 17th to early 18th centuries.[6] However, on May 8, 2010, a sighting of a gray whale was confirmed off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea,[7] leading some scientists to think they might be repopulating old breeding grounds that have not been used for centuries.[7] In May and June 2013 a gray whale was sighted off the coast of Namibia -- the first confirmed in the Southern Hemisphere.

That was us!

Grey whaling in the southern Atlantic

So the dolphin cruise became a seal 'n whale cruise, which just goes to show that even things that go awry may be awry for the better.

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