To the cool breeze and the fresh smell of ocean. The thought of crashing waves and soft grey sand to burrow your toes in and run your fingers through is irresistible. Long barefoot walks on the beach as thousands of cormorants fly past in never ending lines and Damara Terns lift off as you get closer. The freezing temperature of the water catching you unawares when the surf covers your footprint.
There is nothing like the hazy, pastel-coloured, seemingly nothingness of the Atlantic coast to heal an overstimulated, overworked and over-worried body and soul in the year of Corona.
The image of a cooler box under the multi-coloured umbrella, beach bats and small bodies covered in sand against a half-built sand castle, keeps popping up from my subconscious mind. A striped windshield creating a protective circle under a gazebo tied to the Combi and the portable braai contraption completes my picture of many summer days at Langstrand. As the holiday season progresses you are bound to lose some of the space to more sun seekers. At the height of the holiday season between Christmas and New Year, the perfect protection is to gather your own crowd and create your private little beach village in the sand. Just be aware of the high water mark. You may have to move to the second row if you pitch your village too close to the water at low tide.
A sunny day at the beach is never a given along the south-western Atlantic coast. But after a hot, dry summer inland those soothing cool foggy days are a welcome respite. The fog seldom lasts an entire day, granting you some reward in a beautiful sunset, a midday sojourn and even a sunrise over the dunes.
For a first-timer there is help when you don’t own a body board, or a fishing rod, or a four-wheel drive for a day-trip to Sandwich Harbour, or a quad bike to conquer the dunes, a camel or a fat bike.
But a foggy day is also the perfect opportunity to join a “Little Five” tour from Swakopmund. You think you know everything there is to know about the desert because you spent your summer holidays there since childhood? Wrong. The guides know everything. And they know how to make it interesting for children and grown-ups of all ages. It is the perfect family day out.
For a first-timer there is help when you don’t own a body board, or a fishing rod, or a four-wheel drive for a day-trip to Sandwich Harbour, or a quad bike to conquer the dunes, a camel or a fat bike. All of those can be rented in Swakop together with a knowledgeable old-timer to show you the ropes.
That even goes for jumping from an aircraft with a parachute or from a dune with a hang glider.
The level of expertise you need to make the most of it, or mostly at least “make it” depends on your experience. But even if you have none, there is still the opportunity to be drifting down in tandem. This year you can even rent a Segway and cruise through town to the amazement of onlookers.
And then there are the getting-up-early-to-explore kind of days, with a picnic basket in the back of the car and maybe that same collapsible braai. Such explorations can take you along the main road inland to the turn-off for a quick look at precious stones and then onwards to the Spitzkoppe camping sites for a picnic/braai. If you arrive early enough, it will be worth scaling the flat rock surfaces of Little Spitzkoppe. It is a glorious view from there.
A worthwhile excursion at the coast is driving north to Cape Cross to see what hundreds of seals look like in one colony. It stinks, but if you are aware of that and have a buff around your neck to keep away viruses it will come in handy. Take a minute or two to at least read the inscriptions on the cross. It is fascinating history. There is a lodge close by for a beer and a bite, but if you need time to get your appetite back, Henties Bay is just over half an hour away. Fishy Corner is known for fresh kabeljou and the hotel on the dune is not a bad stop for a beer.
North of Cape Cross the coast journey is the destination, if you like landscapes. Reset your eyes when you pass Henties and start looking for the delicate shapes and colours of the gravel plains, the mountains, stones, rocks and plants, the ocean and the horizon. If you are a true explorer, turn off to Messum – a crater which is only identifiable as such from the air – and look for the ancient Welwitschia mirabilis.
Buy a permit in Swakop to visit Terrace Bay which allows you to enter the Skeleton Coast Park through the Ugab gate. If the wind blows fiercely from the east, there is a wonderful opportunity to photograph the foam on the crest of the waves being pushed back into the sea. Pass the mouth of the Huab River which forms an interesting small lagoon and then drive on through the Uniab River where one sometimes encounters springbok. There is a restaurant at Terrace Bay serving fresh fish at lunchtime. Best, of course, is to book two days and go fishing. Don’t miss the Torra Bay camping site along the way. It is rather intriguing.