Friday, April 4, 2014

Report # 96 Walvis Bay, Namibia April 4, 2014 Friday Mostly sunny, but foggy am, 70 degrees

The pier in Walvis Bay, Namibia
The Amsterdam arrived to Walvis Bay, Namibia, around 7:30am, although if you happened to be awake to watch our entry into the harbor, we doubt the dock could have been seen. Something very familiar to us, dense fog, had obscured everything in sight. For us, and everyone we know, it is an eerie feeling sailing blindly. We were glad to be safely docked by 8am.

Foggy exit from ship
It was required of all guests and crew to attend yet another face-to-face passport check with the Namibian officials. The drill was the same as we did in Durban. We also were required to pack our passports with us today.

But first we went to breakfast around 7:45am. Hoping to go out to lunch early this afternoon, we kept our meal light. Even lighter was our coffee consumption. Our number to go see immigration was 12, and it sure was taking time for them to get to that number. While waiting for the drill, one of us finished typing last night's report, while the other took a long walk on the promenade deck.

Eventually, we were called around 10am, leaving the ship by 10:30am. Even though it was still foggy, we wore our shorts, a light weight jacket, and a long sleeve fleece. We knew that the fog would lift, and the sun would come out later We were did.

The gangway
There were complimentary shuttles running from the pier to downtown Walvis Bay that took about 10 minutes. When we got off the bus in town, there were a dozen taxi guys offering cheap tours. Since we have taken every tour here, we said no thanks. That was enough to get them to go to the next possible customer. The busiest store in town was the new Pick and Pay. We did not need anything, so we kept walking towards the lagoon area of the town. Armed with a map, we walked block after block, seeing no one outside at all. Except for the busy downtown, the streets were virtually empty of people. The homes seemed to be empty of people, probably because they were all at work elsewhere. Just like last year, it gave us a very isolated feeling of loneliness. The only traffic we saw were taxi drivers, who beeped their horns as they passed us in case we needed their services.

A local church
Seaside restaurant

Modern and airy home

A thatched-roof house
A monument in Walvis Bay

Viewing the ship through the fog from town

Someone's house decorations

Another church

An apartment building

Nice hibiscus

Local seagull
Craft market near the yacht club

Small vessels in the harbor

One boat we saw

Another cafe or bar

The Yacht Club

Seaside home

Many vendors had appeared since this morning
At the lagoon, which is an extension of the shoreline, we spotted hundreds of greater flamingos, pelicans, comorants, and numerous waders and sea birds. 

Many flamingos

Greater flamingos

Gulls in flight over lagoon

Water bird

Double flamingos

A ruddy turnstone

Turnstone and shorebird

A wader
A trio of flamingo

Not sure, but not a seabird
Greater flamingo

Pretty in flight

Eating plankton

A turnstone

A wader

All alone

Tide was out
Hunting in the shallow waters offshore, was a group of four seals. Fish about one foot long were jumping out of the water everywhere we looked. So we figured the seals were chasing them. When the seals surfaced, they displayed a behavior of fin lifting, where they look like a small sailboat. We understand it is an attempt to warm up in the sun. We found it peculiar that so few people were on this stretch of civilized beachfront. The only folks we saw out and about were from the ship like us. Perhaps that was a good thing, because the further down the Esplanade we walked, we ran into a massive amount of flamingos, who were stirring the water with their feet so they could scoop up the plankton. There must have been a whole lot of feed in the pooled surf, because they ate continuously. As long as we approached them slowly, they stayed still, and we got within 20 feet of them.

Many flamingos

Black and dark pink wings

Very colorful adult


Eating in the shallows

They work the water with their feet


More crowded

Follow the food

These are younger birds

Stream-lined for flight


Little wader

Viewing carefully

If you stand still, they will come

Must be a lot of food
Thining out

Comorants warming in the sun

Turnstone eating something
Fish in the lagoon

They were at least one foot long

Not sure what they were

Tide coming back

Leaving the lagoon

More flamingos
Pelicans in flight
We figured we had walked several miles at this point, and needed to begin heading back. Our destination was The Raft, a restaurant built over the water on stilts. 

The Raft, a restaurant
They are not fancy, but they serve an excellent margherita pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, no less. Perfect. We wandered into the restaurant side, instead of the bar side. We did not realize until we read the menu, that they will not serve burgers or pizza in that side. Not a problem, we got up and moved to the bar and cafe area, where we were sipping Hansa beers in minutes. We were really happy campers when the pizza arrived. Excellent. And when we asked for the bill, we were pleased to find that all of our meal was under $10. US, and that included the tip. Sure can't beat that.

Here is where we ate lunch

The walkway to the Raft

Hansa Draft
Like the sign
Better yet, the beers

The Bar in the Raft

Margherita pizza

Prices were and beer was under $10. US
All aboard was 4pm, and we wanted to take some time to check out the carvings and souveniers at the port gate. Walking back, a lady, a fellow passenger, directed us to take a left turn to see some shops, cafes, and souvenier stands. It was around the corner, past the yacht club, and once we saw it, we remembered we had been there many years ago while on a tour. 

The jetty
The jetty
It's called The Jetty, but not really worth our time for what we were looking for. There was a unit of stalls selling some small carvings and trinkets, but the big attraction was a young native Namib woman, who was dressed in local garb. The fact that she was practically topless, an accepted custom here, she drew the tourists to take her photo as she sat in front of her wares. If you were not buying her things, she kept covering herself up. Can't say we blame her, but then, she was using her dress or undress to sell her things.

Local native did not like her photo taken
Crafts at the pier gate
Masks of Namibia

The pier gate was a fairly short walk from The Jetty, and many more vendors had set up their things while we were gone. We ended up negotiating for a pair of stick warriors, a brightly-painted man and woman in native dress. 

We bought a pair similar to these, however, taller
Larger and heavier than we usually buy, these were well done. The two vendors were asking 1200 rand ($112.US), but were willing to sell them for $70. With that amount, we knew that we could cut it in half, and deal from there. The vendors reluctantly agreed to $40, saying it was late in the day, and they knew they may not sell them. With the deal sealed, they made us promise that we would tell no one how much we paid. But we know they say that to everyone, leaving you to think you got the deal of the century. Since no other vendors had these same figurines, we had no way to compare prices, but we think we did well and were happy with the purchase.

We got back to the ship well before the magic hour of 4pm. We happened to be boarding when the kids from the Bernhard Nordkamp Centre for Namibian orphans and vunerable children were leaving the ship. The staff has been collecting donations for this society since the beginning of the world cruise. From what we understand, they raised over $4000. for the cause. The group of kids were here today to sing for us in the Queens Lounge at 2pm. We did catch it later on TV. A funny thing happened while they were leaving. A few ladies have marked their rooms with some of the helium balloons from the decorations in the dining room on formal nights. We had to laugh when some of the kids snatched a few of the balloons off of the hallway railing on their way out. Great....we hoped they had taken them all, because they drive us crazy. Everytime we pass by them in the hallway, they hit us in the face, giving us whiplash. We have no problem with marking your door with a decoration, but not three huge mylar balloons. Bet the room service fellows love them too, when they try to deliver trays full of food to the cabins.

Back onboard, we had to go back to the immigration check, and turn in our departure slips to the officials, and hand in our passports to the front desk folks. Not sure how many more times we will have to do this.

The sailaway from Walvis Bay
As tired as we were, we dragged ourselves to the sailaway on the aft deck. Joined by Larry and Cheryl, and Bill & Marianne, we all shared our day's activities with each other.

The white piles are a briny seasalt

The city in the desert

Watertower in town

Seaside homes

Many ships in port

Leaving our pier

Container ship working

Local boats
Another vessel

A drydock

Some ships had seen better days

Seabird's feeding frenzy

Two seals resting on the buoy


The pilot boat

Plane flying overhead - give tours of the skeleton coast

Dunes in the desert

Lonely feeling
One couple were most disappointed that they did not see many flamingos. Their bus driver had driven down one street to the lagoon, but the birds had moved further up the road and out of sight. Their guide said the birds were not there this time of year, an obvious lie. They could not believe we had seen hundreds and not just a handful. Come to think of it, we were told the same thing in 2005 on our first visit to Walvis Bay. We also did not know that the birds come in and out with the tides at the time. It is the luck of the draw to see them like we did today.

Bill & Marianne had gone on a 4 x 4 drive in the dunes and had a ball. They said they had so much fun, although Bill is still not feeling well since he came back from their trip in India. Unless you have had this malady (Delhi-belly), you'll never know how inconvenient it can be.

The dinner menu offered a delectable warthog entree, which one of our tablemates had ordered. When we checked the entrees in the Lido, we noticed that the recommended warthog looked like slices of rare beef. Thanks, but no thanks. The best part of dinner is hearing about everyone's experiences, because we all did something different today.

While working on reports tonight, we watched a Brad Pitt movie about zombies. It sure gave one of us some pretty bad dreams, which could have been blamed on the warthog if we had eaten that tonight.

All in all, we had a great time in Walvis Bay. Tomorrow would bring some surprising news, so keep tuned........

Sunset of Namibia

Just about done

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