By Mehdy Ghannad
We all woke at the Gruner Kranz hotel/hostel in Swakopmund to an omelet breakfast. Yes, for an extra fee, Gruner Kranz has a buffet breakfast equipped with an omelet station--not a bad way to start the morning! As I was waiting for my monstrous veggie omelet to be made, I took a quick tour of the rest of the premises. This place has a fully stocked bar, nightclub, full dining hall, adventure booking center to plan all your adrenaline activities, sun deck, large patio, and a ton of different types of bedrooms. It was just awesome; you literally did not have to leave as you had everything right there. The proximity of the hostel to everything in the city was great--you could walk to bars, restaurants, the beach, and most of the major attractions.
We fueled up on our omelet breakfast and quickly got ready to venture out. On tap for the morning was to hit the sand dunes of the Namib Desert. The Namib sweeps for more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi) along the Atlantic coasts of Namibia, South Africa, and Angola. The desert has some of the tallest and most spectacular dunes in the world, exceeding 300 meters (984 ft.) in height.
Hearing all this, we could not shy away from an adventure. There are a few ways to enjoy the roller coaster rides of the Namib sand dunes. We embarked on a 3-hour adventure with Desert Explorers, a local adventure outfitter, of quad biking and sand boarding. Go full throttle through the desert on an ATV and then jump on a piece of plastic to slide down it? YES PLEASE… sign me up for that!
After a quick safety lesson, we were turned loose and started ripping through the sand. Up and down the sand dunes we went. The drop offs at some points were ridiculously steep, so if you took a turn too hard then there was a strong possibility that you would go tumbling down a mountain. We all made sure to follow our guide Antwon’s tracks closely. Taking sharp turns and watching the small avalanches of sand crumble at our wheel was intense.
Antwon’s bike was twice as powerful as the rest of ours, so trying to keep up with him with just our 125 cc engine bikes was pretty much impossible. I had to be in full throttle in order to keep him in my eyesight. Antwon then decided to show off a bit and proceeded to take his quad on to two wheels while he still blew past us. Not fair at all, if you ask me, as I am sure if I attempted that trick I would have ended up in the Namibian hospital.
We finally arrived at the location where we will be spending the next hour sledding down the sand. I have sledded down many a snow hill in my day, but I never thought I would be sledding down sand. My last memory of sledding was back in college when I used to "borrow" a food tray from the food court and hit the hills during the first snowfall. As I crept over the edge of the hill, my stomach plummeted--I didn’t recall the hills back in college being this steep, but there was no turning back now. I jumped on the piece of plastic, got a push off from Antwon and less than 10 seconds later I was down the hill. What a rush! To be completely honest, my first attempt did have me eating sand. I actually flipped a few times towards the end of the trip down the sand hill. My pockets, socks shoes, and mouth were full of sand.
Finally the rest of the crew had a go at it--first Devin, then Evan, and then finally the big guy, Boomer. After Boomer went down the hill, he let out this jolly laugh that made us all laugh including the guide. The biggest pain about going down the sand dunes was once you made it to the bottom, you had to climb back up to the top. Talk about exhausting.
We de-sanded ourselves and jumped back on the quads to head back to town. The rest of the day we spent cruising around Swakopmund. Aside from being the adventure capital in Namibia, Swakopmund is also a beach resort town. Europeans and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt hit the coasts of Swakopmund for the warm weather and the beaches. The city was founded in 1892 as a German port town, and you can still see the heavy German influence in the architecture and even hear German on the streets. It being Sunday in Namibia, the streets were really empty. We decided to head back to the hostel to enjoy all the amazing accommodations.