Friday, February 02, 2007

Sponky goes to Africa

Sooo, for the purposes of running 7x2hr workshops, I was shipped over to Nambia for 3 days of work and 4 days of sitting around waiting for my outgoing plane. Thanks to late decisions on amount of time required + peak season in Namibia for German tourists who want to sit by the sea, I couldn’t get my flights changed and had to spent 4 days (weekend + Monday/Tuesday) waiting for my return flight.

In the end, it turned out due to workshop rescheduling, I actually only had 2 days to run all my workshops, and ended up having effectively 5 days of entertaining myself (ok, well, more like three days of hanging around, and 2 days of work).

Thanks to the wonderful travel policies of my client, I got to fly business, which totally and unbelievably rocks. Beds incline to 15% which is so much better than economy that it’s no funny. Only problem is that when you wake up, you feel like you are about to fall out of bed because of the lean. Hotel at the Joburg airport for the overnight was great and had the one thing you really want in a hotel at the airport – good shielding in the windows – so I slept like a LOG!

When we arrived to Walvis Bay, this is where the strangeness started to kick in for me. We landed in the middle of a desert, and everything around looked like this. Tiny little airport terminal, sand dunes, roads under construction, that’s it. The beginnings of a small freak out start, but I keep it under control on the assertion that the place we are staying (Swakopmund) is very nice and the hotel is like a ‘palace’. We drive along for about 40 minutes through dunes, houses by side of the road, and eventually hit the ocean and head north. When I arrive at the aforementioned ‘palace’, I start to wonder if my boss was joking, or if ‘palace’ in Africa is actually ‘2 star nightmare with questionable security in the rooms, towels with holes and no fridge to keep stuff in’. This wasn’t helped by the person above or below or on the side of me playing loud music all night and keeping me awake. One small freak out call to my mother later, I managed to get to enough sleep to get on with the workshops.

Needless to say, the freak out was basically for nothing. Namibia is very very safe (unlike South Africa), all the people on my floor were work people, and, yes, the hotel was a bit daggy but we were out-booked by an insurance conference, so yes, it really was 2 star. Some other lucky folks got to stay out at a golf course in the middle of the desert (one of 4 or 5 in the WORLD) and their rooms where actually, yes, like a palace. After hooking up with some of the girls from Brisbane, I proceeded to have a great time.

Swakopmund is basically a German-African Noosa/Wollongong on the edge of the desert – lots of fancy houses, overpriced shops and places to get massages etc. Food was fantastic and really cheap – dinner out, a really nice dinner involving wine, and steak and chocolate mousse, was about $20 a head. Local fish was really great (especially when served smothered in butter and bits of lobster) and there was plenty of restaurants close to the hotel.

The mine site, was, well, a mine site. Hot, dry, in the middle of nowwhere. Lunches were a bit questionable (with the people who had been there a week bringing their own) but other than that, quite interesting (and I was only there 2 days - I am sure the novelty wore off after a week or two)

Zeenat and I hung out over the weekend – we went up to the local seal colony with some locals who took us on a ‘local tour’. This involved driving 100 km up the coast to the seal colony (apparently 100km is local), where the only things we say were a small town, some salt mines, and a few springbock by the side of the road. The seal colony had a whole mass of babies, and while being smelly (think septic tank combine with fertilizer) was very interesting and the babies where very cute. We even saw a jackal of some kind on the lookout for an easy lunch. After the seals, we visited the local lodge, which really defines ‘private accommodation’. I doubt you would find anyone but the national park guy for 50km in any direction. It’s a fascinating concept – you drive through desert, and little local towns and more desert, then end up at a tiny, but luxurious hotel which serves icy cold beer and has it’s own mobile tower.

Sunday was spent quad biking in the desert, with some dodgy, crusty local who took us on a combination of education/adventure tour. Even though we started at 8:30, when the sun is not out, and despite about 3 applications of sunscreen, I managed to get my first real tan in about 5 years. We got a small lesson on quad bike riding (including how to go down a dune face) and got to see some of the local mud fossils, places where bones have been exposed etc. It was enormous fun, and felt like you were going about 100km a hour, but it was more like 20km…

The rest of week involved eating, slaving over a hot computer, swearing at the local internet speeds, getting a massage, and generally relaxing on African time. The week went far faster than I expected, and the flight home was quite bearable. All the photos are here.


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