Sand-boarding and Mondesa township

Swakopmund Travel Blog

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My top speed was 67km/hr

Didn't wake up til a very relaxing 7:30am, had some muesli for breakfast then at 9:30am joined everyone who was going sand-boarding today. I was doing the lie-down boarding with Cat and Jo, and Simon, Rosie, Tammy and Karl were doing the stand-up boarding, which was R100 more (and which I didn't think my dodgy knees could handle). The dunes were only about a 15min drive away. We had a very quick lesson - elbows up, lift the front of the board, legs together and put your feet down to brake - then donned our helmet, elbow pads and gloves before beginning the exceedingly long and utterly exhausting hike up to the top of the dune. The worst part was that the very last section was the hardest and you sank so far into the sand with each step! Killer. Anyway, finally made it and sat there huffing and puffing for awhile before doing the first run.

We had to climb to the top of this...
It was such an adrenalin rush tipping off over the edge down onto the very steep slope. What a buzz! In total there were 6 runs which meant we had to climb the damn dunes 6 times! My knees were really quaking and suffering despite the 2 anti-inflammatory capsules I'd taken this morning prophylactically. The tandem run was probably the most boring, as we didn't go too fast. I went down with Cat as Jo was too tired. The run before that, for which the speed record was 60km/hr, I got 59km/hr (they had a speed gun!) and was feeling very happy with myself until Jo BROKE the record at 65km/hr - WOW! It was awesome. The biggest run of the day the record was 82km/hr. The best I could manage was 67km/hr though I did get serious air in the middle of the run and a bit again at the end! Poor Jo had a MASSIVE wipe out on that one though, when she was travelling at 65km/hr.
See how far we had to walk from the truck! It was exhausting
She started rolling and rolling and took forever to stop. I was still waiting on top for my turn so couldn't immediately see if she'd hurt herself or not but when I got to the bottom it was obvious she'd done something to her right wrist, which was already bruised and very swollen, also possibly her left wrist, which was bruised, and her right leg, which was bruised and swollen! What rotten luck! Needless to say that ended Jo's day of sand-boarding. We all hurriedly did our last run and the stand-up boarders attempted (unsuccessfully) a few jumps, then we headed back to the van for a quick but yummy salad sandwich lunch (fresh bread!) before heading back to town. We were dropped off at the 'Far Out' booking centre to pay for the days activities while Cat and Jo were driven to the hospital.
Jo demonstrating how completely covered in sand you get!
We subsequently found out she'd broken her right wrist and also had a chip in it, but that it was so swollen they couldn't do anything about it (eg re-set it and cast it) for another 48hrs because of that. This means that poor Cat and Jo have to leave the trip until the arm is plastered then fly down to Cape Town to join us there. What a huge bummer! Not cool. Anyway, after paying for the activities we headed to a souvenir shop where I bought some polished stones. Then it was cake and chocolate milkshake time (R26) before heading back to the campsite for a much needed shower and short rest before the township tour began at 3pm. I went on it with Dad and Arja, a whole bunch of Dutch couples, and a Belgian couple - about 14 of us in total.

Our guide was John and another man.

Both spoke Afrikaans, English and Damara, and were extremely informative. There are 48,000 people living in the whole of Swakopmund and 32,000 of them live in the Mondesa township. Herero, Damara and Oshivambo people have lived there since South Africans came in 1960 and started apartheid. They moved all the black people out to the township and gave each tribal group a different quality house: eg some had just one room for the whole family, with an outside toilet, while others had 2 bedrooms, a lounge, a kitchen and an inside toilet. This created division between the tribal groups so they wouldn't band together and overthrow the South Africans. The first part of the township we visited was the DRC, or the Democratic Resettled Community.
Democratic Resettled Community in Mondesa
This was a shanty town separated from the rest of the township by a strip of desert. The people living there were waiting to earn enough money to buy a house in the more established part of town. They had no electricity, only streetlights which were installed in 2002 (DRC started in 2000). They rely on battery power, generators, or solar power if they can afford any of those. The main industries in the township are tourism or uranium mining. We visited the house of a well-off artist and met his son Daniel who wanted to be a doctor. His English was very good. There we learnt the 4 clicks of the Damara language, two of which I remember: one is made by clicking your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and the other by sucking between your front teeth. We practised them with the word 'Nam'.
The type of click changes the meaning of the word significantly, for example one 'click Nam' meant 'I love you' and another 'click Nam' meant 'I want to kill you'! You can see where difficulties arise! Next we drove to the house of Velma, a traditional herbalist. She taught us about all the uses of the various herbs and we got to sniff and look at them all. She's from the Nama tribe.

-canape: chest pains/flu/coughing

-gunguru: dry cough

-samday: helps to express breast milk

-nora: cleanses blood post-birth

-huha: improves appetite and boosts immune system

-small cactus: improves appetite

-hrube 'Devil's claw': rheumatism

-nmara nmora: high blood pressure, cleanses blood

-elephant poop: in hot water relieves foot pain

-aardwolf poop: good luck if you burn like incense

-rock dassie/hyrax poop: stomach ache

-crushed stone: used by Himba people when mixed with goat/sheep fat as a sunscreen

Last was a dried pot-pourri type thing used as a perfume and applied using a brush made of animal hair shoved into a small tortoise shell.

It was very interesting, and she will pass her knowledge onto one of her young daughters. Velma doesn't receive payment for her services but instead receives gifts such as a cooked meal or sugar for cooking. Her roof was made of cardboard but apparently that's okay as it only rains there twice a year! They have community water points which they can access with a pre-paid ticket. A lot of the houses had flags. The blue, red and green-banded one is the flag of the current political party Swapo who are very popular. Black flags indicate a recent death and white flags indicate a wedding - it is put up 2 weeks beforehand. All flags are left up until they are destroyed by the wind and sun, otherwise bad luck befalls the house occupants (if they are taken down).
Next up was the Oshivambo district which was pretty well off and had multiple-roomed houses, paved roads, street signs and electricity. I had great fun playing with the kids there too; I usually had at least 2 kids in my arms; 1 on each hip, and another trying to clamber up onto my back! There was one little boy who constantly wanted to be carried and whenever I put him down for a break he'd say 'Madame!' 'Madame!' and crane his arms up towards me. There I met Michelle and Sandy, two 13 and 14yo friends with perfect English and a love for Macleod's Daughters! I promised Michelle I'd write to her. All the kids wanted their photos taken, and of course I was very happy to oblige. One 9yo girl came up to me and said 'My friend wants to be your child. I want to be your child too.
' I was a bit shocked, and first said I would have been too young to have a child at age 14, then said 'Isn't your Mama nice? Doesn't she make you nice food?' They sort of just looked at me and I thought Oh God I hope I haven't really put my foot in it, I hope they're not orphans!!! Anyway then it was time to look in a little craft shop before visiting Ouma Lena, an 84yo Damara woman who was the first female chief of the Swakopmund township. She solved personal disputes such as feuding couples, provided advice about teenage pregnancies, etc. She seemd extremely wise. Her two great-grandchildren were very cute - a 4yo girl and a 2yo impish boy. They lived with her while other great-grandchildren lived with their parents. She first came to Swakopmund in the 1940s when her grandfather had to go to hospital, got a job and never moved back (but was moved involuntarily to the Mondesa township in 1960 due to apartheid).
Near her house was the HIV clinic where people receive free testing, counselling and medications. People who are HIV-positive also get R300 per month to buy healthy food, and the community pays for their children to go to school if they can't afford it. HIV prevalence in the community is 17%. There are a few primary schools in the community, and a technical high school that educates people to work in the mines. The 'normal' high schools are all in Swakopmund, so the children must walk there and back every day (a taxi costs US$14 return so no one pays that). The only buses in the community are those taking workers to and from the mines. Everyone else has to walk to and from work or school each day. After Ouma Lena's we headed to a local bar where we all had some beer or Sprite before going into a little hut to be served traditional Oshivambo food.
Basically the whole lot was completely disgusting unfortunately! First we had really sour awful beer, then playdoh-like bread with spinach that looked like slime, then sauteed Mopane worms (I nearly vomited when attempting to eat one after I bit it in half and saw its digestive tract...I had to spit it out!), beans (the most edible thing), mini date-like fruits with hard pips in them, the fruit from a type of nut, fried chicken (which was yummy but didn't look cooked enough...) and plain white bread. I tried everything and was glad to have had the opportunity to do so but boy it was foul! After the meal some of the young kids sang, danced and drummed for us and me and a Dutch lady gave them a whole bunch of pens. I bought a few souvenirs then it was time to end our 5hr amazing tour.
The four clicks of the Damara language
I thoroughly enjoyed myself, especially playing with all the kids. So much fun, and hearing them laugh was joyous. They all had such beautiful faces!

We got driven back to the campsite headed out to tea with Tam, Rosie, Simon, Karl, Lee, Peta, Odin, Cat and Jo. We went to the Tug restaurant where we'd had drinks the previous night. I had vegetable spring rolls which were delicious (shared with Simon), mediterranean farfalle pasta with butternut pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, olives and goats cheese tossed in a sun-dried tomato pesto, and apple crepes with honey, cinnamon and chocolate. It said cocktail apples and out came a small dish with three apples the size of large cherries but even sweeter than normal apples! Very strange but tummy.

The whole lot only cost R144 which is about AUD$20 so well worth it. Headed to bed after that, after washing my hair first. Asleep about midnight and slept really well.

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My top speed was 67km/hr
My top speed was 67km/hr
We had to climb to the top of this…
We had to climb to the top of thi…
See how far we had to walk from th…
See how far we had to walk from t…
Jo demonstrating how completely co…
Jo demonstrating how completely c…
Democratic Resettled Community in …
Democratic Resettled Community in…
The four clicks of the Damara lang…
The four clicks of the Damara lan…
The two 9yo girls who wanted to be…
The two 9yo girls who wanted to b…
Ouma Lena, Mondesa chief, and two …
Ouma Lena, Mondesa chief, and two…
Traditional Oshivambo meal
Traditional Oshivambo meal
photo by: Chelsea