Regretting not packing lederhosen

Swakopmund, Namibia

Arriving so late last night prevented me from truly appreciating the fantastic place that I’m staying at here in Swakop. Villa Margherita is a trendy new guesthouse in the center of town. My “room” overlooking the courtyard is more like an apartment — complete with a sitting area, it’s the most spacious I’ve had in Africa.

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After breakfast in the swanky dining room, my game plan was to spend a couple of hours walking around Swakopmund, a town that feels like it belongs more on the Baltic coast than in Southern Africa. The architecture here reminded me of Bavaria, as did the beer houses and delis hawking German delicacies, all of which made me sad that my lederhosen were back in Chapel Hill.

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It was time to test out my new ride — a tiny Toyota Yaris that was even less suitable for the gravel roads than my last car. The drive back to Walvis Bay, which I’d done in the dark last night, was stunning; it is here that the desert meets the sea. Walvis Bay’s lagoon is an important wetland for migratory birds in this part of the world, including one of the largest flocks of flamingos.

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Swakop has recently reinvented itself as the adventure-sports capital of Namibia; one of the most popular activities is desert quad-biking. Two hours of extreme biking with Desert Explorer through the dunes gave me my fix. The best part was flooring the bikes along the sides of the dunes — our guide said it was “taking them on a rollercoaster.” Sounds about right.

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Dinner was, appropriately enough, at the Brahaus, a German joint that served up a legit schnitzel and a couple tasty pints of local Hansa beer.

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