Friday, April 5, 2013

From the Snow to the Sand

What did you do this Easter? I went sandboarding-- or put another way, I strapped a snowboard on my feet and went down a sand dune. Yup.

We woke up early on Sunday excited for the day's adventure and hopeful that the still dreary weather was not going to put a damper on the activity that I for one was most looking forward to. It was still drizzling outside so I called the lady at Alter-Action, but she told me it was supposed to clear up, and that the damp sand would not interfere with the boarding. Since she's the expert, we decided to trust her and at 9:30 we met her outside our hostel along with two other girls from our hostel that happened to be coming too! We drove out to the dunes and Beth, the guide, explain that while normally when the sand is dry, they use snowboards that they have refinished the bottoms of, when the sand is wet, it turns out that normal snowboards work really well because  you know, snow is wet too. We would just need lots and lots of wax.

The one to the left of the girls is the dune we boarded down.
Or, attempted to board down.

 We pulled up to the dunes and I'm pretty sure we were all speechless. It was absolutely gorgeous out there-- we were back on Mars. After taking copious pictures, we were gathered and fitted for our boots and boards, then we began the long trek up the dune. Lucky for us, the wet sand made for a bit of easier hike up than the dry sand would have. We got to the top and broke into our groups, the lay-down boarders, and those of us crazy enough to try standing up. The lay-down group was given large pieces of plywood that they would be sliding down on their bellies. We would be joining them for a few runs later on, but for now, the stand-up group hiked up one more hill to the top of our dune where we were given a super brief introduction of what we were supposed to do. I made the mistake of mentioning that I had snowboarded before which meant that my and Erika's introduction was even shorter than the rest. I strapped on my board, gathered my courage, stood up, and went.

View from the top.
Needless to say, the trip down was pretty disastrous  but hilarious to watch. I wobbly started going down the hill, bending over and touching the sand every three seconds or so, when I finally thought I had the hang of it, it stood up a little straighter and started up picking up speed. Then more. Then even more. Pretty soon I was going what felt like way to fast down this sand hill and I had no idea how to slow down. I lost my balance and ended up tumbling into the sand. Well that's one way to stop. (Actually that's the only way I managed to stop all day...) By the time I reached the bottom, I had spent most of the trip down the hill rolling in the sand, but it was the coolest thing I had ever done. I unstrapped by feet, picked up my board and began the long hike back up the dune to try it again.

 I wish I could say I became an expert sandboarder by the end of the day, but alas, I improved only marginally. I guess I'm just a girl that likes to have two boards strapped to her feet rather than one. I did get a little more confident though and even tried going off the jump! We took a brief break from stand up boarding to join the other group on the fastest lay-down run, which we got to try twice. It's basically like tobogganing on snow, and I managed to get up to 72km/h on both runs! When we had tried our couple of runs, I strapped my board back on my feet, and prepared for one more run. I went off the jump again and sort of landed on my feet-ish before immediately falling and rolling in the sand. I got back up and finished the run with a decent amount of success. I was able to make it almost to the bottom without falling again! By the time I reached the bottom I was bumped, bruised, exhausted, and COVERED in sand from head to toe but I was beaming from ear to ear. We walked back to the vans where Beth had started setting up the tables for the lunch they provided us. Fixings for sandwiches  soda, and beer. Awesome. We scarfed the food, took a couple more group shots, and then piled back into the vans to head back. Definitely a wicked awesome way to spend Easter.

After a quick pit stop at the grocery store for snacks for the ride home and food for the week back in our villages we went back to the hostel to de-sand ourselves. We took another walk along the beach and then had to go back to the Alter-Action office for a screening of our video. Oh, yeah, the whole thing was filmed/photographed and we each got a free copy of the DVD, and could purchase still shots for N$20 (about USD$2.50) each. We had a great time laughing at each of our wipe outs and picking out shots we wanted to buy, then we walked down the street to the restaurant where we met Ashley and Mailin and their friends for dinner. We enjoyed another fantastic meal at a little German pub and then headed back to the hostel since many of us had Easter Skype dates with our families.

On Monday, we spent the whole day traveling, but as usual in Namibia, even that provides a story. We had gotten the numeber of the combi driver that drove us to Swakop and had called to ask him if he would be going back to Oshakati Monday morning. He was, and we arranged to meet him at the service station at 7:30AM. Elizabeth, the manager of the hostel was gracious enough to offer to drive us there, but we couldn't all fit in her car, so we had to take two trips. I was waiting with the second group when the first came back, got out of the car, and announced that all taxi and combi drivers were going on strike and there would be no rides out of Swakop until the next day. Uh what?! APRIL FOOLS! Good one guys, you really had us for a minute (although I think we were more upset to find out it was a joke and we didn't have a legit reason to stay in Swakop another day.) Nope, the reason they were back is that the driver had called us and said he was running a few minutes late but would pick us up at the hostel. Ok, great. Well an hour later, he still wasn't there-- despite telling us he was pulling in, he actually hadn't left Walvis Bay yet. So we again piled into the car and went to the hike point to find another ride. We got another combi that was supposedly leaving shortly, but of course, it was another hour before we finally left. At 9:30, we pulled out of Swakop and were on the road. It was nice getting to see the scenery on the way back, since it had been dark most of the ride in, we hadn't seen any. A few hours into the ride, we even saw a giraffe on the side of the road!! But  I didn't have my camera out, so no pics, sorry. I'm pretty sure we scared the other riders though when we all shouted and jumped up at once...whoops. The ride back was much more comfortable that the ride there; the seats were a bit wider and the music wasn't up quite as high. We were treated to an African remix of Gangnam Style (even worse than the original) and a remix of N*Sync's "This I Promise You". The seven of us performed a full on sing-along in the combi and at this point everyone else on the ride was convinced we were crazy. Whatevs, they're just jealous. We got back into town around 8:30, and luckily for me, TK had been in town and because he is the best housemate ever, he waited for me to drive me back home since there is no way I would have gotten a hike that late. Note to self: make sure you get back earlier next time.

Well folks, that's all for the Swakop adventures! I'll probably have another post soon about the craziness that is End of Term Exams. Till then,

For the full Swakop album, click here.

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