Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sand and Tongues in Swakop

My last day in Swakopmund.

Before I left, I had one last thing to do in town. I wanted to go on a desert tour. These are popular as people come back with tales of madmen digging for exploding chameleons. Okay, not really exploding. But sun-sensitive.

There are two outfitters in town, and using a careful scientific method, I went with the one that Tourist Information booked for me, Tommy's Living Desert Tour.

Desert tours are popular for a reason—a saucy host (a kind-of regional Crocodile Hunter) drives you around, stops when he sees the "bush newspaper" (meaning nearly invisible evidence that a lizard, snake, or spider is nearby), then he screeches to a half, finds the creature, and shows it to you, explaining all about its habits and characteristics while making off-color jokes.

You also get out into the dunes near Swakopmund with a expert, which is excellent. And I finally got my question answered about if quad-biking is bad for the environment or not. The answer is sure, it is. But the outfitters in Swakopmund are generally responsible and involved in conservation. The problem is the independent quad-bikers, the weekenders who come to town and have no awareness of the eco-system they're destroying when the run rampant off the set tracks. Nature is losing its battle even as the outfitters try to raise awareness among their sympathetic clients.

We saw snakes, chameleons, spiders...everything we'd been promised. And after the trip, I went back to the coffee shop that had once been "Out of Africa," and now...I never even looked at the sign. I read the life-affirming quotation on my sugar packet as the sun went down.

Would I ever be back to Swakopmund? I'd thought that each time I'd come here. I hope so. I love the funny combination of cultures here.

I hope the chameleons are still there when I get back.

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