A sky splashed with fire rises us to the day that we hit the African east coast. The stink starts a mile out from our destination of Cape Cross seal colony on the Skeleton Coast. A vile stench lingers on the beach, one that we have never smelt at any other seal colony. After a (very) brief walk along the boardwalk as the males bellow out hoarse calls at competing males we’re not quite sure that we’ll ever get the horrid odour out of our clothes.
Here the Benguela Current (cold) collides offshore with Hadley Cell (warm) causing a fog blanket that covers parts of the coast for up to 180 days of the year. The fog has been blamed for over 1,000 shipwrecks in the area hence the nickname Skeleton Coast. Hugging the wild coastal shores we pass the odd shipwreck before it’s into the adventure capital of Namibia.
Swakopmund has all the fixes to get an adrenaline junkie high for days. From quad biking and sandboarding to skydiving it’s got the lot. Staying at Naomi’s friendly Amanpuri Hostel we’re out of the tents for the first time in weeks and even have the luxury of an ensuite bathroom. Within the hostel are the offices of Ground Rush Adventures Skydiving outfit. Run by Craig and his motely crew the six of us in our group sign up with the majority of us jumping for the first time. With a day to think about all the eventualities that could go wrong Matt mostly needs to keep his mind off it by venturing out around town.
Swakopmund, meaning ‘Mouth of the Swakop [river]’, was founded in 1852 as the main port for the then German South West Africa, evident in the German style of the buildings. Most of the sights are within walking distance with the Woermannhaus’s tower being one of the more recognisable. With the fog almost a constant feature over the town a walk to the beach and along the palm tree lined esplanade doesn’t feel the same.
Along with the rough surf and cool temperatures a swim is off the cards though with a German influence Swakopmund of course has its own brewery. With two locations he heads to the one housed in the newly built Brewer and Butcher. A swanky affair, there’s no prizes for guessing which way the menu leans. With the brewing vats on display in the interior there’s also a huge patio out front looking over the South Atlantic Ocean, perfect for those summer sessions. The second location is more of a German style beer house and is centred on the pedestrian Vineta in the Swakopmund Brauhaus and they churn out a great Hefewiezen.
That evening we’d been recommended to eat at the famous overland truck hangout La Napolitana. We sit done to a table full of the largest ribs in Africa, huge seafood platters, pizza and pasta dishes, none of which disappoints. Next to the restaurant there’s a large dance hall with cheesey flashing lights ensuring the night will kick on until the wee hours. Not for us though, tomorrow we have an appointment with the doctors of adrenaline.
Walking super early with a mixture of anticipation, adrenaline and a good measure of straight up fear (for Matt) today’s the day to either meet our maker or have one of the best experiences in Africa. Go time is set for 10am though with the sky clouded in its delayed for two hours then again for another two hours giving Matt sufficient time to have wound up nerves. Finally the hour arrives the six of us eagerly pile into the van for the short journey out to the local airstrip.
Arriving at the Ground Rush Adventures HQ the brightly coloured exterior has a few of the lads hanging about sinking a few brews. We’re promptly offered the same and jump at the chance to down a couple in the vain hope of calming nerves and summoning some Dutch courage. Taken inside for the safety briefing the place is legit with full bar, lounge TV area for viewing your video later and an impressive prep room for chutes completed with a weights area.
We’re the second group to go up in the plane and climbing in the flimsy roller door, that’s surely going to rip off at the slightest of force, is lowered and Matt’s already having second thoughts (aren’t these things meant to be air tight?). You can see Matts packing it as the plane ascends sharply to the jump altitude of 10,000 feet. This was the part that Matt feared most though he’s pleasantly surprised that the engine is a beast that screams through any turbulence and is steady as she goes.
There’s only two of us jumping but somehow there’s seven of us in here. All of a sudden the guys are nodding at each other and we think it’s go time. No. The pilot suddenly drops the plane’s nose causing a zero gravity moment that does nothing to ease Matt’s fears, much to the amusement of the crew, pricks. Moments later the roller door is opened and Matt awkwardly shuffles to the door. Being told to keep his head back is no issue as the last thing on Matt’s mind is looking at the ground. Next thing the plane is gone from underneath and quiet literally his heart is in his throat.
‘FAAAAAARRRRRRKKKK what a shit idea this is’
Is the initial thought tearing though the mind as he free-falls back to earth. Not even a second later he opens his eyes and realises the silence up here is surreal and above the clouds a peaceful calm exists.
Next moment we are in the clouds trying to find the landing spot. Once found it’s a hard pull on the right steering handle sending us into a spin, the second moment of shitting it, panning out to make a perfect landing right on target.
is about all that Matt can manage as Sarah follows close behind. Hanging her feet over the edge of the plane the smile doesn’t leave her face, no fear here, just a huge rush. Back on Terra Firma we grab a few brews and watch the last of the group jump, land and arrive with equally beaming smiles. The funniest moment of the day comes when German Frank lands and proceeds to go of a cheeky mouthful of vomit!
Whilst waiting for the videos to be edited and loaded onto flash drives Craig shouts us a few beers and shots and with more of the gang we swap stories having a good old laugh. The night didn’t stop there either as few of us ended up back at the bar of the Amanpuri Hostel kicking on until the early hours. All in all a great first experience of skydiving and we highly recommend that whilst in Swakopmund you meet Craig and the gang and go jump.
Thankful the next morning that there’s a buffet breakfast and some bacon and eggs at the hostel we finally leave the compound. Walking around town the following day there are some great places to eat and shop. The local council has redeveloped the area adjacent to the beach in recent years and has been good enough to build a market place for the merchants to flog their wares. Nice enough guys they really do push you for the sale though a friendly firm refusal soon has them giving up. With our time coming to a close in Swakopmund it’s one last pizza from La Napolitana’s before loading back onto the truck for the journey back out into the deserts of Sousslevi.
You can check out more of our professional skydiving pics and other fun times in Namibia on Flickr!