Another port I had visited during my early years, in those days on cargo ships and loading bags of fishmeal, now I was here on a magnificent cruise ship; I wonder what thoughts would have been passing through my mind, had I seen the Amsterdam arriving during my days as a cadet……
A gale was forecast for us, as we made our way north, paralleling the west-coast of South Africa and Namibia. This one was a ‘south-easter’ and was to reach gale-force 8, with 5 metre swells. Sure enough, the prediction was correct and we found ourselves ‘surfing’ the massive swell with a 50-knot wind coming from astern of us, however our stabilisers coped admirably and the movement of the Amsterdam was quite reasonable under the circumstances.
Walvis Bay caters mainly for cargo ships and the port was full, with 15 or so ships waiting outside at the anchorage, waiting their turn to dock. We had another ‘tight’ docking; squeezing in between a cargo ship ahead of us and a trawler, one of many here because of the rich fishing grounds to seaward; the Benguela current providing the nutrition for marine life.
Walvis Bay lies on the edge of the Namib desert, as does Swarkopmund, a town to the north, which many of our guests visit. Both places have a strong German influence, particularly Swarkopmund, as this was settled by the Germans long ago and there was a large influx of them after WW2. The tours cater for treks into the ‘badlands’, National parks of inhospitable desert country and the vast shifting sand dunes that line the coast; here quad-bikes are the norm and many tour them on these vehicles.
We leave Africa, the majority of our guests are reluctant to do so, as they have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in some wondrous places. Ahead of us lies the island of St. Helena, another place I visited regularly and I look forward to re-visiting.
Jonathan Mercer is Amsterdam’s captain.