Friday, 24 February 2017

Mola Mola fish and drive to Swakopmund

PHIL: Day 10/24 Feb

Changed our mind about taking a boat trip round the bay and jumped on Molo Molo’s boat with a skipper called Billy who turned out to be excellent. An old-style Afrikaaner, he knew everything about the wildlife & commerce, not to mention politics, of Namibia. Fascinating story of a fleet of former USSR fish factory ships which stayed on after the breakup by invitation of Namibia’s grateful new Government whose revolutionary armaments had been supplied by Russia. Some left after an initial ten year permission, but a rump stayed, still crewed by mainly Ukrainian officers, on six-monthly shifts in charge of the vessels as they fish and freeze their catch.

Lucky to see the peculiar fish Mola Mola after which our boat took its name. A rare leftover from ancient times it cruises the world’s currents providing ‘valeting’ facilities for other fish and mammals. Lots of seals & dolphins too luxuriating in the plankton-rich Benguela Current.

Seafront at Swakopmund
A short drive to Swakopmund up the coast. Billed as a town of crime which could not have been more inaccurate, it is in fact a pretty collection of turn-of-the-(19th) century German colonial buildings. Apart from suffering the African disease of street renaming according to political correctness, Swakopmund can’t have changed much since it was snatched from German hands in 1918. Signs, shop names and even war memorials reflect an undeniably Teutonic past.

Unlike industrial Walvis Bay, Swakopmund has elegant cafes, restaurants, boutiques and a promenade reminiscent of some Baltic resort. Wide avenues were presumably, as in South Africa, built to allow ox-carts to turn in the width of the street.

A significant European population bolstered by visiting German tour groups re-enforces the seaside appearance. Dinner at the Lighthouse Pub with two young French schoolteachers from Paris. My long-rusted French was sorely tested.

ALLIE: DAY 10: Saturday, 24th of February

A boat excursion into the lagoon and moving on to Germanish Swakopmund

I need some exercise! So I put on my trainers and jog along the very fishy smelling bay in the early morning hours. Thick clouds over the coast, but sunshine further inland. The flamingos still in their one-leg sleeping position. I wonder whether it was the right decision to go on the “Mola-Mola” boat trip that Erik hat recommended to us. What if I get sick on the boat or if the weather stays as cloudy and even rainy as it is now? But we booked the tour, so we go…

German Luther church in Swakopmund
It actually turns out to be a great trip! Billy, a white Namibian with German ancestors, is our boat- and tour guide. We board the small skipper and set our for the fishing harbour of Walvis bay. The only deep water harbour in the whole of Namibia. The first birds that follow us are some pelicans. They wing span being 1,8 meters and quite graciously they fly along our boat and snap fish out of Billys hands. Then we suddenly have another guest on board: Flipper, the seal. He jumps on board – only male seals would do that, the female do never get on the boats – and begs for fish! Of course he gets his share and we are allowed to touch his soft skin and tail. Funny feeling. With his big eyes and charming looks he manages to beg for a few more fish, then jumps back to the sea. We later stop at a sandy beach where most of his thousands relatives are enjoying their time by either dozing at the beach or playing with each other in the water.

Billy has great talent to entertain us. His main focus of course are the oysters. So first he lectures about them, then he cracks a few sexy jokes and at last we are invited to taste them. So we learn that oysters we first imported from Chile. They couldn’t breed here because of the cold icy Benguela stream. A minimum of 24 degrees water temperature is needed to reproduce, some of the oysters are hermaphrodites. So now the Namibians breed them for a while in artificial water containers and then bring them out into the sea where they grow on little baskets suspended from poles or platform in the sea. After only 8 months an oyster is ready to be eaten. 
Since only 70.000 thousand of all Namibians are white people and the blacks don’t eat oysters they are now selling oysters to China. And the Chinese being mad about all sorts of aphrodisiacs pay huge amounts of money to import them. So if you even happen to be served oyster in Beijing – it probably comes from Walvis Bay, Namibia.

The Germans also played their role here in this town. A German called Adolf Winter had the idea of building a huge platform into the sea to attract all sorts of birds – for shitting! The shit is called Guano is used as a fertilizer. 1 kg of Guano being as efficient as 10 kg of cow dung! Unfortunately the birds didn’t like to come in the beginning. He nearly went bankrupt, his wife divorced him. But after some time, the birds did indeed come and soon was a millionaire. And of course he married again, this time a much younger girl (thus the story that Billy told us!).
“And see how fantastic Guano works!”, Billy proudly holding up a picture of one of his radishes. “This thing grew within weeks of using Guano on it to about 70cm. It won the national prize!”

The Mola Mola fish (source: wikipedia)
Today we are lucky. 
We also happen to see a rare species of fish, the so called Mola Mola. A real ugly round thing without a tail. It swims like a drunken duck but the meat must be delicious. But be careful, some parts of it can be poisoning.

Later we also encounter a few small white and black dolphins that swim around our boat. The trip culminates in a feast of oysters (Billy cracking more jokes about the effects of oysters on your sex life “it only works after sunset, so don’t worry”) and a few bottles of Champagne. We can’t complain. This trip was definitely worth its money (only 390 Rand) and lots of fun.

A bit dozy from the boat journey, the effects of oysters and too much champagne we drive on to Swakopmund. Before we reach the city, we climb another sand dune and I get my first swim in the rough waters of the Namibian sea.
We check in the “Villa Wiese”, a nice, clean and cheap guesthouse in the middle of the orderly looking town. Swakopmund was run by the Germans for many years and it still has some lovely old buildings, nice broad boulevards with palm trees and street names that remind you of its former times. Here we pass the Christuskirche, the Bismarck Street, the restaurant “Weinmaus” and end up at a inviting looking beach full of people bathing and enjoying the sunshine.
In the evening we meet a nice French couple from our boat tour at the Lighthouse Restaurant near the harbour. Great seafood and good African wines make it another really pleasant evening.

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