Up at 4.45am to get to the dunes quickly so we could get the sunrise. The plan was to be at the gate (as you are not allowed in) so we could be the first to climb the 250m dune and film from the top. Carlos duly told us it would only take 15 minutes to climb. So after making sure the boss ranger would let us in early we set off.
From the gate to the reserve it's 35-40 minutes drive to the dunes. As the light got brighter and brighter the brilliance of the dunes and valley slowly came alive. It was a wonderful view, brick red dunes snaking their way across the horizon.
We parked and got all our kit out. The walk to the bases is deceiving, it's takes a good 15 minutes, then once at the base you realise how enormous they are.
I start to walk in hiking boots, it's difficult and I keep to the ever-moving ridge. I get 20 metres up and start to struggle; especially now my boots are full or sand and the pressure is hurting my feet. They film me and I push on. I get halfway and Matt with camera, Ritchie with full sound gear and Janice with my camera start the long haul. I’m halfway and knackered, we all struggle. Once at the top the view is one to die for, I do a 360 with my Go Pro camera (see images) and I get the sun rising, a little late.... 15 minutes...wait ‘til I see Carlos. In fact it took an hour to scale the 280m dune. I take my hat off to the other 3, I had no kit and struggled, but I’m so glad I did.
After time to recover, we descend straight over the edge almost running down the steep gradient, it's was fun, then off for a well earned breakfast out of the back of the truck, and it was still only 9 o’clock.
We film some pieces to camera and head back to the reserve for a shower and to get ready to film 2 cooking sequences that afternoon at the desert lodge, a sort of self catering part of the main reserve. This was a little more rustic, but had nice pool and cooking area. The backdrop was superb. Miko had got all the bit's ready I needed and was superb as was William F&B Director. I was going to cook mussels with bacon and beer and grilled ostrich steaks with blue cheese butter.
After a quick re jig of the Braai for Matt’s back drop, we set off and filmed both recipes in quick succession, looked and tasted great.
After clearing up we set off back to the lodge for lay down, cold beer and dinner in that order.
The lodge did some fantastic food including making all it's own bread and some spectacular cheeses from Mariental.
6.15am start today as we and to pack bags and leave for the town of Swakopmund, this was to be a 5-hour trip again.
We pass Baboons and it starts to rain lightly, and after 2 hours we come to a small watering hole called Solitaire in the middle of nowhere. It’s festooned with rusting American cars and tractors. It’s famous for it's bakery and is a stop for may of the tourists on their way across Namibia. We film me buying cakes and a piece to camera.
After a coffee we push on for another 2 hours across some very baron land, the bush giving way to desert, with nothing at all. We cross the Tropic of Capricorn and nearly run over 2 Bat Eared Foxes.
We finally skirt around civilisation and the town of Walvis Bay and onto Swakopmund. A prosperous place. The outskirts of the town have a large township with some 10,000 residents, more about that later. We meet our local guide Craig, have a toastie and a coffee at Cafe Anton and walk though the souvenir sellers, then onto our hotel the magnificent old railway station now the Swakopmund Hotel. It’s so nice to be here after driving across such a dusty country. My room is modern and very comfortable, with all the mod cons. The staff are amazing and really helpful.
We dump our stuff and head straight out to the township with another guide Mambo. He belongs the Damaraland tribe and takes me to meet a couple of the elders. We film there and he gives us the guided tour explaining that many of the residents here have walked thousands of miles with nothing. I feel quite uneasy that less than a mile away I’m in complete luxury! The price of a house in the township is about 8k, and 9 people will live in that. The house where Oma Lina (the elder lives) she has lived in for 27 years, it's a real eye opener. Part of the township the houses (if you can call them that) are made of what they can find, plastic sheets, off cuts of wood and bit's of rusting metal. One plot Mambo jokes ‘This one has ocean view’.
Quickly we move onto The Back Of The Moon, a bar and very small restaurant. Here Mambo and I meet Jennifer who cooks a traditional meal for us. This included millet porridge, braised spinach, beans, fried chicken, and a couple of dried fruit's plus Mopani worms, the caterpillar of a moth that lives on the Mopani tree. They are boiled and cooked with onions and tomatoes. Not for the faint hearted, they are a delicacy and served on special occasions Mambo and Jennifer explain.
Even in with all this dust and wind, the place is spotless and I have to wash my hands before eating, and even then only with my right hand. As I leave the township I can’t help thinking that I would like to bring my kids here, to show them how lucky they are, and that when they turn their noses up at some of the food I prepare, or moan when they have to wash up on occasions.
Back at the hotel, I shower and nap before going out to the Tug restaurant a rather smart place on the beach. Here we film the sunset and the varieties of seafood on offer.
Dinner is good; I start with large chewy, salty oysters, firmer than the British species. Next deep fried hake and chips with a sweet tartare (not really for me) Nice South African Pinotage Rose.
Back at the hotel I flop into bed late.