Sand. Sweat. Sun. A cooling wind follows, to jump out of an aircraft.
I was standing near the edge of the dune in Swakopmund, Namibia. That seemed terribly steep and I thought about my shoulder surgery. It’s been years, yet it lingers in my memory anytime I gaze at the edge of anything I’m about to slide or leap at full speed.
“I’m not going to believe this coming from someone wearing a skydiving outfit,” quipped Chris, the instructor, when I admitted I felt a bit frightened standing on the dune face.
The sand wasn’t like cold snow in the mountains near my home in California, though. It’s a great, soft landing and although steep, not too difficult to master.
Quickly shifting between fast and slow with a flick of the heel and toes, the conclusion of the run came swiftly and left me wanting more.
Climbing back up the board, I peered again at the dune. Another hard climb. I was going to have to win those races.
At the top of the dune, a dazzling blue ocean beckons, as if tempting that only it can bring relief from the heat.
Swakopmund sits on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, wedged between the world’s oldest desert and the Atlantic Ocean. For me, it was a lively area, full of far too many activities to try during my two days there.
Remembering its German colonial background, the city of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants in a country of 2.5 million people is an unusual blend of Europe and Africa. Markets selling indigenous handicrafts coexist beside German-style eateries offering sausages.
It provides the pleasures of a little town with dive bars, Sunday farmers’ markets, people who remember you after a day or two, and of course, a vast selection of adventure sports.
With so many possibilities such as quad biking, dolphin cruise, horseback riding, and skydiving (more on that later), sandboarding with Alter Action felt the most unique to me and thus placed it at the top of my list.
I fell, although it didn’t hurt that much. I got puffiness, ears, hair, and a mouth full of sand, but it didn’t bother me much.
Even two months later, I still discover sand at the bottom of my luggage.
It was worth it, though, because as large kids, what could be better than playing in a gigantic sandbox? A few things I would mention.
Following round four, it was time to go skydiving with Ground Rush Experiences. It was a hectic day but it was great since I had no time to worry about the fact that I was going to be flying through the air, risking fate and placing all my confidence in a parachute, shortly.
I was thinking whether it would be like bungee jumping. I still didn’t know how I felt about it a month after leaping from Pont de Bloukrans in South Africa the highest commercial and natural bungee jump in the world and the first I had ever undertaken.
I met the person I was supposed to be tandem jumping with, François, and I instantly felt at ease. He’s the type of man I’d be friends with, whether I cared about him and trusted him with my life or not. He approached it with such zeal and enthusiasm that it was difficult for me to have the least anxiety.
The toughest aspect of skydiving is the buildup. Sitting on the plane as it goes higher and higher, long past the point where it feels like it should stop and with too much time to ponder, is the worst. I was curiously peaceful and exhilarated, knowing that I had nothing to do except spread my wings and fly.
Launching was entirely different from leaping from a bridge. There was a free fall, certainly, but at this altitude and gazing at everything below me, I felt slower and almost calm. As I was bungee jumping, my body was traveling faster than my brain could process, which is why freefall is so horrifying. The body sends alarm signals to the brain faster than the brain can say, “That’s cool, there’s a rope connected to you!”
Skydiving was unusual with the rush of scorching wind – so hot I didn’t even need a jumpsuit – and the stunning surroundings sending so much dopamine through my brain that I quickly fell in love with the emotion.
Before I knew it, the parachute was released and François, realizing that I wasn’t even terrified, placed the handles in my hands and urged, “Pull!”
We turned rapidly in one direction, me giggling and he yanked my hand even harder to make us move quicker than the other way. I wanted it to endure forever.
Once we arrived on the ground, a mob of happy and waving pals from my Acacia team came downstairs with embraces and a drink of brandy.
Since that magnificent day, I have flirted with the thought of coming back to get qualified to jump solo. I could do this all day, every day, and never grow tired of it.
Seems like I’ve found a new obsession.
* Acacia, Ground Rush, and Alter Action brought you this message. But, you will never see a nice review on BMTM for an activity I didn’t like. Your trust always comes first.
Do it yourself:
- Staying: For a rare period we weren’t in tents in Swakopmund, opting for dormitories at Amanpuri Guesthouse. It became a running joke in my safari party that the tagline for the resort was ‘a place to stay. Not a ‘good’ or ‘great’ location to stay. Simply a place to stay. It was actually a lovely place to stay, and I would suggest it for economical, clean dormitories or individual rooms.
- Sandboarding: Alter Action was amazing fun on board, and it’s incredibly inexpensive at $45 for a whole day with a DVD of your boarding misfortunes (since virtually everyone falls off at some time!) included. Very recommended.
- Skydive: Tandem dives cost the equivalent of $170. The team is fantastic and the views must be among the best in the world. A typical complaint from skydivers in other areas of the world is that the cold hurt their faces when they fall – hardly an issue in the middle of the sweltering desert.