Today was the big day of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) opening ceremony for their world summit in Swakopmund, Namibia. Today we were to hear a speech from Hifikepunye Pohamba, the President of Namibia, who was pleased and proud to welcome us to his country.
I couldn’t figure out how to get to the opening ceremony from my hotel, so I went outside and waited for people in suits to walk by and quietly joined the group. We walked like sheep for several minutes. No one really seemed to know where we were going, but everyone assumed that someone knew, and so we followed. At one point, we walked past the beautiful supreme court building.
Eventually we heard the sound of drums and arrived at our destination. Women of the Himba tribe were present in their full glory. National Geographic came to life. They were shirtless, braless, and surrounded with small children clutching their ankles. I wanted a picture, but it seemed rude to snap a picture of myself with yet another topless stranger. I began negotiating to buy her jewelry, so that she would let me take another bucket-list picture. Gasp! She wanted 30 US dollars, for a bracelet that I’d guess was worth $10 at best. I’m not familiar with Namibian bartering, but as I pondered my position, I twisted the cap off my beer. She erupted in excitement and she pointed and gestured at my beer. I handed it over, and she took a big long drink. She then tried to give the beer back to me. “No, no!” I insisted. “You keep it.” I handed it back to her. She then insisted that I take the bracelet they were trying to get 30 bucks for. “What’s this stuff really worth?” I said to myself. My beer couldn’t be worth more than 70 cents, either someone was getting ripped off, or perhaps these tribal people really have a different concept of value? Anyway, I took the picture.
The president’s speech was long. In Namibia, everyone must follow a protocol of paying respect to everyone around them. It took a good twenty minutes for the president to finish his protocols. When he got off stage, my legs had fallen asleep and it took a good five minutes to wake them back up.
Later in the day I was picked up at the hotel by our kite-boarding hosts. The gentleman driving us around was the father-in-law of the company’s owner. We met the owner and another van of travelers at the side of the highway for an orientation about where we were going.
They were planning to take us on a scenic route along dirt roads. The group flipped out about time schedules and demanded we drive the faster route on the pavement. I was not happy with this, since they probably had chosen the most beautiful route, but this is unfortunately what happens when you put things to a vote instead of trusting your travel professional.
We arrived after our boring pavement drive at a sleek ocean-front hotel in Walvis Bay called the Oyster Box Guesthouse.
After we all settled in, we began our kiteboarding lessons on land.
Controlling a kite takes a lot more work than I had expected. At one point the “trainer kite” picked me up about three feet off the ground, and when I came down I jammed my toe so hard that within a week my toe nail fell off.
We had dinner at the local yacht club. The woman sitting next to me was from Croatia and sells kayak tours. She asked me if I have any kids, which I do. We talked for a while, sharing stories about our kids and families. When she realized that I sell gay travel, her tone changed immediately. She started telling me how I’m raising my child wrong, and how children shouldn’t be exposed to gays, who could be bad examples of an “unnatural lifestyle.” All this coming from a woman who, moments earlier, had told me that she didn’t care if kids smoked weed, or drank alcohol.
At the far end of the table was a group of good-looking men from countries that used to be Yugoslavia. All of a sudden the group leader hopped up on his chair and announced: “Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen.., Ahem, we are going to do a little performance song, and I hope you will enjoy it.” The drunken performance was hilarious to watch, but I had no idea what they were trying to sing. Later I found out the song is called “What Does the Fox Say?” Here is the music video they were impersonating.
After dinner I got back to the hotel feeling so tired that I didn’t even manage to take off my shoes before I was out cold. I woke to a loud pounding on my door. When I opened the door I found a prostitute and her pimp, looking for the Yugoslavian group. What a hilarious mess! I kept trying to shoo them away, but the prostitute kept trying to solicit me. Eventually I claimed that I saw the other people they were looking for, and they went away. When I woke up in the morning, I wasn’t even sure whether anything had actually happened.
After breakfast, we suited up for some real ocean kiteboarding. Once I had the real kite, I felt the awesome power involved in Kite Boarding. My training kite was nothing.
I spent the whole morning just trying to get control of this monster.
By the end of the afternoon, I had only achieved dragging myself across the bay on my stomach. Progress is Progress!
That evening we all got ready for the largest reception of the event. We didn’t have many details other than an instruction to dress nicely. We drove a long way through the desert and eventually ended up in a beautiful clearing where tables had been set up with wine.
We were all drinking and socializing, when a low-flying plane shot over the cliffs and dropped skydivers onto us. As they came closer, we read NAMIBIA and ATTA on the underside of the chutes. WOW! Over the top!
After the skydivers arrived, we were directed to hike farther down into the ravine. All along the way we were surrounded by dancers, drummers and mobile beer stations.
When we reached the bottom of the ravine, it opened up into a gigantic natural amphitheater. We walked through a gate surrounded by huge flaming torches. Ahead of us sat a huge stage full of Himba women. The tables were set as if we were to dine in a Michelin 3-star restaurant.
We watched a fabulous presentation, and danced the evening away. I got cold, and found people to chat with around one of many fire pits.
Before we knew it, it was two in the morning and our hosts were coming to find us to take us home.
To be continued… Click to read blog Part 4, in which I argue with the authorities!
Or click here to read more about the Namibia Adventure Tour