Namibia’s coastline has five biggish towns. Oranjemund is in the far south that you only visit if you feel like driving and have family there. Luderitz is also in the south and most famous for Kolmanskop (The Ghost Town) and is possibly the most beautiful of them all, but the quietest. Then there is Walvis Bay – the harbour town that tourists generally avoid and then the very well-known Swakopmund, which is also my favourite and where I used to live in my early twenties. Then there is Henties Bay. Yes, we have a fifth coastal town. To Namibians and South Africans alike, this is a hit – should you be into the whole fishing thing. To me, Henties Bay represents an old age home without any walls surrounding it.
The past Easter Holidays my family set out to proof me wrong. As a child, I remember having spent a few holidays there, but my Henties Bay memories are few and far between and I can’t seem to remember particular highlights. When I lived in Swakopmund, I did not have any urge to visit Henties Bay and so it will be the first visit in decades. And so we set off to Henties – two sisters and our husbands, together with our parents. We’ve never been on holiday together and this would have been our first.
Henties gave me no reason to jump for joy. Even though it was Easter Weekend and there were plenty of people in town, it was mostly boarded up and closed. The only places that showed some signs of life was the local Spar and the Tackle Shop. The houses are all holiday houses and the designs mostly the same. The Henties shopping “district” consists of at most 30 shops – if that many. For the brother-in law’s birthday, we visited the most famous restaurant in town and arrived at a fully packed restaurant. The best seats in the house were taken by smokers. Settling inside, we were in good spirits. Certainly the amount of people meant something good? Two hours later after a talk to the owner of the restaurant, we received our food – cold and nothing special.
As much as I love the ocean, fishing is not one of my past times. Neither do I enjoy sitting on the beach the whole day under an umbrella in wind and weather waiting for that possible catch. Fishing just isn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, there are few things I enjoy as much as an early morning or late afternoon walk on the beach. I love to pack a picnic basket, umbrellas and head out to the beach. Beach tennis is a firm favourite along with building beautiful sand castles. But then when the food and wine is all up and we’ve played our rounds and built our castles – it’s time to head home for a hot shower. With that, I find no problem at all.
My father has always enjoyed fishing – in recent years more than in his youth. My sister’s husband, a South African, has also jumped on the band wagon and so they were two planning our days around the tides and where to fish. My husband, being the sand castle type, just listened attentively, not having any interest in ocean fishing.
The wind was in my favour as the whole coastline struggled to shake the remnants of a two-week long east wind spell. For those who have never experienced east wind at the coast, it simply means unbearable heat of up to 40’C and an incredibly hot wind blowing nothing but sand for days on end. We arrived at Henties at the end of one of these spells and were just too happy about it. However, on the morning of the first fishing expedition, the wind turned rather quickly. When we left town to find our two fishermen, the thermometer in the car showed 40’C. When we got out of the car, we found that it was cool and rather breezy at their fishing spot. We unpacked and hoped for the best. We certainly didn’t want to return to town – we knew what it was like there. The weather turned for the best and most of us stayed until the afternoon.
The next day was initially meant for Swakopmund, but with our two fishermen still out of luck, they decided to have lunch at home and then to head out late afternoon to the waters to try their luck one more time. Again the wind changed incredibly quickly and just when we thought our potjie kos was simply going to blow away, the wind turned again Phew. The rest of the day was spent eating and we left around four o’clock to a new fishing spot. We stayed until dark but the men had no luck. But the dogs seemed to have plenty of fun as they could run freely and explore all the wonderful smells one could possibly dig out!
Although we did not spend hours and hours at the beach, I found that two days were more than enough for me. I certainly am no fisherman’s wife. I just wouldn’t cut it. On our return home, we stopped in Swakopmund for breakfast. The highlight of my weekend. The buzz, the vibe… I love that town! And I certainly would not stay in Henties Bay again.