Swakopmund (Swakop) as a Child in the 80’s & 90’s
It has been my favourite coastal town since I was a child. My December holiday memories are all good. Even the holiday when I burnt blisters have good memories. I loved every moment at the sea. Swakopmund is like no other coastal town I know. It is these memories that made me decide to move there right after university. It is here that I made my first ‘working’ friends, where I fell in love with sundowners on the beach and drove around with half my closet in the back of my car. After 18 months as a Swakopmund resident, the memories are countless, with sand, heart ache, late nights, and beach and sun all moulded into one.
When I grew up, Swakopmund did not nearly have as many Bed & Breakfasts / Guesthouses as now. There were a few hotels like the Hansa Hotel, but mostly it was self-catering places where locals used to stay. Namibia was not yet a top destination and Swakopmund not yet top of the visitor’s list. We always stayed in one of these self-catering places but the one we liked the most was what we called the A-frames or the Municipal Bungalows. Privately owned, there are roughly about a 100 bungalows and they had two main attractions. Firstly, it was double story and the children always had the top room. Secondly, the amount of bungalows made sure that we children could play the whole holiday with new friends. We loved it.
Activities were few and far between, but there were lots to do if you came from the country side – used to bushes and shrubs and maybe a dam on a farm somewhere. Dad loved fishing, so a day out on the beach was always slotted in. The water was way too cold to really swim or to learn the skill of surfing or boarding. (Visiting the coast once a year, definitely was not enough reason to get a surf suit.) So we build sand castles of all shapes and sizes. If Dad didn’t want to fish, he would take us out to the dunes. Now climbing a dune is an activity all by itself. But we got boards which we polished… these we would carry up the dune and ride them down as fast as we could. This was our form of surfing. Off course, showering that night had a whole different dimension with more sand washing down the drain than soap. For a real treat, we were taken to the movies. Swakopmund did not have a movie house, so we would drive to Walvis Bay. This is where I saw my first movie on the big screen. Yup, and it was no other than Free Willy. The highlight of going to the coast was the Super Tube and the indoor swimming pool. First we spent every cent we have saved up during the year, on this awful thing that would swirl you around for a few adrenaline-rushed seconds and spit you out into a mad pool of water and then what was left of our cents, we would use to get into the indoor Municipal Pool where we would swim until our skins were beyond looking 80! On the weekends we visited the cousins who were fortunate enough to live in Swakopmund. This usually involved a cricket game as I had a cousin who believed that playing cricket every free moment of the day would get him into the Namibian National Team – and it did! The adults usually had a braai (barbecue) but food to us was a secondary thought of almost no importance. We played cricket until the ball went missing. Then we started playing cowboys and crooks until the cowboys and the crooks all looked the same. Many a scar on my knees and shins can be accounted for during these games.
We stayed so long at the coast that our parents had to go to the Laundry. Even this wasn’t so bad. On the first floor of the laundry, they had installed playing machines. We could play Packman until all the washing was done and still have pocket-money left. They even had one of these machines where you attempted to drop a coin just onto the right place to get the slider to slide some coins into the winning slot. We off course were notorious for accidentally running into the machine…
I can’t remember ever going out on a boat or paying an arm and leg for an hour of fun on a quad bike. Neither can I remember eating out in a fancy restaurant. (I don’t count Café Treft as fancy where we at least once had lunch every holiday – it was a necessity). But somehow, I also can’t remember ever being bored. For the days when the weather was bad, there were plenty of books to read. We shopped, yes, but never all day long and it almost always ended with an ice cream at the Mole. Whether all the cousins joined or whether it was just us, these were the good times. Times that I would not exchange for anything in this world.