Fast Forward Through The Sand


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, April 07, 2004 was originally posted on April 14, 2004.

DAY 172:  “How long have you been doing this?” I asked Beth at the top of one of the Namib Desert’s many dunes.  Nearby was her sandboard with a sticker on it that read, “Chicks Kick Ass.”

“Eight years,” she answered, which meant she had been in the sandboarding tour business since 1996.

“So you were here when The Amazing Race was here?”

“Yup, that was us,” Beth answered proudly.  “I’m amazed at how many Americans, Canadians and Australians saw that and came here to Namibia.”

What the Emmy-Award winning reality program The Amazing Race did was put Swakopmund and it’s sport of sandboarding on the map.  Sandboarding (picture above) was the reason I came to Namibia in the first place.  However, that morning it seemed like I might not be able to fit it in my Chameleon Safaris’ schedule since Samora didn’t call for my reservation early enough, and it was really bumming me out.  Well, that and the fact that I woke up with one of the worst hangovers I’d had in months.

WITH THE LONG EASTER WEEKEND, most South Africans and Namibians were on holiday and with the popularity of sandboarding, Alter Action Sandboarding (the only sandboarding company in town) was fully booked.  Carol, the tour guide of the Chameleon mini-van, told me she was good friends with Beth and could pull some strings.  However when she called her, Beth couldn’t manage to squeeze in another person for safety reasons — a short while ago, a girl broke her neck sandboarding.  My only hope was for a cancellation, and with all the tours in town, it looked grim for me.  My safari was to return to Windhoek that afternoon.

As an avid snowboarder, I was so keen on riding the world famous site for sandboarding and was willing to stay an extra day in Swakopmund at my own lodging and transportation expense.  But staying an extra day would mess up my plans to leave Windhoek the next day on a bus to Zambia and the next bus wasn’t until three days after.  I was really frustrated at the situation; I might not have to front my own cash if only Samora called earlier.  Didn’t he know it was Easter weekend?  Everything would have fallen into place if only he used his cell phone and called earlier.  But he told me he never had any problems in the past, calling just right before.

Now, with the bungalow check-out time at 10 a.m., what determined whether or not I was staying another day was up in the air and dependent on a cancellation.  Still hungover, I sat grumpy as the Chameleon staff packed up the trucks and waited like a stand-by passenger for a flight.  Hopefully there was someone else even more hungover than I was and couldn’t bear to ride the dunes.

Around nine, Beth called Carol with the good news for me:  I was a go.  Everything fell into place.

WHILE JAODINO WENT QUADBIKING, Ben and Karen went on a dolphin and birdwatching cruise, and others just roamed around town, I waited around for my transport to the dunes with two new Chameleon clients, Malin and Lisa from Sweden.  We talked about their fear of falling on the dunes and our mutual love for Ikea furniture.  We were the first van to arrive at the sandy slopes and waited around for others while the guides got the snowboards-turned-sandboards, boots and bindings out of the truck.  When the others arrived, I met Polly again, the girl who fell off her quadbike the day before.

Beth divided us into three groups:  lie-down boarders, novice sandboarders and my group, experienced snowboarders.  After a hike up to the top of the dune and a mandatory board waxing, Beth briefed us on how to apply the techniques of snowboarding in the sand — it was very similar, just some more leaning on the back leg — and let us alone to go down and up at our leisure while she taught the newbies.

As fun as sandboarding was, it did nothing for my hangover.  Unlike sandboarding outside of Ica, Peru where someone drives you to the top of the mound with a sand buggy, here you had to hike up the dune after each run, which was an arduous task when you felt like your head was up your ass.  I debated whether or not to dig a hole to vomit in, but just took it easy.  Eventually it passed.

Good thing too because sandboarding that morning was, as they say, awesome.  Unlike snowboarding, you didn’t have to bundle up in a whole bunch of gear.  Plus, when you land (or fall), it’s nice and soft, not hard and sometimes icy.  The one time that I did fall on the dunes was when I attempted to go off one of the ramps; my approach was sloppy and I flew off the edge the wrong way.  The one disadvantage of sandboarding over its snowy counterpart was that if and when you fall, you end up with tons of sand in your pockets — even the ones that you’ve zipped up — and crunch sand in your teeth no matter how much you tried to prevent it.

I thought I got completely sandy during my wipe out, but that was nothing compared to when I tried out the lie-down boards.  With helmet on, I was pushed off the top of the dune, holding the front of a pressboard the whole way down to keep it from catching the sand and flipping me over.  At speeds of up to 80 km/hr, flipping over wouldn’t be a good thing.  However, the big downhill led to a steep uphill, sending me flying into the air gracefully, only to land like a sandbag — in a perfect videographic opp for the nearby videographer.   

SAND STUCK ALL OVER MY SWEATY BODY after all that and when I eventually regrouped with the other Chameleon clients for a picnic lunch near the National Aquarium in Swakopmund, there was no need to tell them how it was.  The red sand all over my clothes, hair and face said it all.

“How was it?” Karen asked me.

Ben answered for me, “Look at him, he’s covered in sand!”

I bid Samora and the Aussies farewell — trying to get transfer too much sand onto them — as they were going up north to Etosha National Park with Malin, Lisa and other Chameleon clients for the continuation of their 12-day tour.  I hopped in the mini-van with Martin and Jaodino.  Carol and Blessing drove us the four hours back to Windhoek, passed the dozens of cars headed towards the shore for the long weekend.

BACK AT CHAMELEON BACKPACKERS IN WINDHOEK, I sorted myself out and started my Blog catch-up.  Sand still stuck to me in places I didn’t even know sand could cling to.  After two showers, I was still digging the sand out of my ears.

Next entry: Worrywart

Previous entry: Need For Speed

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Comments for “Fast Forward Through The Sand”

  • I was first four times in a row raspberry~

    Posted by Liz  on  04/14  at  02:31 PM

  • Erik: Which sandboarding experience do you like better? Nambia or Peru?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  04:26 PM

  • LIZ:  You have the time zone advantage!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  04:52 PM

  • SIM:  I’d have to say Peru because they just drive you up after each run—no hiking required!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  04:53 PM

  • Darnit, Sim! I was going to ask the same question!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  05:26 PM

  • note to self .. skip Nambia, thanks E.
    Noelle: sorry .. u can ask him about which sand taste better! since I know he had to have had ate it at both places, hehehe

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  05:48 PM

  • now this is sandboarding!  now what u did with jackie in uruguay.  hahahah



    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  08:40 PM

  • wow, that is so awesome. looks like a lot of fun. and less painful than falling on ice and snow.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/16  at  01:41 AM

  • I thought You don’t have Ikea in N.Y.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/16  at  04:37 AM

  • TD0T - Technically there is no IKEA in NY…you gotta go to Jersey….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/16  at  05:02 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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