After exploring the harsh desert environment for two days, we emerge onto the Atlantic Ocean front. What a contrast – it’s like flicking from one channel to another. We have moved from the vast (apparently) lifeless sea of sand to a 100 percent liquid environment in the space of a just a few kilometres.
From Walvis Bay we take a boat northward to Swakopmund. The captain is called Franz, a name that is not uncommon in this former German colony. He’s a real old sea dog and we spend the journey listening to his heroic tales of storms and shipwrecks along the Namibian coast. He points to the boats stranded on the coast – they are constant reminders of the violence of the Atlantic Ocean. “I know the captain of that ship,” he says, pointing at a Russian vessel.
“We meet in a local pub every now and then and polish off a bottle of vodka. His ship stranded seven years ago and he hasn’t left Walvis Bay since.” The smirk on his face suggests this is just another one of his tall seaman’s tales. “Your story’s so touching, but it sounds jes’ like a lie,” I sing as I do my best Robbie Williams impersonation.
As we gaze at the stranded ships and listen to Franz, we have a strange feeling though… It is as though we are being watched. We look up into the cloudless sky and spot a huge pelican hovering 30 metres above the boat, eagerly eyeing our every movement.
“I know this fellow,” the captain says. “His name is Wilhelm.” This is probably another one of his stories, we think as we watch the large bird. All of a sudden the captain is hanging over the railing, waving a fish in his right hand and making what are probably meant to be pelican sounds. To us it sounds more like the noise of a diesel motor with a broken exhaust, but the pelican seems to understand this language and swoops down towards the boat. The captain tosses the fish overboard, just in time for the pelican to catch it mid-air. Wow, a performance worthy of the Cirque du Soleil! The pair repeat their act several times, but as soon as the pelican realises that the bucket of fish is empty, he soars up into the air and heads off towards the setting sun.