Swakopmund has a sense of emptiness, of desertion to it, despite the stores, coffee shops and markets. Oddly, I feel like I’ve been here before, like I’m walking through a sleepy dream, recognizing the familiar palm trees, rocky beaches with foamy waves breaking and spraying the massive rocks. Until yesterday, I didn’t even know this town existed, I didn’t know I’d be here, but surely I’ve seen this coast before- I keep waking up, remembering I’m in Namibia.
This is the first proper town I’ve encountered in vast desert of Namibia. I walk the empty streets, as wide as a football field- it’s as if a game ended a long time ago and I’m walking through an empty field, like I missed something. The big roads are paved, but with dirt inching bit by bit to cover the pavement. Where are all the people? I observe the small town shops, taking note of streets that open up into nowhere, signs of life slowly fading away, I think if I walk down them, I’ll walk off the face of the earth.
The best way to get to know a town is to walk it, not with a destination, but to see it, feel it, and just be in it. I walk to the open market next to the sea, looking at handicrafts that I will not buy. It’s chilly, but I can feel the sun and I know the chill is deceptive- I’m burning. I pass women and children sitting on the ground, hair braided with thick puffs at the ends of the braid, lazily brushing them out. As I walk closer I see their naked breasts, completely exposed with kanga cloth wrapped around their waists. I avert my eyes, trying to make sense of what I see, sneaking glances of curiosity- is this for the tourists? A truly local touch to the handicraft market made for travelers?
I make my way to the ocean and climb the rock boulders, looking out at the coastline of this mysterious town. Waves leisurely roll in and hit the rocks, spraying me with salty mist. The sky is a hazy light blue- almost white. I take in the remnants of German colonialism, the small town feel, the town itself like a rest stop, an oasis in the middle of the Namib desert. There’s no way to know how something feels, how a place is unless you go there and experience it. I know I’ll never be here again, I’m just passing through, but I won’t forget the feeling of Swakopmund. I capture this moment and thank the universe for bringing me here.