Namibia Roadtrip Day 10
WEATHER: Hot and sunny.
Today was totally different. At 9.30 we were picked up by Beth and taken to the dunes for Sand boarding. Now we’re both old enough to know better, but it sounded like fun, and the pictures of the kids on the website made it look easy, a bit like tobogganing. We opted for the lying down boarding as the standing up was a bit too much like snowboarding. The niggles in the back of my mind started when we stopped to pick up a group of ‘skanky students’ who looked like they hadn’t seen a shower in weeks and were extremely excited about the ‘Swedish’ girls they had met the night before! We arrive at the dunes, but these weren’t the small gentle slopes I had expected, they were mountains!!!
We were kitted out with crash helmets, elbow pads, and gloves and were given instruction on how to use our boards. The boards were in fact a sheet of hardboard, and once at the top of the ‘mountain’ we would lie down on our stomachs, pull the front of the board upwards; to avoid getting a mouthful of sand, push our elbows out, and then be pushed off the edge at breakneck speed. Don’t let go, open your mouth, oh, and tap your toes in the sand to slow down and straighten out. Even the skanky students went pale; there was no going down gracefully like on a sledge, it was headfirst or nothing at all. The gradient was over 85%, literally a sheer drop. It was like the intrepid slalom run at Kitsbuhel – not that I’ve ever done it! Its quite amazing what fear can do, and words you never knew you had in you vocabulary suddenly flow. Unfortunately, you’ve forgotten the rule about not opening your mouth, but at least the fear of sliding headfirst down a sandune at around 50 - 70km/h stops you from letting go of the front of the board! The toe tapping business didn’t seem to work either; I just dug both heels firmly in, hoping my speed would be a bit more moderate than the other adrenalin junkies, all eager to reach top speed with no skill. At least it was soon over. Now there is another thing they forget say. Once you’ve gone down you need to walk back up again. Now in the heat and fine sand it’s not as easy as it looks. Its no wonder the activity takes 3 hours. Over 70% of that is walking up dunes. There are 6 different courses all together the ‘nursery’ slopes are the first two and then you move on to the big ones, there is also the tandem where you go down in pairs just like on a toboggan. The only problem with the tandem is that two people have to get on the same board. Now when you’re 12 or very thin and supple sitting with your knees around your ears whilst our partner cuddles up behind you is easy, but when you are a little older and eaten one too many English Breakfasts its not as easy as all that. The good thing was we weren’t the only ones who despite a lot of effort really didn’t manage to get into the right position, so we sat it out. The penultimate run was called ‘Dizzy’ which was the longest, fastest and scariest run, and of course the skanky students suddenly went very quiet. However, there is always one who wants to go first and then they were all ‘up for it’. The cameraman was also holding a speed gun to clock the fastest run. Now call me a chicken but 74kph on a piece of hardboard headfirst isn’t my idea of fun, and there were a few others who also agreed, so we just watched. At last the final run, and to me this looked like an almost vertical drop, but there was no other way of getting back for a beer, so close your eyes and this time keep your arms in as there’s a bit of a ledge in the middle which will make you bounce. Jeff, worried about his bad back asked if it would hurt. “Of course not, if you keep you arms in” came the reply. As I stood at the bottom of the slope I noticed something odd, he appeared not to be wearing his crash helmet, just before push-off but it must be ok because he’s taking to a staff member… then he’s off! Oops, too late to go back for the helmet now, and why has he got his arms out?
He lands with a thump at the bottom and doesn’t move for a quite a while. I feared the worst. Then, a faint murmur came: “I forgot my helmet”. Then he looks at his arm which has the biggest sand graze you’ve even seen. I could see pain for weeks to come. Ouch!