By Everett Potter
I am in Namibia, the Africa that I never knew existed, for the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS). This 10th gathering of the ATWS is a mosh pit of ideas and creative energy emanating from tour operators, destination specialists, journalists and others in the world of adventure travel.
Choosing Nambia was a stroke of genius. Located on the southwest coast of the continent, Namibia has the oldest desert in the world and an Atlantic coastline where the waters of the Benguela Current push chilly seas up from Antarctica. It is one of the driest places in the world, a mélange of sand and stone and beating sun, and it defies your imagined version of Africa.
Namibia is a place where “middle of nowhere” takes on fresh meaning, a country twice the size of Germany with a population of about two million people. Emptiness and endless horizons are its stock in trade. In the north are safaris to see elephants in lions. In the south, where I traveled, it’s desert in all of its endless variety, where kudu and springbok and zebra roam.
In Swakopmund, where the ATWS is being held, the wide empty streets have churches with onion domes, bars that pour Weissbier and streets named for prominent Germans, who colonized it briefly over a century ago, when it was German Southwest Africa. Yet you can also order oryx served with monkey gland sauce at dinner and look down its streets, past blocks of Lego-like buildings, and see a massive wall of sand a mile away, a wilderness at the doorstep of order.
There are plenty of ideas to take away from this gathering of the adventure tribe – visionaries like Zita Cobb of the Fogo Island Inn and Tim Cahill, the author and founding editor of Outside, were among the speakers — and I’ll be writing more about this amazing summit in the coming weeks. But the most concise thoughts seemed to flow from travel writer Pico Iyer. In a country where saving the rhino is paramount, a place where poachers have been transformed into protectors, Iyer summed it up by saying that “Just as humanity needs to preserve the wild, it’s the wild that preserves our humanity.”
For more information on Namibia, visit www.namibiatourism.com.na