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Notes from Namibia

Himba people performing a dance at ATWS 2013 in Namibia
Himba people performing a dance at ATWS 2013 in Namibia

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.

Namibian sand dune
Namibian sand dune

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.

In the Tsaris Mountains of Namibia for the Adventure Travel World Summit 2013
In the Tsaris Mountains of Namibia for the Adventure Travel World Summit 2013

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


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  1. October 31, 2013 at 10:19 am — Reply

    Wonderful snapshot of the conference – thank you Everett!

  2. October 31, 2013 at 10:52 am — Reply

    Great glimpse, Everett! So interesting. Awaiting your next installments!

  3. October 31, 2013 at 11:48 am — Reply

    Amazing pictures of an amazing place, Everett. It’s been fun traveling together!

  4. October 31, 2013 at 1:54 pm — Reply

    Monkey gland sauce?

    This looks totally kewl. I know I sound Cali Valley, but it works for this…

  5. Alexia Nestora
    November 1, 2013 at 9:31 am — Reply

    So great to see you, awesome article!

  6. Dave Butler
    November 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm — Reply

    Great summary, Everett. You’ve nailed it; this experience will take a while to understand and digest, but life-changing, for sure.

  7. November 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm — Reply

    Everett, you got it precisely right! It was a pleasure getting to know you and to travel with you to the wonderful Zebra River Lodge in the Tsaris Mountains. I’m looking forward to hearing more from you about Namibia in the future. Thanks ever so much, Kristina

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