It was as amazing as it was absurd. It was 120 degrees out--so hot that even with the van's AC pumping, the sun coming through the windows made the car a sauna. The road was blurry from the heat and just went on and on into nothing but sand dunes and beautifully burnt mountains. We were two hours into the Namib Desert, halfway through our journey to find some sort of concrete mini-ramp that we heard was in the middle of the desert outside the quiet beach town of Swakopmund. We didn't know where it was, or even who owned it, our only clue of where to even begin was that someone who worked at a coffee shop might know… and so we were off.
Words and Photos by Sam McGuire
The borders of Iowa are formed by rivers, to the west, the Missouri river. Way back when they were drawing the borders of the states the Missouri river was flooded and so when it finally receded, a big chunk of Iowa was left now landlocked in Nebraska where the river used to be. I loved it, the idea of this state or country being locked within another country. It's was called an enclave. There are three enclave countries in the world; San Marino within Italy, Vatican City within Rome and The Kingdom of Lesotho within South Africa. So when film maker Patrik Wallner hit me up about a trip to Africa, I had to make sure we ended up in Lesotho somehow.
We started in Cape Town, probably one of the best destinations Africa has to offer. It's tough to write about the beauty of Cape Town: the endless beaches, breathtaking mountains, and the way the fog peels over Table Mountain--the entire city is like some sort of enchanting poem. The crew was Jamie Tancowny, Sebo Walker, Walker Ryan, Thaynan Costa, filmmaker Patrik Wallner, and myself on visuals. We pretty much had the city dialed with the best guides you could have--Luke Jackson and slamming photographer Sam Clark. It's quite a long flight from nearly anywhere in the world, but Cape Town is one place that every skateboarder needs to go before they die.
Lesotho has a very interesting history. I'm not an expert, and it's quite a long story, but in short, King Moshoeshoe I ruled Lesotho (called Basutoland at the time) from the early 1820s to 1870. After lots of conflict from Dutch and British colonists, Lesotho finally gained independence from Britain and officially became the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966. The capital is Maseru--a big, spread- out bustling city--and we had no idea what to expect when pulling into town. Personally, I was anxious, as I'd sort of talked it up saying there were spots when really I had no idea what there was and didn't really even see many paved roads when I looked on Google Earth.
Lesotho is a developing nation full of beautiful people with really beautiful smiles. With only two days in Maseru, we made the best of what little time we had and drove around scouring the place for spots. Because skateboarding is relatively new in Maseru, we didn't find a ton of spots, but we had a lot of fun looking. SKATECyc is an organization that helps build skateboarding in Lesotho, so we would randomly see kids skateboarding in all different parts of town. Sometimes we would be driving down a fairly crusty road quite far from the city and we'd pass by someone skating along and he'd give us a big smile and a thumbs up.
After a few days in Maseru, we headed west deep into the deserts of Namibia. We landed in Windhoek, but we had caught wind of a concrete halfpipe in the middle of the desert, and so off we were to find it. We ended up in Swakopmund, and after a bit of asking around and searching, we found ourselves waiting for Eike, the kid whose parents own the ramp. We headed out into what looked like a Mad Max landscape, and there lay one of the most amazing mini-ramps I've ever seen. It looked like it was on Mars--just plopped in the middle of a desert. The boys shredded it until the hot desert sun set behind the dunes. We finished the trip up back in Windhoek, skating when we could. The summer desert heat was something unbearable, and so early mornings or right before the sun set were about the only times a proper session could go down. There were great spots though, and I would recommend Windhoek for anyone looking for an African desert destination--it's sorta got it all.
For many reasons Africa hasn't been on many skaters' travel destinations, but with some political stabilization in certain regions, it's becoming more and more sought after, especially southern Africa. It's a long flight down, but it's very cheap once you get there, and the amount of different landscapes you can see is incredible. Consider it for your next skate safari, and don't forget to tip your hat to Lesotho while you're down there.