Straight Road to Lüderitz
The B4 to Lüderitz is long, straight and remote. The intense sun causes the road to shimmer ahead of us and the flat, arid land offers no protection from the wind. We were thrilled to witness sand blowing across the tarmac in front of us, offering a good opportunity for a classic desert photo.
We step out of Landy in Lüderitz into a wind in which we can barely stand up. After a brief visit to a campsite on the coast we concede defeat and seek out a guest house instead. Kratzplatz is a funky little place. The yard is filled with all sorts of quirky objects, including lots of vehicle parts and “up-cycled” objects used as plant containers. The rooms are comfortable and they even have a busy attached bar and restaurant. It is the perfect place to catch up on clothes washing and internet use. http://www.kratzplatz.info
4×4 tracks and flamingoes
After a quick lunch we set off along the peninsula to the west of the town which has abundant tracks for the adventurous off-road enthusiast. Some of them are extremely tricky and although Keith enjoys himself I am a little nervous as Landy tips precariously to one side or slides down a particularly rocky part of the track. The views are worth the trouble though, as we find lovely isolated bays, sandy beaches with skeletal boat remains poking out, and beautiful pink flamingoes around every corner. The various beaches and bays have lovely names, such as Sturvogel Bucht, Guano Bay, Halifax Island (which has African penguins) and Diaz Point.
Reaching Diaz Point involves a careful walk over a rickety bridge and lots of rock scrambling but we are rewarded with the sight of seals sunning themselves on the rocks. Also here is a cross, a replica of the one placed here by Bartholomeu Diaz, the first European explorer to enter the bay. He sheltered here in the late 14th century. It must have been a pretty lonely desolate place back then.
As we make our way back to town we pass a few signs on fences and at the start of tracks, warning us not to proceed further. This is the Sperrgebiet National Park, previously a diamond mining area, covering 26,000 square kilometres. This park, however, cannot be visited independently and the signs warning of fines and imprisonment are apparently very serious. We duly take them seriously.
Lüderitz is a fascinating old German town with impressive buildings from the early 20th century. It became a supply base for the German Schutztruppe during the war with the Nama people in 1904-07. However, it was the diamonds, first discovered nearby in 1908, that enabled the town to prosper as a centre of supplies for the diamond mines, and the communities that grew up around them. The Consolidated Diamond Mines company moved to Oranjemund in 1943 and the town slid into decline. It still looks a bit tired but the tourist industry is helping build it back up again and we found that the locals were friendly and keen to chat (without too much of an ulterior motive).
A diamond ghost town
The next day we set off to Kolmanskop, once the main town for the diamond industry, but now deserted and slowly being reclaimed by the sand. This place is absolutely fascinating and, although we are not generally fans of guided tours, this one is extremely well conducted. Some of the buildings, including the impressive concert hall, have been restored but most have been left exactly as they were when the workers and their families left them. Amongst sand dunes inside the houses we find bath tubs, rickety stairs and wonky doors and it is all very eerie. We throughly enjoy exploring all the houses and clambering up sand dunes in what used to be someone’s living room. This booming little town had comfortable staff quarters and very beautiful homes for the managers as well as a school, swimming pool, several shops and a hospital. They even had an ice factory and water and fresh food were transported in from Lüderitz. The restored buildings, together with the information provided by our guide, really brought the place to life for us and it is a real insight into the diamond industry and the workers’ way of life. http://www.kolmanskop.net