Heading into the desert and seeing a ghost town, Namibia
We pack up camp early and leave Amanzi Campsite, we have a big day ahead and hope to reach Lüderitz tonight, it is around a 7 hour drive. We punch the location into the GPS and head off down the road, around 40 mins up the road we arrive at Aussenkehr the first town on our route, we were informed there was a Spar supermarket here and we could stock up on supplies. As we approach we see a large area filled with straw huts, initially we think it's a township on the outskirts, but a sign for the Spar directs through the straw homes where we are all surprised to see a large supermarket, the straw huts weren't the township but the town. I go into the Spar and buy some supplies and go back to the car, when I try to start the car nothing, the electrics are completely dead, panic starts to set in, who do I call, what do we do? I calm myself down and try to think through the situation, right electrics start at the battery let's start there, I lift the bonnet up and wiggle the earth connection on the battery, its loose, I push it and suddenly the car comes to life. Relived the car starts and we drive on. As we exit the town the tar road finishes and we drive onto the gravel road, after another 5km we are driving through the middle of a desert. Namibia is the second least populated nation in the world and with very little traffic on the road, it's a very daunting experience starting out and driving the family in this environment. It is something you have to be really prepared for as you just don't know what could happen, making sure we have a good supply of drinking water is a priority in this heat and we carry 40 litres of it in the back of the truck. We push on and head to Fish River Canyon, our lunch stop for the day. The Fish River Canyon is the largest canyon in Africa, it features a gigantic ravine, in total about 100 miles (160 km) long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 meters deep. We head for the spectacular Hobas viewpoint where we have lunch. From Hobas we head for Lüderitz, on leaving Hobas viewpoint we pass the Canyon Roadhouse Accommodation and Cafe it also has fuel. Fuel stations are very scarce in Namibia with huge distances between them, we were told to fill up at every opportunity, so we stop off for fuel. The Roadhouse is interestingly decorated with old cars and car parts, found in the region. Old antiques adorn the inside and it has a very Kiwiana feel to the place, with a large bar taking centre stage. Rested, we push on to Lüderitz, we arrive at night not sure of our surroundings just a sign warning us that the last 20km speed limit drops because of sand bumps created by high winds blowing the desert sand onto the road. We had decided not to camp and had phoned ahead booking a B&B for the night, we are glad we did as when we stepped out of the car we first hand experienced the extremes of temperature you can have in the desert, it was cold and we were glad to have a warm bed for the night, plus the campsite is perched on the coast and renowned for high winds. Edwina cooks up a bacon risotto which the kids really enjoy and then head to bed early.
Edwina is first up in the morning eager to make the most of our planned morning visit to Kolmanskop, known as Namibia's most famous ghost town it is only 10km out of Lüderitz. The first diamonds were found here in 1908 and it lead to a town being built with large, elegant houses not out of place in Europe, complete with amenities including, a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, bowling alley, theatre, sports hall, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere (to detect swallowed diamonds), extremely impressive for the early 1900's. We arrive just after the gates are open and head off over the dunes and enter the abandoned homes, all being engulfed by the sand dunes, walls, floors, ceiling, roof's all in a hazardous state we were all having to watch our steps as we explore the area. It was interesting to see the use of wall colour and interior decorative features, elaborate roll top baths, sinks full of sand, wall sockets and light fittings all decaying slowly being reclaimed by the sands. The place has an airy feel about it and there is a romantic feel to the place, imagining the elaborate lifestyles that people lived here surrounded by diamonds underfoot, the extreme wealth and elegance in this most hostile of environments is something quite surreal. I left Edwina to it, she was in her element with her camera making the most of the experience, it was a place that she had been wanting to visit when we were planning our Namibian travel. The guide book had mentioned that they sell diamonds here, Edwina has always wanted a big rock and was excited about the chance to buy one, unfortunately they stopped selling them last year as the price was the same as the employees of the mine and it wasn't worth it for them, it looks like Edwina will have to keep waiting for her rock, my wallet bore a sigh of relief.
Back to Lüderitz, Luca and I find a barbers for a haircut, Luca's experience was straight forward but for some reason I had my hair doused in paraffin with a paint brush, I don't know if that loosen the afro. I finished the day walking in gale force winds reminding me of Wellington to get fish and chips and calamari with Arabella and Luca for dinner our first since New Zealand, it was super fresh with real potato chips.