Our Last Week in Namibia

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September 28th 2010
Published: October 11th 2010
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After the excitement of the desert we then headed to Luderitz, a small town sandwiched between the Namib Desert and the battered Atlantic Coast. There is little plant life here, just dry barren rocks and colourful German heritage buildings.

We drove to Dias Point which is about 22km out of Luderitz. A huge lighthouse let us know that we had arrived at the barren point. Walking down to the shore we could see flamingoes and hear the seals on the nearby island. At the top of the hill overlooking the sea is a replica cross of the one that was erected by the Portuguese in 1488 on their return from the Cape of Good Hope. There was hardly any wind and the sea was calm apart from the surf that pounded the rocks.

A real highlight was our visit to Kolmanskop Ghost Town in the Sperrgebiet National Park. This National Park is the source of Namibia's diamonds and as a result most of it is off limits but with a permit they do allow the public to have a look inside, although despite scouting the surrounding area the closest we got to any diamonds was in their very secure shop!

Kolmanskop was originally constructed as CDM's (Consolidated Diamond Mines) headquarters. The town even boasted a casino, bowling alley and theatre. Its heyday ended with the onset of WWI and richer pickings further south at Oranjemund. It was such a fascinating visit. The decrepit buildings are slowly being overtaken by the surrounding dunes and their charm lies in the fact they have been abandoned and remain as they were in the 1950s, all of which tells a story.

When the area was discovered there were so many diamonds that photographs in the museum show men lying on their stomachs in a line shimmying along the ground, picking up the diamonds on the way. Other photos show women in the kitchen sifting what looks like flour but is actually a cup full of diamonds. One of the more interesting exhibits shows some of the cunning ways people in the last 10-20 years have attempted to steal diamonds, everything from hiding them inside the sole of the shoe, tapping packages to courier pigeons, using a bow and arrow to fire the package to whoever was waiting outside the park and inside a tape recorder. It was in the security's best interest to intercept stolen diamonds as they receive a whopping reward of 33.3% of the value of the diamonds. Considering some the caches were upwards of 26 carats, this could amount to a substantial amount of money.

The temperature soared into the forties once we left Luderitz and headed to Fish River Canyon (FRC), near the South African border. Fish River Canyon is the world's second largest canyon - 160km long, 27km in width and at its peak, it is over 550m deep. The sheer enormity of the canyon cannot be captured by a camera, it is truly more spectacular than the photographs illustrate.

Strangely, you are not allowed to do any day walks in the canyon. The only walk that you can do is the 85km hike from Hibas to Ai-Ais that takes 5 days which seemed odd. However, it all became clear why they do not allow day walks when we saw the size of the canyon. Furthermore, the environment here is very delicate and could not cope with an influx of tourists walking around during the day, to say nothing of the fact that it is exceptionally hot and there is no shade.

We spent our second night in the canyon at Ai-Ais (meaning scalding hot). The hot springs are at the northern end of the National Park with the huge canyon walls towering around the site. We spent most of the afternoon relaxing by the outdoor pool, which given the heat of the day was a little too hot but relaxing in the indoor thermal pools was a nice way to spend an evening.

Leaving FRC, we had two more nights camping before we were due back in Windhoek. Our tent has taken a real battering, its holding together by a few safety pins and the poles are ready to snap. After stopping to investigate our accommodation at Hardap Recreational Resort, we decided to head straight back to Windhoek and stay at the backpackers. Hardap wanted us to pay an entrance fee of N$90 on top of our accommodation. We could not establish what the extra cost was actually for and the facilities were a bit outdated, although there was a nice view of the dam, the thought of a bed and a decent meal lured us away.

As luck would have it, despite nursing a slow leak on the front left tyre the whole trip, just minutes before leaving the last unsealed road of the trip we got a puncture on the back left tyre. Luckily we had a brand new tyre to replace it with. Having a rental car has been fantastic and really the only way to explore Namibia, but oh the dust.....It only cost N$60 to fix the puncture which was a relief. Our rental car passed its very rigorous inspection by the rental company (like no other we have experienced).

It was too expensive to take the rental car across the border so we unfortunately have to catch a bus from Windhoek to Cape Twon, the longest bus trip yet, an agonising 21 hours and that is if it arrives on time. This should be the last bus ride on our trip!

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