A Travellerspoint blog

Orange River, feral horses and ghost towns

Orange River via Namib-Naukluft to Aus; Garub feral horses; Luderitz and Kolmanskop

13th September Orange River and Aus

Having heard people discuss the Orange river route with the local guide we decided to go this way to Aus; although further it is much prettier and interesting. It meant crossing the canyon park, over the plains and mountains and ending at the Orange river which forms the border with South Africa. We filled up with petrol at The Canyon Roadhouse lodge which has its own fuel station, complete with retro pump.
We left, heading back towards Fish River on the D324 and instead of turning to Hobas we continued along the main road which runs parallel to the canyon. This road gave us amazing views into the canyon itself as we crossed the high plateau before cutting through the mountains.
Having reached the T-junction that was the C10 we turned left, cutting through the mountains still until the crossroads with the D316. Here the main C10 continued into Ai-Ais, but we took the left turn onto the D316, which was a much rockier, less mainstream road. To our right the highest peak was Mount Dreikopf. The mountains became hills and the hills turned into a dusty, salty plain (probably a pan) which was the change from Gondwana Canyon Park to Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, not that anyone would know apart from the odd sign.
Not long after we turned right onto an even less good road, the C37 and skirted the edge of the pan (also the frontier between Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier and Aussenkehr Parks). In all this time we’d seen… 1 other car! To the left was the pan, but to the right red hills began to rear up. For quite a while we followed the Gamkab/Gamchab River, which flows into the Orange River, driving along Gamkab River Canyon. Finally we descended through more mountains to arrive at Aussenkehr, a ramshackle ?town on the banks of the Orange River.
This whole area, from Fish River to Orange River is still inhabited by the Nama people. Nama (in older sources Namaqua) are an African ethnic group of South Africa and Namibia. They traditionally speak the Nama language (Khoe-Kwadi language family). The Nama (or Nama-Khoe) are the largest group of Khoikhoi. Many Nama clans live in Central Namibia and Namaqualand, which straddles the border with South Africa. For thousands of years, the Khoisan maintained a nomadic life, the Khoikhoi as pastoralists and the San people as hunter-gatherers. The Nama are a Khoikhoi group. The Nama originally lived around the Orange River, where early colonialists referred to them as Hottentots. Namaqua is from Khoekhoe language suffix "-qua/kwa", meaning "place of” + nama.
In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck, of the Dutch East India Company, arrived at the Cape of Good Hope with 90 people to start a Dutch settlement at the request of the company. They found the indigenous settlers called the Khoikhoi there, who had settled in the Cape region at least a thousand years before the Dutch arrived. Van Riebeek initially attempted to get cattle, land, and labour from the Khoikhoi people through negotiation, but when this failed, the Dutch settlers waged wars against the Khoikoi, and seized their lands and livestock. During the 18th/19th centuries, as Dutch settlement was expanding, the colony pushed the Khoikhoi east and north. Some descendants of Khoikhoi communities, including the Nama, crossed the Orange River into German South West Africa (Namibia). In 1991, a part of Namaqualand (home of the Nama and one of the last true wilderness areas) was named the Richtersveld National Park and in 2002, ancestral lands, including the park, were returned to community ownership as South Africa and Namibia created a trans-frontier park, now one of the few places where the original Nama traditions survive. There, the Nama move with the seasons and speak their language. The traditional Nama dwelling, |haru oms, or portable rush-mat covered domed hut is easy to move when grazing becomes scarce. Some Khoikhoi groups including the Nama under the leadership of David Witbooi (Hendrik Witbooi's grandfather) crossed the Orange River in 1863, and settled in Gibeon (south-central Namibia). After his death in 1875 Moses Witbooi (Hendrik Witbooi's father) assumed chieftaincy and remained in that position until 1883. In 1884 Hendrik Witbooi was leader, and began to move his people north into central Damaraland, in Hoornkrans. However, Hoornkrans was an important stronghold territory controlled by the Herero, powerful Bantu pastoralists led by Chief Maharero. This sparked a protracted military conflict between the two tribes. However, a few months before the conflict began, Maharero had agreed a protection agreement with the newly arrived German colonial administration. In 1886, Reichskomissar Göring wrote to Witbooi, encouraging him to end his hostile actions and return to Gibeon. Witbooi ignored this warning and continued his campaign for dominance against the Herero. Göring wrote Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck and described the overall situation as "not very encouraging”. He threatened war against Witbooi and his tribe if he did not halt his attacks against groups allied with Germany. In 1893 Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm ɪɪ appointed Curt von François as Landeshauptmann. A fanatic, François called Witbooi a mere "tribesman" whom he could defeat easily, saying his predecessors acted weakly in dealing with the Nama chief and made too many concessions. François believed that nothing but relentless severity would end Witbooi's resistance and in 1893 launched a surprise attack on Witbooi at Hoornkrans to "destroy the Witbooi Nama tribe". Witbooi and majority of his male soldiers escaped, but German troops killed nearly one hundred Namaqua women and children in their sleep. In a series of skirmishes that lasted for more than a year the Namaqua had great success, stealing horses and livestock from the German headquarters in Windhoek. At the end of 1893 Theodor Leutwein replaced Von François, to investigate the continuing failure to subdue the Nama. By 1894 Leutwein had successfully subdued the Nama and forced Hendrik to sign a protection treaty. In 1904 Kaiser Wilhelm replaced Leutwein with Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha, who also believed that violence would put an end to the wars. He employed a policy of extermination of the whole African tribes in the colony. From 1904-08, the German Empire waged a war against the Nama and Herero culminating in the Herero Namaqua genocide. Nama and Herero were driven into the desert and in some cases interned in concentration camps on the coast, and used as slave labour. At the dawn of the 19th century, Oorlam people encroached into Namaqualand and Damaraland. They likewise descended from indigenous Khoikhoi but had mixed ancestry including European. After two centuries of assimilation into Nama culture, many Oorlams today regard Khoikhoigowab (Damara/Nama) as their mother tongue. In general the Nama practice a policy of communal land ownership. Music, poetry and story telling are very important in Nama culture and many stories have been passed down orally through the generations. Traditionally, Nama camps had 5-30 huts. These huts had circular domes and their doors faced into the centre. Livestock sleep in front of their owners huts, with calves and lambs in an enclosed area in the middle. Namas have a complicated wedding ritual. First the man has to discuss his intentions with his family. If they agree they all go to ask the bride's family. The groom's family ask for the gate to be opened. If granted, the groom is interrogated about details of the bride, including the circumstances of their first meeting and how to identify her to make sure both know each other well. The wedding preparations can take up to one year. The families of both bride and groom make gift to others mother, traditionally a cow.
Having finally arrived at the Orange River we thought we had arrived at a great tarmac road. This was true for… about 5km, before it became a dusty track which fell into the river. No wonder you are advised to check before you head to this road. it is frequently closed in times of rain as it floods with fast-moving water. There were barriers at both ends to prevent anyone using the road at these times. However, it was dry season, and the road was passable. For quite some time we followed the river, which always has water and is rather attractive. Most of the vegetation and animals lived in a strip along the river bank, including a rather large troupe of vervet monkeys who ran in front of us. After a while the road turned sharply right and headed directly into the mountains; still no there cars either. We crossed several ephemeral river beads, and higher up in one place even spotted a klipspringer bounding across the rocks in front of us. The road was fairly challenging as the surface was poor and dusty, and ascended/ descended some fairly substantial mountains.
Eventually we descended back to meet up again with the river, at the point where Fish River joins it. Sometimes in dry season Fish River dries up completely, but this year there was still some water. In Orange river, being permanent, we saw a number of water birds, including an enormous flock of pelicans who glided around with the sun shining on them. We passed a number of small camp sites, several entrances to diamond and copper mines, and eventually crossed a weir across the Orange River, with some ibis casually fishing.
Some further mountains to climb, and a very narrow road along the river and we finally reached the barrier that ended the road. Here we turned right towards Rosh Pinah (whilst left led directly to SA). In all the time since leaving Canyon Roadhouse we counted 5 cars, 0 settlements and 2 bike riders. It would not do to have a puncture or run out of petrol!
We arrived at Rosh Pinah at lunchtime, so stopped to fill up with fuel, both for the car and for us! As usual our fuel was served by a petrol attendant; they have no concept of filling your own car in Namibia!
Vervet Monkey (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) is a predominately savannah woodland species, generally absent from open scrubland and grass, but will penetrate unsuitable terrain along rivers to find fruit trees. This adventurous streak accounts for commando-style raids on lodges and campsites. The vervet are highly social, and live in well-organised troops. The dominant hierarchy is maintained by threat; fighting is one-sided and non-retaliatory. When bitten, the male redirects its anger to the next member down the order. Its main habitats are along Orange River, rocky hills in the Grootfontein and Tsumeb districts. Vervet monkeys are omnivorous, feeding on fruit, flowers, leaves and insects, which constitutes the bulk of their diet; even when hungry they usually storedin their cheek pouches. They are silver-grey hair with a black face fringed with white. The male vervet has a bright blue scrotum, an important symbol of status, as a green one is a sign of immaturity! Troops will accept strange young juveniles.
Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus) is a strongly built little antelope, easily identified by its dark, bristly grey-yellow coat, slightly speckled appearance and unique habitat preference. Klipspringer means 'rockjumper' in Afrikaans, an apt name for an antelope which occurs exclusively in mountainous areas. They are common in Namibia, wherever rocky hills or kopjes are found. The klipspringer has two adaptations found in no other antelope. The first is the hoof structure: the klipspringer is able to walk on the hoof tip because the last joint of the digit has rotated, allowing extra grip and the ability to climb smooth rock surfaces and jump from boulder to boulder to escape predators. The second is thick, course hair which provides insulation in extreme temperatures. Klipspringers travel short distances amongst rocks. They have a tendency to stop and stand on a rock. This works well in the animal kingdom, but unfortunately makes it vulnerable to hunters. Its main habitats are the rocky habitats of lower Orange River, Kuiseb River in Namib Desert, Damaraland, Kaokoland and Erongo. It feeds on a wide variety of growing shoots, flowers and fruits from herbs and shrubs, but not grass.
Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) abound in Namibia's shallow lakes, floodplains, dams and estuaries, sheltered coastal bays and lagoons. Flocks of several thousand are common. It breeds at Bird Rock Platform near Walvis Bay, Etosha Pan and Hardap Dam and is also commonly found in lower Orange River and Fish River Canyon. It traps fish in large, gular pouch, often foraging whilst swimming, as well scavenging and killing animals ashore. It is known to steal the catch of Namibian anglers.
African Sacred Ibis. In Namibia, the African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) is found in grasslands, open habitats, dams, and inland freshwater wetlands. It was easily be seen in Etosha Park, Orange River, Fish River Canyon and Hardap Dam. The bird pecks slowly when walking for insects, frogs, crabs, grasshoppers and locusts, crickets, fish, frogs, lizards, small mammals, eggs and nestlings, worms and molluscs. This large ibis has a bare black head and neck, mainly white plumage and a black tail. Threskiornis is Greek for 'a religious bird’.
As we headed back north once more on the C13, we basically drove along the edge/ centre of Sperrgebiet, a restricted area of desert. The area is studded with tiny roads leading to various mining operations, often diamonds. We passed the Roter Kamm crater, the remnant of mighty meteorite. The crater is 2.5 km diameter and 130 m deep. The age is estimated 4.81 ± 0.5 Ma, the Pliocene. The scenery was amazing, especially to our left, but the wind whipping across the sand meant we staying inside to car to enjoy it. At one point we spotted an enormous sandstorm, but luckily it only caught the edge of us (although visibility on the road was pretty tricky). Another hour took us to the Aurus Mountains, which is the change from Sperrgebiet to Tsau//Khaeb Parks; both with restricted access as pretty much everything seems to have been sold to operators as “concessions”; which means you pay them a ton of money (only 1 person can own a concession) or don’t go. It seems to have caused some controversy, given comments later made to us in Luderitz.
We finally arrived in the tiny town of Aus at teatime. This was the only place in the whole of Namibia where we saw an actual train, despite there being railway lines everywhere.
Bahnhof Hotel Aus is the jewel of the Sperrgebiet; a modern, elegant format, combining rich history and traditional comfort with excellent service. Aus played a major role in the development of the railway line between Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop, because it had abundant water and also gave access through the mountains, to the inland plateau. https://hotel-aus.com
All rooms have en-suite facilities. Accommodation includes breakfast in the restaurant and the kitchen is open throughout the day for always freshly prepared light meals as well as outstanding "à la carte" dishes, daily fresh home baked bread and cakes and a large selection of South African wines. Meals can also be enjoyed on the sundeck, in the sheltered beer garden or in the historic bar.
Aus, this tranquil little desert town is situated east of Lüderitz and the name means 'out' in German, but may be derived from a Khoi-Khoi word which means the 'place of the snakes’. Aus is tucked between the folds of several hills and was formerly the site of a prisoner-of-war camp established by the South African army in 1915 to house German inmates captured during the First World War. The inmates initially lived in tents but later built brick houses. The number of prisoners reached 1500 but by May 1919 the last inmates left and the camp closed. A plaque marks the site today and some of the houses have been reconstructed.
It was early afternoon, so after a coffee we went for a short drive to see if we could spot the famous Feral horses of the Garub. There weren’t many at the waterhole, but as we drove on one strolled across the road and got very friendly with Steve! Newly emboldened, he decided to take our car off the road and drive into the desert. Passing a lot of ostriches and a few zebra and oryx we finally crossed (just about) a railway line with a halt, and ended at the base of a yellow sand dune.

The Wild Horses of the Namib hold a powerful fascination. For centuries their origin was shrouded in mystery. Their habitat, the barren plains around Garub on the eastern fringe of the Namib Desert (part of the Namib-Naukluft Park), is no paradise. Nevertheless, they have adapted to the harsh conditions and arid land. Their forebears, once in a stud, gained freedom a century ago to live their lives in the vastness of the Namib Desert, away from human civilisation, according to the natural ways of the land. Perhaps our yearning for the wild and free is the reason for our deep attraction to the Namib horses and explains why thousands of travellers visit Garub every year. Decades of research has resulted in a detailed understanding of the horses and their environment as a harmonious part of the desert ecosystem. Garup was once a station on the railway line from Aus to Lüderitz, completed in 1906. Because there was no drinking water in Lüderitz, water had to be transported in barrels by train from Garub to the coast, a 120km journey. Lüderitz later received its own water pipe and in 1990 Garub station was closed. The little station house is still standing (photo later).
It was becoming dusk, so we headed back to the hotel for a cocktail and a delicious fish (thank god no more game) meal before an early night.

14th September Aus and Lüderitz

After a very pleasant breakfast we set off to the ghost town of Kolmanskop set in the encroaching dunes of the Namib Desert. The town only opens in the morning, 3 days a week from 9-12, so it’s quite a limited schedule. As we left Aus the warm desert scenery became progressively colder and even a bit misty, so Kolmanskop looked somewhat ethereal rising from the mist. The town was fascinating; it was only finally abandoned around 1960, but already the houses were sand-filled.
After becoming one of the richest towns in Africa during a diamond boom in 1910, Kolmanskop was left by all inhabitants in the following decades. Kolmanskop became a ghost town in the desert. 15 km east of the harbour town of Lüderitz, Kolmanskop used to be a small railway station in 1908, when the railway between Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop was built. As far as legend has it the station derived its name from a Nama man named Coleman, who got stuck at the site with his ox waggon and consequently died of thirst. In 1908 the railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a shiny stone and took it to the chief railway foreman August Stauch. Stauch had been stationed at the station Grasplatz with the instruction to keep the railway line clear of sand. He was a hobby mineralogist and had advised his workers to bring any unique stone they might find to him.  He immediately assumed the find of Lewala to be a diamond, which was later confirmed, after the stone had been examined by his friend and future partner Söhnke Nissen, a mining engineer.
Stauch and Nissen did not shout their find form the rooftops, but instead quit their jobs and secured claims of 75 km² at Kolmanskop. They successfully continued their search for diamonds. Nevertheless the occurrence of diamonds did not stay a secret for long and soon a real diamond fever developed, as hordes of diamond seekers and adventurers settled in the area. Within two years at a rapid speed an unparalleled town development took place; within a few years Kolmanskop became the richest town of Africa and one of the richest towns worldwide. The thereby developed infrastructure was unmatched at the time; as from 1911 the town had electric power, luxurious stone houses, a casino, a school, a hospital, an ice factory to produce ice for fridges, a theatre, a ballroom, a sport-hall, a bowling alley, a salt-water swimming pool and much more although less than 400 people lived here. Noteworthy is that the hospital had the first x-ray apparatus in southern Africa installed. It probably also served to control workers, who might have swallowed diamonds. In 1908 no more claims were granted and the southern coastal strip was declared Restricted Diamond area. Diamond mining was industrialised and the diamond-yielding gravel was sifted and washed in huge factories. From 10 tons of sand only one to two carats of diamonds can be mined. With this method 1 ton of diamonds was mined until World War I. With the outbreak of the war in 1914 the production was nearly zero and with the loss of the German colony the German Era of diamond mining came to an end and was taken over by South Africa. In 1928 profitable prospecting sites were discovered south of Lüderitz all the way to Oranjemund and as the deposits around Kolmanskop were nearing depletion the mining activities were discontinued and until 1938 all machinery was taken south. The town was left to its own devices and the desert claimed its lost territory back. The last inhabitant left Kolmanskop between 1956 and 1960. In 1980 as Lüderitz underwent an economic boom the potential of the ghost town was rediscovered and some houses were dug out of the sand and partially restored.
We started in the Casino building, which has stood the passage of time the best and had a lot of work on it. This was the town’s main centre, and we walked around the impressive rooms; a gymnasium, movie theatre, bowling alley and kitchens. There are a couple of rooms with the history and exhibits, surprisingly well done. The most interest part was the exhibits showing all the various ways workers tried to smuggle diamonds out; in shoes, traditional swallowing (hence the X-ray machine in the hospital I suspect), kites, carrier pigeons, and many more. There was also an account, diaries and photos which had been donated by the last family to leave.
Not much different to a large town hall. From here we set off through the sand to the larger abandoned buildings; the teacher, architect (arkitect), accountant (buchhalter) and mine manager houses. Some of the houses were (moderately) safe to enter and others were clearly not. The poshest was the mine managers, complete with portico and orangery (which probably didn’t succeed in the desert), with the inlaid mosaic floors oddly still intact. We tried upstairs as the staircase was complete, but the floorboards had mostly gone.
Having drudged through the sand to the end of the town (mine manager’s), we came back at the top of the sand dune to the more interesting houses, including the architect’s, an iconic choice as in the bathroom is a bathtub filled with not water, but sand. The engineer and teacher’s houses were also fairly well preserved outside, but only the engineer’s was partially safe (to the upper balcony). Then it was the workers quarters, which we viewed from the rear as you could see how the sand had blown in. Most had rear exits, now the doors had gone we could see in to the rooms which were two-thirds sand filled. The school completed the run, again fairly well preserved. This gave us access to the main road and in front were the hospital, then the commercial buildings, butcher, baker and even ice factory (eisfabrik).
We finished back at the Casino, where they have created a nice restaurant and had a cake and coffee, before heading on to Lüderitz town.

The mist got thicker and the temperature got noticeably colder as we entered the Restricted Diamond Area Tsau Khaeb Park, so we were glad we’d brought coats. We parked on the main street, still called Bismarck Street, and found what passed for the tourist office; one helpful lady in a small souvenir shop with a few brochures. I think S found a kindred spirit! Eventually I put a stop to the double ramble and we left with several brochures and a plan.
First stop; a quick look at the more historic buildings of the town, and the famous church.
Then a visit to the supermarket to buy onward snacks. And finally, we set off on what looked like an interesting trip around the peninsula.

The town of Lüderitz stands in isolation on a great frontier between the desert and ocean. Beyond the structures huddled together beside the bay and a lighthouse on the peninsula, the surroundings are much as Bartolomeu Dias found them in 1487, when his flotilla of three small ships first sailed into the uncharted anchorage. The townlands form an enclave in the Sperrgebiet, 26 000 km2 of coastal desert rich in diamonds. The greater part of the Sperrgebiet lies to the south. Northward the dune fields of the Great Sand Sea sprawl overland to the horizon and far beyond. In streets almost devoid of trees, the townscape today still reflects the colonial past, a remnant of Germany in Africa: edifices with domes, towers and turrets, steep roofs with oriel windows, embellished gables, bay windows on ground level and, for shelter from the wind, Wintergärten or sunrooms in homes. Uniquely in Africa, the predominant architectural style of public, business and residential buildings, especially in Ring, Bismarck, Berg and Bahnhof streets, is straight out of late 19th century Germany.

Bartolomeu Dias is recorded as the first European visitor to Lüderitz in 1487. He named it Angra Pequena (Little Boy) and left his calling card in the form of a stone cross. The treacherous coastline protected the bay from further interference until the discovery of guano on the offshore islands close by. The guano rush lasted from 1842-1845. A second rush in 1861 precipitated the annexation of the islands to the Cape Colony. However, with the exception of a small trading and fish processing station in the name of Cape Town businessman Aaron de Pass, and a private settlement at Radford Bay in the name of his agent, David Radford, no serious attempt was made to establish a permanent settlement an the mainland at the time. It was the arrival of Adolf Lüderitz, a Bremen merchant with ideas of establishing a trading post, and foothold for the German Empire, that finally placed Angra Pequena on the map. In 1883 Heinrich Vogelsang, acting on behalf of Lüderitz, negotiated two deals with local chief Josef Frederiks, for the purchase of Angra Pequena and a significant stretch of the surrounding coastline. In 1884 this land was declared a German Protectorate. Lüderitz sold the land and rights to the Deutsche Colonial Gesellschaft für Südwest-Afrika who, after his death in 1886, renamed the bay Lüderitzbucht in his honour.
Strong winds, encroaching sand, lack of building material and absence of fresh water supply hampered early development but in 1904 the Name-Herero uprising proved to be the catalyst that brought the struggling trading settlement to civic status. By 1907 peace was restored and Lüderitz found itself somewhat better off than before the war as an independent district with upgraded port facilities and a railway line linking it to the interior. In 1908 the town’s future was assured when a sparkling diamond was discovered in the desert sands not more than 25km away by railway worker Zacharias Lewala. What followed was a period of rapid development and economic prosperity for Lüderitzbucht. Introduction of building regulations in 1909 saw that the townscape took attractive and well-ordered proportions and the underlying urban plan was efficiently connected by a Stadtbahn (trolleybus) instituted in 1911.
Despite changes wrought by WWI, Lüderitz continued to prosper under the South-west African Administration. All German diamond interests were bought and consolidated into the Consolidated Diamond Mines of South West Africa (CDM) and in 1922 four rock lobster factories were established. The little town prospered, its fate bound to the treasures mined on land and fished from the sea. But in 1928 diamonds were discovered at the Orange River mouth and as mining interests shifted south, so the local economy shifted down a gear. Faced with the reality of its isolation and bleak economic outlook, the rallying cry of the Lüderitzbucht Foundation in the late 1970s was “Lüderitz must live”. Concerted efforts were made to save buildings from demolition and to institute a conservation ethic, culminating in the town’s centenary celebrations in 1983 and the 500 year anniversary of Dias’ landing in 1988. Today, in an independant Namibia, Lüderitz continues to face economic challenges. Mining operations were re-established at Elizabeth Bay in 1989 and the fishing industry continues to be the main employer, while the Lüderitz Waterfront Project of 2000 was a significant boost to tourism. The 2012 celebration of the Felsenkirche (Church on the rock) holds a special place in the heart of Buchters and visitors alike.
Having decided to try the bay drive, as map below, we left Lüderitz on the “Lüderitz road”, which was basically an open, somewhat windswept track which undoubtably was prone to floods, given that is was over sand and beaches. We first reached Radford Bay/ Austern, the headquarters of the lobster fleet and end of the tarmac. From here it was up through the rocks to the First Lagoon, an open patch of low road. The tide was out when we drove through, but coming in as we drove back. Ignoring the turn off to Griffith Bay (which we came back to later when the mist had cleared), we headed towards Diaz Point. The scenery became decidedly rockier, until we passed through the aptly named Black Ridge. Descending took over over the pans and on to a narrow causeway to Diaz Point. On both sides there were huge flocks of flamingoes; very pretty with the sun on their pink plumage.
Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber) breed at large, flooded shallow salt pans as well as coastal mudflats, inland dams, small ephemeral rivers, river mouths and sewage treatment works. Flocks of tens of thousands, often with lesser flamingos, are common. Overall pale pink in colour with yellow eyes and bright coral pink legs and feet. They have a scattered population in southern, central and northern Namibia, but are especially prevalent at Sandwich Harbour, Swakopmund, Skeleton Coast, Cape Cross and Luderitz. Up to 38,000 non-breeding birds have been observed at Walvis Bay. It wades belly-deep in water with bill upside down, filtering small invertebrates from the mud, mainly brine shrimps, brine flies, molluscs and diatoms. Males scrape mud towards themselves and vibrate it into place with their bills on far-out islands on flooded salt pans.
At the very end of the causeway the land lifted to a small carpark, lighthouse and cafe. We parked at the far end, crossed an expanse of seaweed covered rocks and a set of small streams before climbing the steps to the cross at Diaz Point itself. It looked like the original walk to the point had been long neglected, with the remains of a bridge and rather dodgy protective railings. An interesting walk as this is where the first European, Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Diaz (Dias) made landfall in Namibia and I’m not surprised he didn’t stay as it was windswept and uninviting. A cross marked the point he landed in 1488 just a year after Diogo Cão erected a similar one at Cape Cross.
Bartolomeu Dias travelled under instructions from King John/João II of Portugal to sail to the southern end of Africa. He was blown off course to land initially at the Cape of Good Hope. On his return, he stopped off at what is known today as Lüderitz Bay. As was traditional, he erected a stone padrão (cross) to mark Portugal’s presence in the area, 25 July 1488. This landmark withstood the harsh conditions of the coast for over 300 years. In 1825 the crew of the HMS Barracouta noted the uprooted and broken cross and in 1855 the remains were taken to the South African Museum in Cape Town. In 1953, Dr Exel Erikson, attempted to reconstruct the cross from these pieces and what he unearthed on site. The National Monuments Council’s Regional Committee for SWA took up the task in 1988, and a replica was constructed, carved from local dolerite.
We returned to the car and continued around the peninsula; Guano Bay and Halifax Island, across the pans, Knochen Bucht, Easy Bay and the pretty Eberlanz Höhle. Crossing a couple of fjords (Grosse and Kleiner), a brief side trip to Kleiner Bogenfels and its attractive rocks, we ended at Große Bucht (Large Bay), a huge sandy beach attractively wreathed in curling mist. As we crossed back over the centre of Elizabeth Peninsula the mist began to lift. We drove straight over the crossroads to head to Griffith Bay, Kartoffelbucht and parked at Angra point. From here we could see back over to Lüderitz town, Penguin and Seal Islands on one side and Shearwater Bay (Sturmvogelbucht) the other.
Bogenfels Arch is a 55m lime rock formed like a bridge on the south Atlantic coast in the middle of the Restricted Diamond Area south of Lüderitz. A short walk takes visitors to the arch.
As it was now 2pm we drove back past the lagoon and into town. We decided to take the tourist lady’s recommendation and ate a nice meal at The Desert Deli http://desert-deli-gift.com. Cheap and tasty, so perfect. After this late lunch we drove out to see the penguins on Penguin Island. Sadly it was still quite misty, so we couldn’t see much of them. The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), is a species of penguin confined to southern African waters. They have distinctive pink patches of skin above the eyes and a black facial mask. The body's upper parts are black and sharply delineated from the white underparts, which are spotted and marked with a black band. Once numerous, the African penguin is declining rapidly and classified endangered. Common names include black-footed and jackass penguin. They are only found along the coast of South Africa and Namibia.

As it was now around 3:30 we decided to fill up with petrol and head back to Aus, a 30 min drive. As we drove back the temperature rose 10 degrees and the mist lifted. Nearly back, we decided to see if any more horses had appeared at the waterhole and we were lucky as the rangers had just finished refilling it so a small group appeared. They were very friendly and came right up to the hide, including one very young foal.
Then back to the hotel for a drink, a chill and dinner.
6416CF06-C1B3-456D-B18C-F19F198CF70D_4_5005_c.jpegKrantzberg Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Malbec/Petit Verdot. Being one of the first Bordeaux style blends in Namibia we are charting unknown territory. The small ripe berries gave extra concentration during fermentation. Light pressing ensures abundance of fruit with a soft round mouthfeel. The wine was separately aged for 12 months in French oak barrels before all the components were expertly blended together. The wine has deep dark fruit flavours that are well rounded with hints of tobacco, spice and vanilla, giving depth and complexity. Pairs well with meat on the “braai” and good friends.

Posted by PetersF 12:26 Archived in Namibia Tagged mountains animals desert town river horse namibia ghost aus orange diamond luderitz feral

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