Tales of Escape – SwakopmundNovember 4, 2021
Lüderitz…the Diamond of Namibia!November 4, 2021
Appreciate what you have before it’s gone. We often hear this phrase but how often do we have the opportunity to act on this good piece of advice? The Shipwrecks and Diamonds Tour, recently launched by Sandwich Harbour 4×4, provides an opportunity to explore decaying shipwrecks and the historical diamond mining settlements of yesteryear, now ghost towns, in the central Namib before they are completely reclaimed by the unrelenting desert.
The Haunting Legacy of the Skeleton Coast
Namibia’s coastline is notorious for bad luck when it comes to ships. Called the Skeleton Coast, it is the graveyard of an estimated 500 ships, wrecked as a result of infamous rough seas, roaring winds, strong ocean currents and thick mists which can envelop the world in an instant. Making it to shore didn’t improve the lot of hapless castaways either because they had to contend with the Namib Desert. Dune belts that stretch as far as the eye can see in some places and vast barren gravel plains in others, mostly devoid of any surface water.
Yet, the Namib and the adjacent Atlantic coastline have an oddly mesmerizing effect. The desert has a striking beauty that can only be fully understood once you have spent some time there, and the isolation has a way of lifting stress from weary minds like the sun dissolving the fog. Life is found in odd places, from wandering jackals on salt pans to gemsbok trekking across dunes to the fascinating array of desert plants like the endemic !Nara. It also holds tales of the shipwrecks and the hopeful diamond miners who established tiny settlements, braving the harsh elements for the lure of potential riches.
Forgotten Mining Settlements: Echoes of Diamond Rush
The German Colonial Government at the time proclaimed a no-entry area, a Sperrgebiet, stretching 100 km inland from the coast between 26 degrees south and the country’s southern border. This forced prospectors to move north of this area and deep into the inhospitable Namib. When diamonds were discovered at Spencer Bay and between Meob and the Conception Bay area, the small mining settlements of Holsatia, Charlottenfelder and Grillenberger were established. An incredible feat, as no form of engine-driven transport was available during the first years. Oxwagons fitted with special, wide iron bands to make it through the sandy ground were used to transport everything from construction material to mining equipment and supplies. After the invasion of Union troops in the early stages of WWI in 1914, all of these places were abandoned.
Preserving the Fragile Echoes of Time
Participants in the excursion have the opportunity to explore Fischersbrunn, a source of freshwater during the mining years, and Meob Bay which served as a landing site for people and equipment, as well as Grillenberger, Charlottenfelder and Holsatia.
Nights are spent at Namab, a rustic tented camp at Meob Bay. With its close proximity to the ocean in the west and picturesque views across the dunes to the east, it is the perfect place to decompress after each day’s adventure and experience the beauty of desert nights.
The hostile environment of pounding winds, an unforgiving sun and a high rust factor has, however, taken its toll on the buildings and wrecks over the decades. Deterioration is evident from one year to the next. This means that the time to visit and appreciate these historical time capsules, or what is left of them, is now, before they, too, will be gone forever. TNN
DID YOU KNOW?
Sandwich Harbour 4×4 recently launched another two exciting excursions.
The Shipwreck Sandwich Harbour Excursion is a day tour that combines a trip to the scenic beauty and wildlife of the Kuiseb Delta and Sandwich Harbour with a visit to the Shawnee wreck.
The Sunset Photography Excursion to Sandwich Harbour offers the opportunity to capture Sandwich Harbour and the surrounding areas for the most stunning photos during the golden hour. Each tour is led by a photography guide.
For more info visit www.www.sandwich-harbour.com
Text & Photographs Le Roux van Schalkwyk