Canyons, Wild Horses and a Ghost Town

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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What I did
Ghost town, desert horses, Fish River Canyon

Flag of Namibia  ,
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Our daily routine has been breakfast at 7 am and then departing at 8 am. Earlier than I would obviously like, but I've been able to sleep a bit in the vehicle, in between reading and staring at the wide open spaces, and it’s good to get the driving done so that we arrive at the next lodge about 2pm or so in time for a swim, check internet or enjoy a beer while checking out the lodge surrounds and generally relax.

The day after Kalahari was the longest amount of driving for the trip – 440 km. The drives are ok, with plenty of breaks, and I am glad I have the front seat which is probably more comfortable and I’m able to get some good photos through the windscreen. I think Namibia would be very easy to self-drive, with the only difficulty being how to arrange the various National Park permits and passes you need. We visited the Quiver Tree Forest along the way – a large Aloe tree that branches in two. Dry terrain and reminded me a bit of the Joshua Tree landscape I saw at the Grand Canyon, Nevada, US of A. After lunch at Wimpy (a bad version of Hungry Jacks), we arrived at the Canon Roadhouse which has an enormous collection of automobile memorabilia in the grounds and within the reception/restaurant area. Impressive actually. That night was fun getting to know my fellow travellers at dinner and a couple of shots of 'springboks’, a peppermint/bailey’s layered shooter.

The next morning was off to Fish River Canyon, the 2nd largest canyon in the world – behind the Grand Canyon of course. We got plenty of time here and that is one thing I’m noticing on this tour compared to Egypt, Greek Islands or Peru – there is a slower pace and heaps more time at places to take photos, explore or just sit and stare. No rushing and no tight time-frames (except the morning departure is a bit annoying when I’m told 8 am departure and everyone is standing at the van waiting for me at 7:45am!). I enjoyed the canyon and it is one of those places I never knew existed until I started researching this trip about 2 months ago and now I am here! Wow.

Continuing the 345 km driving, we departed the canyon and headed north-west towards the town of Aus and our next lodge, a simple place with a great dining hall overlooking the landscape. Here we spent 2 nights and it was great to not pack a suitcase the next morning. Instead we set off for what I had booked this particular tour for – Kolmanskop, a ghost town where the houses have been consumed by the dunes. I first saw photos of this in a calendar that my boss at SKM made for us from her travel photos of Namibia in 2004 and I was truly fascinated and desperately wanted to see this place for myself. I checked through 10’s of tours for this ghost town and most skip it in favour of going straight to the red dunes. So, when I (or Tish rather!) found this tour, it was perfect and encompassed everything I wanted.

But before the ghost town, there was a quick stop to see if the Garub desert wild horses were at their drinking point. And they were. There are many versions of how these horses arrived in Namibia, but whatever the truth, they now roam this particular part of the desert and an artificial watering point has now been established to sustain them. Cool to see the horses mixing with the native wildlife, but aside from that it was a bunch of horses to me. I wanted my ghost town.

We arrived at Kolmanskop in time for the 9:30am tour. The tour goes for about an hour through a museum, old butcher shop, ice maker and other buildings before getting free time to roam around. The town was rapidly built in the early 1900’s when diamonds were discovered. It thrived for a while (with hospital, school, bowling alley!), but then World War One hit and a lot of the Germans returned to fight, and then in the 1930’s higher quality diamonds were discovered further south and the town was abandoned – a gift to the dunes. It is hard to believe that anyone could live here - it is so dry, hot, windy and generally inhospitable. The hospital is huge and most of the rooms have been engulfed with sand. Some houses would have been very lavish and still would be by today’s standards. I loved it. Highlight of this trip so far and definitely a Top 10 highlight from all the trips I’ve done. I like the history, the survival spirit of those first settlers, the abandonment, nature reclaiming what humans created. Like a rainforest growing over abandoned temples, but instead this is sand...lots and lots of sand.

It was blowing a sandy gale by the time we left (11:30am) and I had struggled to walk from one house back to the parking lot. But the wind would get worse. We drove to Diaz Point on the coast and walking to this point was a challenge. I claimed that Cape Town had the windiest moment of my life, but this Diaz Point trumped it for sure. Unbelievable. Fighting the sea spray, wind and rickety boardwalk, we made it to this iron cross that was planted in 1488 by a Portuguese explorer who was first European to visit the shores of Namibia. Cool to touch something that old, but once I’d got my photo I was outta there. A couple of hours for lunch and walkabout were then spent in the coastal town of Luderitz, an entirely forgettable town. Nothing special. Maybe I am being unfair because I was so aggravated by the wind, but it had nothing to offer me other than the delicious pizza I had for lunch. Driving back to the lodge, it was fascinating to see the dune sand blowing across the roads and the warning signs stating "Wind" and “Sand” made me laugh. We stopped again at the horses before returning to the lodge where my main mission was to wash the sand out of every pore of my skin.
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