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(Boxing Day 1974 saw Much Better Half and I setting off from Durban on ‘rideabout’ in our Combi Camper ‘Cambi’ with our daughters aged 4 & 7. By Saturday 28th December we had reached Upington, and while camped on their island in the Orange River we were adopted by a scraggy ginger cat. After we had tried and failed to find where he belonged or any SPCA, he stayed in the Camper while we booked into the hotel overnight. Next day he came with us to Augrabies Falls and then into South West Africa. We camped on the edge of the Fish River Canyon and he vanished just after we saw the New Year in, but reappeared in daylight many hours later.)
New Year’s Day 1975 saw us on the road to Lüderitz – well, it started off as a road, but after it had done about 1000m drop to the Namib Desert it hardly deserved that title. The desert beggars description. No pictures or words can convey the impact – it has to be experienced. It is frighteningly beautiful, and fascinatingly forbidding. It gives a feeling of awe and alien-ness which I have only once since experienced, and that was at the extreme northern tip of Skye.
During that first trip across the desert, the wind was doing its best to move dunes across the so-called road, and had got more than half-way with some of them. It also nearly blew us over a few times. We were rather grateful to reach Lüderitz with nothing worse than a totally wrecked exhaust.
We managed to book into a rather remote and primitive beach cottage – with the mist and cold as a sudden contrast to the desert heat, it was nice to have some shelter we could move around in more freely than in Cambi. Ginger and I tried an evening walk, but the weather soon made us eager to return.
The following morning I had the exhaust fixed, and after a look round the quaint town with its Germanic influences, we all took a drive to Shark Island. Poor little YD fell while running across some of the volcanic-type rock there, and the scar remains on her knee to this day.
Conditions were more pleasant that evening, and Ginger and I went for a quite astonishingly long walk along the coastline and back – he made a most entertaining companion. Part of the time he was not content to follow my chosen route, but nagged me until I went with him on his. When I submitted to his will on these occasions he would give an approving meow, as if to say, ‘That’s a good boy!’ One takes a dog for a walk, but a cat either takes you for a walk or you go as equal partners!
More adventure followed the day after. We visited Agate Beach eight kilometres north of Lüderitz in the Sperrgebied (restricted diamond area) and swam in the icy water – one touch of that and my legs went numb while my twiddly bits shrieked and dived for cover. The agony is prolonged by the fact that one has to wade for some distance even to get to waist-deep. I marvelled at some of the locals, who came from the sweltering inland conditions but seemed able to stay in that freezing ocean for amazingly long periods without apparent discomfort.
Then we had an expedition to the ghost town of Kolmanskop, again in Sperrgebied, but some ten kilometres inland; however a gale-cum-sandstorm blew up and we didn’t see much. The wind broke the catch on our fibreglass roof, so MBH was trying to hold it down by hanging onto a towel looped through the handle – but she was being lifted into the air every few seconds. I managed to tie a rope around the belly of Cambi to keep the top in place until we could complete the return journey.
I was able to fix the catch the next day – a Saturday – and we took a drive to Diaz Point and near to Halifax Island, but by now the chill weather was getting to us and the novelty of the utter bleakness had worn off. The evening walk was a very short one, and we left the following day and headed inland and then north.
The shock of returning to the Namib heat was considerable, and Fizzy announced that he had changed his mind about enjoying travel. When we cut our fresh bread for breakfast in the desert, it was crisp like toast by the time we came to butter it.
Even after leaving the desert again at Aus (‘Out’ – of the desert -) the heat remained at stifling levels. By now almost out of the fuel we had taken in at Lüderitz, we booked into the Union Hotel in Keetmanshoop. Ginger was happy to stay in our room while we took a trip out to the Kokerboom Forest, some 14 kilometres northeast of the town, with a family from Natal we palled up with. Roy and Marion S and their two kids were also marooned over the weekend by petrol restrictions, on their way to Walvis Bay.
We all travelled in Cambi using my two reserve 5-litre cans. I had expected something Sherwood-y by way of forest, but the reality was only a scattered collection of these strange plants – Aloe dichotoma – but in greater profusion than are usually found in one place. They are known as Quiver Trees because the hollow stems are handy for arrows.
I discovered that Roy and I shared interests like cave exploration. After dinner he and I had a boys’ night out until the pub closed, so Ginger missed out on any walk there.
(To be continued… )
P.S. In a fit of typical African idiocy, the Namibian government recently decided to change the name of Lüderitz. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they have chosen a name one cannot even spell, much less pronounce. This is how it is expressed: !Nami=Nüs Apparantly the = and ! represent clicks. Maybe the ü is a legacy from German, though, which would be richly ironic.
© Colonialist September 2013 (WordPress) November 2007 (24.com)