Saturday, June 5, 2010

Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

Next a change of direction, as we start heading west again towards the Atlantic, for a 2 night stop-over at a campsite near a remote town called Aus. Once again the scenery changes again from low scrubland to rugged tree-less desert and vast empty plains in only a few hours driving across the country. We arrive in the early afternoon, set up camp and have a couple of well deserved hours to relax & chill out before we are scheduled to take a short hike to a sunset viewing point.

The viewing point was only about 30 mins walk away and brought us out on to an elevated position looking across the plains. As seems to be usual in Namibia, there was another awesome sunset, contrasting the red of the sun, the blue of the sky and the multi-coloured desert. We had an early night, as the next day was an early one.

Up early for a 6:40am departure, we were soon heading off across the desert heading towards Luderitz, a small historic southern port. Luderitz sits in an interesting position as one of only 2 ports in the whole of the 1500km + Namibian coastline, as it is completely surrounded by the ‘Forbidden Zone’, (or Sperrgebiet in German). Back in the late 19th Century diamonds were found in this area just lying on the surface of the desert, presumably the remains of long eroded and disappeared mountains. After the initial discovery, the German government of South West Africa of the time, slapped a ban on anyone entering the area without their permission. It is still a forbidden area requiring permits and such, as it is still mined for diamonds even now.

We passed through the Forbidden zone on our way to Luderitz, where we were scheduled on an 8:00am boat trip along the coast. The Namibian coast is well known for being foggy and misty in the mornings, as it was in Swakopmund, but today greeted us with glorious golden rays of warm sunshine, set in a crystal clear blue sky, with a gentle haze over the water and in the far away bays. The Sedina was an old wooden sailing boat that plied through the glassy sea with ease out around the headlands, and on towards Dias Point and the distant islands. The captain was a cantankerous white Namibian who’s solution to all the problems with Namibia and South Africa involved the use of firearms, (including politics, sport and conservation...!!), but he did know his sea-life, and pointed out what was on offer. Strangely we saw a gaggle of Flamingos feeding in a rock pool of the islands, many seals, dolphins and even a colony of penguins. It was a great way to start day.

Next it was back in the truck for a guided tour of the nearby ghost-town of Kolmanskop, originally built by the German settlers as a mining town to make the most of the local diamond fields. It was in use from around 1906 thru to 1943 to varying degrees, but then was abandoned to the desert. Today it stands as a reminder of a bygone era as the buildings gradually fall apart and the land is reclaimed by the ever shifting sands. The tour was great and we got to climb around the site looking at these old gothic ruins, some of which were quite surreal with half a sand dune running through the middle of them.

Back to Luderitz for lunch, and Fiona & I decided to risk-it-all and go for some local fish & chips, which were actually not half bad. Back in the truck once again and off to another headland and another cross planted by those pesky Portuguese, (they get everywhere) and then finally on to see the feral horses of Guarab and back to camp. It was a busy day and I was glad to be back in the tent for a nice lie down and 40 winks.

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