I’ve nipped around the edges of the recent trip Thorsten and I took to southern Namibia. But I haven’t gotten to the real heart of the journey yet because I don’t know how to explain it. Namibia captured my imagination and then ran away with it, leaving me with insufficient words to describe my impressions. But let me do my best.
The reason for the trip itself is hard to explain. Thorsten, who is from Aus, Namibia, was invited there as an architect, investigating a possible tourism project, and I was invited to come along. So it wasn’t exactly work (not for me at least) but definitely not a holiday, either. We were out in the blistering hot desert every day, driving and walking long distances. Every hour brought multiple new wonders — a mountain, a rock, a weird building, a tree, a funny sign — that I had never experienced before.
I struggled to fathom how my boyfriend, a pale-skinned city dweller, sprung from this vast, bizarre, beautiful, yet inhospitable landscape. I struggled to fathom how any living thing can survive there at all.
I had been to Namibia once before, on a 10-day trip through the central part of the country, and I loved it. But nothing could have prepared me for southern Namibia. It felt like visiting another planet.
7 Days in Southern Namibia
Here’s a summary of our journey, supplemented by lots of pictures.
Day 1: Walvis Bay to Sossusvlei
We flew into Walvis Bay, which is 30 minutes from the town of Swakopmund, and immediately headed south to Sossusvlei by car (about five hours’ drive). We didn’t make a lot of stops along the way, as there is virtually nowhere to stop on this route. But we did visit the Tropic of Capricorn sign and the tiny town of Solitaire, known for its apple pie.
We didn’t have time to visit Sossusvlei, Namibia’s most famous dunes. (As discussed in a previous post, we went to the Koichab dunes instead.) We did, however, spend the night at a bizarre yet wonderful Sossusvlei hotel called Le Mirage.
Le Mirage is a luxury hotel serving up Game-of-Thrones-in-Namibia vibes. The outside is a fake castle and the inside is a fake Middle-Eastern-style courtyard oasis. I loved it because it was so random and weird, but our room was extremely hot and the internet was frustratingly terrible. (There were a few other minor annoyances, too.) I would recommend staying there, simply for the novelty of the place, but not during summer.
Days 2-4: Aus
The next day we drove about four hours from Sossusvlei to Aus, where we stayed for the next three days.
We spent most of our time in Aus exploring Thorsten’s friend Andrew’s ginormous farm, the Eureka Farm, where Andrew is planning to build a lodge. The Eureka Farm is insanely beautiful and desolate. I spent a lot of time walking around in the blazing heat with my jaw hanging open, gasping and exclaiming, “What?!?!” at one spectacular vista after another.
While in Aus, Thorsten and I also paid a visit to the Klein-Aus Vista Lodge. Someday I need to write a much longer story about this, but Klein-Aus was once a working farm that belonged to Thorsten’s grandparents and he spent several years of his childhood there. It was really cool to go back and visit with him.
Thorsten and I slept in town at the Bahnhof Hotel. Thorsten also has fond memories of hanging out at this hotel as a child; his great aunt was once the manager there. The rooms are basic but nice, and I really enjoyed the German meals — particularly the spätzle — that we ate while sitting on the hotel terrace. (Namibia was once a German colony and there is still a lot of German cultural influence there.)
Days 5 and 6: Luderitz
Luderitz is an Atlantic coastal town 125 kilometers due west of Aus — just a little more than an hour’s drive on the famous B4 highway.
Thorsten also spent time in Luderitz as a kid and wanted to show me the town, so we spent a night there before heading back to Swakopmund with Andrew. We stopped to visit Kolmanskop (which you’ve already read about), a few minutes outside Luderitz, then headed into town.
Luderitz is known for its stark gray coastline, which contrasts with its colorful German architecture, its windiness, its flamingos, and its oysters. We didn’t have any oysters and I didn’t get any good flamingo pictures, but we did manage to see quite a lot of Luderitz in the short time we were there.
We spent most of our full day in Luderitz driving around the larger peninsula west of town, stopping for tea at the picturesque Diaz Point and taking a long walk on a huge, deserted beach called Grosse Bucht. (I recommend a 4×4 for driving around the Luderitz Peninsula.)
Day 7: Swakopmund
After Luderitz, we made the long drive back to Swakopmund and flew out of Walvis Bay the next morning. We didn’t have time to see much of Swakopmund before leaving. But I do want to recommend the Swakopmund Museum, which has incredible taxidermy, the Vellie Valley shoe shop (which I mentioned in my recent post about veldskoens), and Raith Bakery, where I bought an insanely delicious pastry on our way out of town.
Thus concludes my rambling, photo-clogged description of the week we spent in Southern Namibia. I still can’t stop thinking about it and can’t wait to go back.
Beautiful photos! And sheesh, I never knew about the concentration camp in Luderitz! What was it with the European powers and their concentration camps in Africa (Germans/ English)?
I know. They were assholes.
What a phenomenal post, wow!!! So much to take in, I can just imagine the overwhelm and excitement of physically being in that space!
Thanks so much, Gena. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I would love to share a story (with pictures if possible) with you. My maternal grandmother was born in Nam in the year 1900 at a place known as Jakalswater. It formed the third point of a triangle between Walvisbay and Swakopmund. Then, a railway line ran there from Swakop to Karibib and my Greatgrandfather was in charge of maintainance of this stretch of line. The rail line was moved ages ago and now only a few ruins remain. Gran was such a strong woman, who grew to the age of 84 and was doing needlework the night before she passed peacefully in her sleep. Now lets try the pics:
Not possible, unfortunately, as they provide an insight into the resilience of the people who lived there then. If you are interested, send me an address to which I can send. Really enjoyed this article as also my mother was born in Namibia and grew up there. Thanks.
Hi Dieter, wow that is so cool! Thanks for sharing. I will send you an email.
Sounds like you guys are moving soon to Namibia
Haha! I guess you never know.
Sorry my respons was about the trip and your fascination of the country, not about the concentration camps. That’s another story and not the best…..
I know, it’s so horrible.
Gorgeous photos and interesting information throughout. Concentration camps go with colonizers, but are an U.S. export; our “reservations” for Native Americans inspired the Spanish in Cuba and other Europeans countries everywhere else. You are right to mention it, rather than continuing the tradition of whitewashing history. So many quaint, pretty little towns have a foundation of unspeakable horror.
I just wrote a lengthy reply which somehow didn’t post. So annoying! But yeah, the colonizers were assholes.
I hate it when WordPress does that.
I spent several weeks in Namibia over two trips-one to the north and the other to the south. We were driven by locals who introduced us to many interesting people. I have amazing memories. What looks like a desolate place is filled with so many unusual and fascinating people and experiences. I need to go back soon!
Yes, that’s exactly it!
Awesome blog with great photo’s. Namibia sure does have a unique beauty about it’s harshness. I too love Spätzle, it’s always a favourite of mine when we visit our local German pub.
Thanks Gail! Hope you’re feeling better.