Tuesday 9 April 2013

MS Expedition West Africa Day 3: Luderitz and Kolmanskop, Namibia

Pic: Abandoned houses in the desert at Kolmanskop

Day 3: Luderitz and Kolmanskop, Namibia

The first thing that struck me when arriving in this desolate and remote
little port town was the similarity of the Kaiser-era German architecture
against a stark desert landscape with that of my home state of South
Australia. The quaint and sleepy towns of the Eyre Peninsula and Riverina
bear an uncanny resemblance to Luderitz here amid the parched, windswept and
sandy terrain of Namibia. Swan Reach, Mannum or Ceduna would not be
out-of-place in this equally inhospitable environment except that there is
even less rain and foliage here on the so-called Skeleton Coast of Africa.

Wandering the streets of this former German trading post built mainly during
the last two decades of the 19th century and into the first of the 20th
century, one is reminded of the determined colonial zeal of the European
powers at this time and their ruthless ambition to dominate and exploit at
the expense of the indigenous peoples.

Down Bismarck St in the centre of Luderitz are taverns, shops and houses
built by the wealthy German traders. The most substantial and impressive
structures were constructed after the city was raised to municipal status
following the brutal conclusion of the so-called Hottentot Revolt around
1907. It's fascinating to chat with the few remaining European descendents
in their old German tongue, still used along with English and Afrikaans in
daily life.

The big news from here was the accidental finding of diamonds in 1908.
Mining for these gems continued well into the 20th century, even after the
German Protectorate was lost after WWI.

The mining town of Kolmanskop was built at this time, just a few clicks out
of Luderitz and these now abandoned buildings serve as a stark reminder to
the ambition and hardships these early folk were prepared to endure for the
lure of sparkling gems. It's a surreal sight to behold these ornate and
impressive houses being slowly consumed by the voracious dunes of the Namib

But the desert moves on and so do we, toward Walvis Bay tomorrow.

For further info including deatiled history, see:

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