After leaving Luderitz (but not before boosting the Namibian economy by filling up Colonel K’s diesel tank), we stopped at an old abandoned diamond mining complex. Kolmanskop is a very eerie place, and also quite atmospheric. Diamonds were first discovered here in 1908, when a local guy literally just picked up a large uncut diamond from the dried up riverbed and gave it to his German boss. In less than a year the German Colonists had declared a huge swath of land a “Sperrgebiet”, or a “forbidden zone”, that stretched for 100km from the coast inland, and for many hundreds of kilometres from the Orange River in the south to the Kuiseb River further north and taking in most of the vast sand dunes (this is now only south of Luderitz). It was abandoned about 50 years ago, and slowly but surely it is being swallowed up by the vast sea of sand.
At one point the management of the mine had all the local “staff” literally on their hands and knees in huge lines, picking up vast quantities of diamonds out of the gravel of the riverbed, stuffing their pockets full of diamonds!
In the six years between it being discovered and the Great War starting in Europe in 1914, more than 5 million carats of diamonds were found at Kolmanskop, and the money that was pumped into this new ‘town’ is plain to see, obviously after the Germans surrendered the colony to South African forces in 1915, the mines in South West Africa fell to South African control until independence for Namibia. Strangely most diamonds that come from south western Namibia nowadays come from the sea bed off of Luderitz, as they have over thousands of years been washed out of rivers further south and then dragged northwards by the cold Benguela current, three quarter of a million carats of diamonds are produced each year currently in this way.
There is only one road in and out of Luderitz, and so on the way back we thought we would stop at the wild horses water hole again and have a spot of lunch there, when we were last there we watched approx 60 horses, gemsbok, and ostriches, this time there was nothing! With wildlife, you just never know what your going to see, or not.
We decided to stop over in Aus again, only this time on a different campsite, the Klein Aus Vista. Wow what a fantastic place, lots of marked walking and mountain bike trails up into the surrounding mountains. Instead of just using it as an overnight stop, we stayed for 4 days, and all for £5.00 per night, this is how rest camps should be done.
The walking here is fantastic (though you do need to carry a serious amount of water with you).
The trails here can be quite tough going in the heat but the views and the wildlife on route are just beautiful. En route we saw, Gemsbok, Steinbok, Ostrich, wild Horses, and many lizards, birds etc. On one particular walk (approx 4.5 hours), we came across this fantastic bullet riddled car, with an amazing story that was explained on a nearby plaque.
Its a (fantastically named) “Hudson Terraplane” (why can’t Toyota build a car called a “Terraplane”?), and in 1934 two guys after having stolen some diamonds from the “Sperrgebiet”, were chased by police down this tiny sand track, where they were killed in a bloody shoot out. Allegedly the diamonds were never recovered (yeah right!), and the valley where the car is left to rot is now known as Geisterschlucht or “Ghost Valley”. Apparently the two thieves can still be seen on moonlight nights searching for the diamonds!
As with most places in Namibia (and virtually all our Africa trip) we were on our own 90% of the time, but at Klein Aus Vista, you are never truly alone, the wildlife comes to you.
And once again, in the tree above us we has a Social Weaver bird’s nest, and again these kept us occupied for hours, going about their work.
There was even a beautiful Pygmy Falcon that had set up home in with the Weaver Birds, food for that little fella was not an issue (this bird was so fast, a photo proved impossible for my little Lumix camera, oh and I got bored trying).
Even the 45 minute walk to the lodge/reception via the mountain path was worth doing (I think all other campers that were at Aus drove there, what a waste), and on one particular walk there we came across a very rare Albino Gemsbok.
It was with two other normal Gemsbok, and appears to be quite young, we did wonder how well it will fair in the extreme daytime heat of the Aus area. While we were in Aus this time we experienced a massive drop in night time temperatures, for two of the four nights that we stayed there the temperatures fell from low 40c’s to about 9c, we really felt that and had to get our thin duvet out again (we didn’t even use it in the Coastal town of Luderitz), but a couple of days later normal service resumed and it didn’t drop below 20c at night. During this dramatic drop in temperature we even heard of a windscreen cracking on a vehicle because of the rapid change at night.
Our next stop was the Quiver Tree Forest, near the town of Keetmanshoop. Believe it or not Keetmanshoop is named after a German guy that never actually visited the Town, but when it was a small settlement, a Mr Keetman donated some money to build a Mission Church there, the rest as they say is history……
We stayed at QuiverTree Forest Restcamp, and it is right in the Quivertree Forest, which while rather small, is really stunning in the early morning and evening light.
The trees are protected from the unforgiving heat of the sun by a strange golden colour covering over the trees bark.
I’m not sure what the definition of a forest is back in England, but Quivertree Forest contains 248 trees, inc young growth specimens, so it is quite small, but it really is quite impressive how these trees survive amongst the boulders. They get their name because the early bushmen used the trees to make the quivers for their arrows (not because the trees are scared of the ghost stories, and shake uncontrollably), as the branches and trunks are hollow apart from a fibrous heart that can be simply scooped out.
The restcamp at Gariganus Farm, is owned by Coenie Nolte, and he is a very friendly and enthusiastic host, it is a working farm (god knows how anyone can farm in these conditions), and he has lots of pets, including 12 dogs, numerous horses and ponies, a warthog (who’s life ambition seems to be to steal every guests bag, and eat its contents), oh and four cheetahs. Yes he has raised two males and two females from cubs, in the farm house. These really are Coenie’s babies and his pride and joy. It really was a pleasant surprise when we got to the rest camp and he told us that if we wanted to see them, to be there at 5pm.
So back to the farm house a bit later and much to our shock, Coenie opened the 40 acre enclosure door that contained the two females and ushered us in, with him carrying a huge slab of raw meat.
Then with the older female seemingly happy to be chomping away of her neck of beef, Coenie invited Jac to quietly approach her from the side and slowly stroke the head and neck of the Cheetah. A very nervous Jac took up the offer, and after removing her sunglasses (apparently they don’t like the flash of the reflection from the glasses near them), moved closer, with Coenie ever present.
Apparently cheetahs hate eating dirty or dusty meat, so they take their food and rest it either on a log or rock to protect it from the ever present sand. As we were talking and taking photos, the second younger female came up behind us, this was quite nerve racking especially as Coenie explained that the younger one was much more unpredictable and so not to approach it.
Whilst the Cheetah population in Namibia is quite healthy at the moment, it is extremely rare to see them in the wild, as they are very reclusive, and there is not the long savanna grass areas like there is in places like Tanzania, and Kenya. These cats can never be released into the wild (they were raised in captivity by humans and do not know how to hunt), but they do live in huge open areas, and are obviously in first class condition.
Next we were taken into the enclosure of the two 4 year old male brothers, and the difference up close was was immediately apparent, they were much bigger (even though they were younger), and much more flighty and aggressive with both Coenie and each other, we definitely won’t be touching these fellas.
That night was a fantastic full moon, and the sky as usual was so clear.
But the next morning, I climbed up on the roof of Colonel K to clean the solar panels (again!) when I spotted one of the male Cheetahs laying under one of the trees on the top of the hill, looking even more stunning in its huge 40 acre enclosure.
Also that morning we drove the short distance to the “giants playground”. This basically consists of lots (and I mean lots) of Basalt rocks that have been left by thousands of years of erosion balancing in some very strange angles. And it goes on for as far as the eye can see.
Its a strange place, but because you are on your own (no other visitors, and certainly no staff), and can walk where ever you want, for as long as you want (so long as you can find your way back again, and of course its seriously hot!) it was an enjoyable few hours.
Then it was back to the Quivertree Forest, and another stunning evening sky.
We are slowly edging our way South towards the border with South Africa, where we plan to spend christmas and new year. Did I just say “plan”? Plans are there to be changed!
Thanks for reading