This morning we visited Kolmanskop – the deserted ghost town about 10 kms outside of Luderitz. Why they established a town there in the first place is beyond me. The guide told us that they get on average 10mm of rainfall a year. They used to ship water in from Cape Town (not kidding). The town had everything. A recreational hall including gymnasium equipment, a kegelbahn (like Ten Pin Bowling), a 250 bed hospital (which was big enough to house all the inhabitants of the town), an ice maker, a bakery, a butcher, a shop keeper and even it’s own tram (which was built to take the water around to everyone in the town). The level of sophistication for the town was quite incredible – they even had their own refrigeration room. Pretty much all built on German engineering. It seems Germans have dominated the engineering space for quite some time given that the town was started in the early 1900’s.
Some of the buildings are remarkably well preserved and it shows how good their building was as well. The mine manager’s house is in almost a liveable state still. The kegelhall is similarly in very good condition still and the guide said that VIPs visiting the town with NamDeb (the owner’s of the town and all the diamond fields in Namibia) still play on the lanes from time to time. Some of the furniture is even preserved and in the shop keepers house they have set up the furniture. The shop keepers ledger is also still available for you to flip through. They have original employment contracts of the workers which are very detailed for that time including stipulating annual leave (which started at 5 days per year), sick leave and when termination due to sickness would occur and what you would get paid. Stephen worked out that the one person was paid the equivalent of around £7200 per annum which is a pretty good salary for well over a 100 years ago. It is clear that there was a lot of money flowing at that time in the town. They apparently used to run out of money and then just used to pay their bills in diamonds.
They also went to great lengths to prevent people stealing diamonds. In that regard the town was the first one to get a n X-ray machine in the Southern Hemisphere. And it wasn’t to detect broken bones – it was used to X-ray people for where they were trying to smuggle out diamonds. There is a room in the recreation hall just dedicated to the ways people have tried to smuggle diamonds out including in the handle of luggage, in their shoes, in various orifices of their body, using doves etc. It remains a problem today even. The entrance to the biggest active mine in Namibia is right next to Kolmanskop and they have a full search security point including a form of X-ray for vehicles available.
In the afternoon Stephen and I went to visit Dias Point (and Dias Cross) and we did some birding along the way too. What is bizarre (I am sure I have used that word a few times this trip already) is that you drive through the diamond ‘forbidden’ area. No fences though. Just a sign warning you not to enter or steal diamonds. They are apparently places where there are still diamonds simply lying in an open field. Of course Michael has been looking hard everywhere we go to find one! Dias Point and Cross was nothing special but we did add a few more birds to the trip list taking us up to 130 for the trip and 10 lifers. We only have 1 more day to go so my 150 target is unlikely to be met unless we get very lucky in the next day.
We went to the only other restaurant in town tonight. It was relatively full with mostly locals. While the service was slightly slow (which can be expected in a place like this), the portions was incredibly generous and the quality was good (and the prices very reasonable). Helen got the biggest rump steak I have ever seen served as a standard portion in a restaurant.
Our view of Luderitz hasn’t really change but we have had an enjoyable, relaxing day as we near the end of our trip. Even Helen was not complaining about spending the extra night here by the end of today. Even the weather improved today from overcast and quite cold to not having a cloud in the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset over the bay.
Until tomorrow …
S (because he said I have to acknowledge he found the hotel in Luderitz and that he chose well – which he did), P, H, M, C