I was in no hurry. A slow hitchhike south from Etosha, riding in the back of a long distance truck with bags of maize meal eventually found me in the small-time town of Keetmanshoop.
I woke early and walked around the sleepy streets for an hour or so, the desert wind whipped up sand that danced around me. I needed to get back to the Namibian-South African border so I set off for the central bus terminal, which it turns out was little more than a patch of bumpy earth with a few rickety minibus taxis blaring out local Kwaito music.
There were no other passengers waiting apart from an old Namibian man, who sat under a tree smoking a cigarette, with a trilby hat pulled down over his eyes and smoke slowly pouring through the gaps in his crooked teeth. He didn’t look like he was planning on going anywhere anytime soon. It was a Sunday and none of these buses would leave until they were full, timetables are obsolete in these parts, people dictate when the bus leaves, not time.
I sat down under the tree next to the old man. Even in the shade it was almost too hot to breathe. A car pulled onto the gravel and the driver stepped out, ‘Lüderitz’ he shouted, beckoning me over with a tilt of the head.
Now Lüderitz was in entirely the wrong direction, but it was a lot more tempting a proposition than sweating-it-out under the tree with an old crooked toothed man. Why not? I thought to myself as I walked towards the car.
The driver was formidably large, a warrior-like figure with a mountainous, clean-shaven skull. When I got into the car I joined two equally big and bald-headed Africans. ‘I am Fritz,’ said the driver, ‘this is Jürgen and Bastian’. The three of them continued to talk in clicking Damara language and I contemplated the oddity of their colonial German names.
After a few hours of cutting straight through the desert like a dagger, we came to a place called Kolmanskop not far from Lüderitz. Fritz asked if I would like to get out and take a look around. Kolmanskop was once a booming mining town but after the diamond supplies dried up the colonial Germans began to vanish, and the town was gradually reclaimed by desert. Many of the buildings are now half-swallowed by sand leaving behind old pieces of furniture and settler’s belongings, it is a strange ghostly town – a fascinating, eerie and sad place at once.
Fritz and his companions bid me goodbye in Luderitz. Pristine, pastel-coloured colonial structures jostled with gothic churches, standing proud in stark contrast to the wildness of the place. I sat down in a seedy-looking bar near the waterfront and tucked-in to the freshest and best oysters I have ever tasted.
I thought back over my short stay in Namibia, a few days in Etosha and then the journey down to Keetmanshoop. It had been an unforgettable time, but there was still so much I hadn’t seen. I decided then and there to extend my stay a little longer. I had no idea where I would go next, but it didn’t really matter, so long as I didn’t have to go home just yet…
Stay tuned to hear more about Christopher’s travels in Namibia.
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