Saturday, January 21, 2012


Right after the Ludacrew left, three people came to see Luderitz from Group 32, and they were super nice! Two of their friends from Okahandja were also on holiday here, and had a car, so we all had the chance to visit Kolmanskop, the ghost town about 10k outside Luderitz. Early one morning, the Metzs and Lauren, myself, Brett [who had just gotten to Luda for a few days], and Totty [who couldn’t bring himself to leave on the 2nd just yet], piled into the back of a bakkie for some touristy fun.

So a little history: In 1908 a worker in the area outside of Luderitz [which had been established as a town in 1883], came across a diamond. Immediately after realizing the area was rich in diamonds, German miners flocked there and a town was built almost overnight to support this influx. Kolmanskop quickly became the premier diamond-mining town, and residents built the town up with a hospital, ballroom, school, theater and bowling alley, and the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere. Even from the dilapidated condition of the houses, you can still tell that many very wealthy people lived there [which I guess makes sense, diamond money!], and it’s easy to come up with a mental image of what their lives looked like in the early 20th century. Anyway, after all the effort had been put into building up this town, more and bigger diamonds were found further away, and so just as quickly as people had arrived and settled in Kolmanskop, they were gone. The town went into decline after World War I, and while a few families initially stayed behind to look after the town, by 1956 not one person remained. Since then the desert has been overtaking this town, quite literally. The wind is still pretty strong 10k out of Luderitz, and blows sand dunes everywhere. Fun fact: there actually used to be a train that ran from Keetmanshoop to Luderitz, but because of the intensity of the wind blowing the sand, the tracks were overtaken by sand dunes. This is really unfortunate because a train would make it SO much easier to get back here whenever I travel. Plans and construction are ongoing to make a train possible again to Luda, and it’s projected to be completed in 2013 [fingers crossed].

After our tour was completed the guide left us free to explore all of the buildings, with only one that we were advised not to go into because of it’s advanced state of ruin [the sand is literally the only thing keeping it together]. We also had to stay within the gated area, for although there are a few structures that lie outside that perimeter, it is a restricted area in the country. This part of the Namib Desert is called the Sperrgebiet [German, meaning ‘Prohibited Area’] and remains active in diamond mining, and is run by NamDeb. It has actually been designated a national park because it’s a biodiversity hotspot which is pretty cool. Biggest reason I want to eventually explore this area: hyenas!!! Anyway, the structures in Kolmanskop have, on the whole, been left completely untouched, so it’s really interesting to see the differing levels of ruin that the buildings are all in. Upon entering a lot of these houses, it was clear that this tour would not be allowed in the U.S., as some of them looked pretty dangerous and probably all of them would be condemned. Nonetheless, it was really cool! 

Many of the houses seem tiny once you get inside, because there's 3-4 feet of sand on the ground!
Endless desert to look out upon
The postman's house... not lookin' so good.
The architect's house. Only he got a balcony!
A room at the hospital - wouldn't want to be a patient here!

1 comment:

  1. i LOVED visiting kolmanskop! keeping my fingers crossed that the railroad is finished soon - what a gift that would be!