Go Travel Namibia Part III: Strange Soup

Sticking with our theme of Strange, JD and I headed on from Kolmanskop ghost town to the coastal town of Luderitz, Namibia.

Luderitz is strange for many reasons.  The first is that it’s a German town in the middle of Africa.  Gazuntite!  The second is that with a population of four humans and a cat, it’s the biggest town we encountered in our 1100 kilometer drive up the west coast of Africa.  The third is that it is home to the world’s first extermination camp (which just happened to be our campsite).  Add in some dramatic rocks, shark infested waters and the annual Crayfish Festival and you’ve got a recipe for Strange Soup, which JD and I slurped down hungrily.

Luderitz is windy.  We heard this before leaving Cape Town, but initially weren’t fazed.  After all, Cape Town is windy, and we live in the windiest part of the city.  But, as Namibian after Namibian emphasized, Luderitz is windy.  Crazy ship wreck, big bad wolf windy.  Armed with our flimsy Boy Scout tent, JD and I wondered how exactly this was going to work out.   Still, we had managed to travel this far through the blazing African desert without a working fan belt.  The smallish threat of a life sucking wind storm wasn’t about to turn us around.

Yet, inexplicably, the weather gods smiled down on us tired travelers and gave us the calmest days in recent Namibian history. To top it all off a cold front pulled in, cooling us off and giving our fan-less car a break.

It seemed Luderitz and we would get along famously, until we were confronted with the realization that we’d be camping on the remains of a concentration camp.  JD and I again wondered how strange (and sacrilegious) we were willing to go.  Fortunately our consciences were relieved to see proper war memorials to the Shark Island concentration camp victims. And, by pitching our tent on the very edge of Shark Island, we convinced ourselves that we were sleeping just next to the extermination camp, rather than on top of a human rights violation.

Although sleeping on hallowed ground seemed thoughtless and rude, exploring it didn’t.  JD swam while I climbed rocks and kept watch for sharks (did I just imagine that fin?).  When we finally remembered that we were hungry and headed into town, we found the center of teeny, tiny, little Luderitz was engulfed in crayfish frenzy.  Their yearly festival was in full swing, complete with grilled crayfish, boiled crayfish, live crayfish, crayfish rolls and crayfish gumbo.  While I made jokes about Bubba-Gump Crayfish, JD acted like a responsible adult and managed to find us an ATM, firewood and lots of ice.  Well done, J.

Once the chores were out of the way it was time to pig, pig, get fat and party.  Of course, by “party” I mean we headed back to our haunted camp site and fell asleep at 8:30.  It’s hard to keep up with us.

But before nodding off, we were struck with the desolate, disarming beauty of our surroundings.  From Shark Island we could look back towards town and contemplate the mixture of harsh rocks, German churches, and randomly bright houses.  Despite being in one of the least populated countries on Earth, we managed to meet a Namibian Afrikaaner (American translation: an African with Dutch ancestry), who adamantly disassociated himself with South African Boers (American translation: an African with Dutch ancestry), and his San wife (American translation: Bushman), who explained that the San people still live traditionally in the north of the country.  We ate our fair share of meat in the proudly Namibian fashion, consumed more than our fair share of ice and tried not to overanalyze this strange place.

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2 responses to “Go Travel Namibia Part III: Strange Soup”

  1. Matt says :

    What a strange world of contradictions. Certainly makes things interesting! Thanks for sharing your funny, insightful observations.

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