The mere mention of a ghost town or shipwreck is often enough to trigger the interest of even the most cynical amongst us. While the term doesn’t necessarily imply that a specific place is haunted (although several are certainly reputed to be), it does conjure up images of mystery and intrigue, and prompt the visitor to imagine what life was like back in the days when people resided there, and what the chain of events was that led to it becoming deserted. Tales of fortunes that have been made and lost in remote, inhospitable locations where fortune-seekers rapidly descended long ago when to discover treasures and just as quickly deserted when no more could be found, leaving behind haunting remains of their sojourns on the landscape, sometimes just a few random heaps and broken shards of pottery, and at others the remnants of a more permanent settlement: crumbling stone buildings, ramshackle hotels and neglected graveyards of long-forgotten loved-ones.
Out here in Southern Africa we had our fair share of explorers, gold and diamond rushes, and we have a very colourful history off ancient explorers the likes off Diego Gao, Barthlomeus Diaz and Jan van Riebeeck in search off trade routes for the lucrative trade with the East Indies. The Southwest coast of Africa stretching all the way from Southern Africa’s west coast, the Namibian coast and southern part of Angola could make up the Namib Desert coast. The Bushmen of the Namibian interior called the region “The Land God Made in Anger”, while Portuguese sailors once referred to it as “The Gates of Hell”. The name Skeleton Coast was invented by John Henry Marsh as the title for the book he wrote chronicling the shipwreck of the Dunedin Star. Today the Northern part of Namibia’s coast is generally referred to as The Skeleton Coast and is given that as its official name on most maps.
The stories of Captain Black Beard, the Flying Dutchman and the Pirates of the Caribbean fed the imagination and the thought of a shipwreck fills one with a sense of wonder. More recently the mishap with the Costa Concordia and various incidents of overcrowded ferries sinking kept the interest alive. Piracy on the high seas along the East Africa coast even today is still ongoing!
On some of the recent trips we came upon many good examples and photo opportunities, much to the excitement of follow travelers.
Some 20 miles north of Angola’s capital, Luanda, lies a stretch of beach that is an eerie resting place for 20 + derelict and rusting ships. The 1.5 mile stretch of beach is better known as Shipwreck Beach or Karl Marx Beach, named after the biggest shipwreck on the beach. Off shore and along this stretch of beach are dozens of rusting hulks of tankers, cargo ships and fishing vessels.
Many legends have been passed along concerning how the large ships mysteriously arrived there. Way back we were told that the Portuguese owners fleeing Angola after independence deliberately beached the ships. To me the most likely explanations for this site is that the ships were removed from Luanda harbour after being unseaworthy reality, with the absence of salvage facilities. Either the ships were intentionally grounded onshore on this beach, or their offshore moorings rusted through and the tide and currents pushed them ashore. Being as it may, truly an incredibly photogenic spot.
Crossing the Namib along the coast on the overland 4×4 adventures we experienced the remains of the ‘diamond rush’ which took place at the turn of the previous century (early 1900’), at Kolmanskop near Lüderitz, Namibia, a ghost town is all that remains of a once vibrant town, built at first to provide shelter for diamond workers from the extremely harsh environment of the hot desert. Now abandoned, the desert is slowly taking it back. That climate is the reason the town is so well preserved. Though the arid desert sands have been creeping into every corner of the buildings, the lack of moisture means that organic material does not decompose as fast.
Venturing further north on into the Namib Sand Sea will prove to be not only about the challenge of dune driving, testing driving skills as the privileged explore this scenically beautiful and historically intriguing part of the Namib Desert. About halfway between Luderitz and Walvis Bay, close to Meab and Conception Bay are the remains of another mining settlement with the ghostly remains of surfboats, equipment and houses used in days gone by. In the one-time diamond settlements one could only imagine the hardships and logistical nightmares endured at the time.
Ship wrecks encountered along the Namibian coast to name a few include the wrecks of the Otavi, United Trader, Eduard Bohlen, Shawnee, Zeila, Winston, Charles Eliot, Dunedin star, and lastly the Vanessa Seafood, the latter well known by keen off shore anglers up in Angola
Going down memory lane and recalling the adventures during the period we initially discovered these remote spots, called up good memories of our history with Nissans. Originally the area between Walvis Bay and the ‘Sperrgebied’ short of Luderiz were called Diamond Area no 2, and were out off bounds to the general public.
After Independence in Namibia the area has became part off the Namib Naukluft Park and later became a world heritage side, the Namib Sand Sea. Setting out to plot 4×4 routes into the previously ‘un-explored’ Namib and into Angola just after independence we used Nissan Safari Pick Up’s which gave excellent service The 2.8l 6 cylinder engines were great. Robust engines which did not produce a low down torque but when revved up to 6,000 rpm produced all we needed to cross the monster dunes of the Namib whilst carrying a massive load of supplies and camping equipment . Our Safaris – each with its own character, were nick named: “Oubaas”, “Rooikappie” and “Gifappeltjie” by the guides.
Many a participant in the early days of the Namib adventures remembers them as being highly dependable recovery and support vehicles.
Join us one day on a Leisure Wheels Safari – Luderitz to Walvis, Faces of the Namib or Faces de Angola adventures to experience the adventure of a life-time!