We are in Luderitz today, originally discovered by the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz in 1487. The Dutch stopped briefly, but the town was really founded in 1883 when Heinrich Vogelsang purchased land from the local Nama chief and the German town was built focusing on whaling, sealing, fishing, and guano harvesting (from all the shorebirds in the area). Guano is used for fertilizer.
After diamonds were discovered in 1909, growth of the town surged, but after WWI, many Germans were deported and the diamond industry had moved further south. Luderitz is now a cute little town of about 20,000, while most focus is on their much larger northern neighbor, Walvis Bay.
Before we could leave the ship, all passengers needed to report to the lounge for a face to face meeting with Namibian immigration. We were given our passports, they were stamped and another form filled out, then passports were returned to the ship’s staff. Immigration gave us a form that said we passed inspection. We will have to go through the same process again in 2 days when we leave the country. I also found out that having enough expiration time left on your passport is not sufficient. We need to make sure we have enough pages to stamp. Some countries insist on using 2 pages for entrance and exit stamps and want them to be clean pages. I always thought they could stamp anywhere. Travelling is a real education. Folks who do a world cruise every year or two have to get a new passport long before their ten years have expired.
Our first excursion was the morning Walking Tour of Luderitz. Along the pier, we saw the tuna boats unloading their catch. Most of the buildings were built in the boom of 1909 and are so dated. The architecture is very Bavarian and lots of the building materials were imported from Germany. We got to tour several homes and a local museum. The Lutheran church was built in only 9 months and sits at the topmost area of town. Luderitz is subject to fierce desert winds (not today) that make holes in the rocks and damage any painted finishes of homes. For this reason, most homes were built with the color mixed into the cement, so they don’t have to be constantly refinished.
We returned from our almost 3-hour walk just in time for our afternoon tour to Kolmanskop Ghost Town. This town, only 15 minutes away, was the hub of the diamond boom, and where workers came and went to the mines. It was inhabited until around 1950, when most of the industry moved south and everyone decided to just leave town. Those buildings that were locked properly, are still quite pretty and look like nice homes. Some have collapsed roofs, collapsed walls, and homes full of sand. It was fascinating and we had time after our guided tour to wander around on our own. This area is now like a national park and is protected as is. An area beyond the fenced town is still used by the diamond industry and is off limits. Early diamonds were found just lying on the sand, so there are probably still quite a few remaining and those owning the land (South Africa government, I think, along with a large diamond consortium) don’t want folks wandering around. Cameras are everywhere and workers are x-rayed when they leave for the day. Some past workers have tried many ingenious ways of smuggling a few diamonds for their personal use, including swallowing them, using carrier pigeons, putting them in interesting places on their bodies, etc. They were all discovered, mostly by x-ray and prosecuted. The town we were exploring had thousands of people living there at its height, and contained a school, hospital, recreation center with 2 bowling alleys, theater, and dance hall. The larger, fancier homes belonged to the bosses of the diamond company. In another 50 years, most of the homes already taken over by sand, will probably be completely buried.
We did well in mensa and trivia today (came in second) and then Michael did a 5 o’clock lecture on what to expect in our next port, Walvis Bay (pop. 65,000), where we will stay overnight. This is Michael’s most favorite spot in the world, probably because of the birds and sea life, of which he showed many pictures. He mentioned this is the major port of the country and has the only direct route to the inland capital, Windhoek. He briefly described the history we have heard before and mentioned several potential walking highlights along the waterfront, including flamingoes and some restaurants. On the Swapkopmund excursion, we will see moon-like landscape and miles of sand dunes. That town has a strong German architectural influence. Along the way, there is another excursion stop at Dune 7. There are so many that they are given numbers rather than names. Sand dunes can range up to 500’.
Tonight was our 6 o’clock block party to meet our new neighbors. Most of our hall are world cruisers, so there were only a few cabins of newbies. This segment, having so many sea days, was not as popular as others, so we are down about 100 passengers, leaving many empty cabins. The one next to us is filled with beer. Other cabins are storing other non-refrigerated items for the long sea voyage. There will be no restocking of food items until we get to Uruguay, so the ship needed to get a huge stash of many items. We laugh about it. Don’t know what they would have done if they didn’t have these empty cabins for storage.
We had a lovely Hungarian dinner last night, specially prepared for our table. Sandy and Dana gave the chef a menu, and since she knew Mac was Hungarian, she invited us, as well as a few other world cruisers. We were joined by Mel (also Hungarian) and Jane, Elizabeth, Wendell, Ryan, and Doug. It was a great time and the goulash was really good. I even tried a few other things I didn’t recognize.
Last night’s show was another Terry Bishop event. It was very entertaining, as usual.
Yours in travel,
Pat & Mac