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Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 1

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Netherlands & Paris, September 2018

Part 1 – Getting there,  and getting started

 

I have done a bit of touring through Southern Africa.   Then on a good morning my wife suggested we do something different for our 30th anniversary.  Let’s visit the Netherlands, said she. So we went to the Netherlands.  Her ruse was that the friend that married us back then now lives in the Netherlands with his family for the past 10 years, and would it not be a splendid idea for us to renew our vows before him.  It was said in a fashion that did not seriously invited debate, so I considered it safe to agree.  Not that I disagreed with the idea, though.

 

Banking on a visa

Getting the Schengen visa turned out to be less of a daunting task than expected. If you can get parking in Cape Town, you’re good to go. In fact, the most daunting part of this project was to obtain bank statements. This took six hours.

See, the bank statements had to be in English. To do that the bank required that I formally change my language preference with them from Afrikaans to English. To do that they insisted that I should first provide them afresh with proof if existence and addresses, because the law requires that with a change of address.  And as I was changing my address from “straat” in Afrikaans to “street” in English, this would constitute a change of address.   The fact that one can show a letter that you have received from the bank at your residence also does not convince them that this is where you actually stay.

Once I jumped through all the hoops, they insisted that my wife must do the same, as she has signing powers on my account. So we did just that. But then the bank said they won’t accept the certified documents we provided. No, my wife had to appear before them in person. When I started to show some discontent they offered to solve the problem by simply removing my wife as a signatory from my account. I told them I would rather remain happily married instead and thus physically produced my wife at the bank.  Afterwards I wrote a letter to the bank that made me feel a lot better.

Once I got past the bank, though, it was a fairly simple process.

 

Friday, September 21 – Saturday 22nd

Leaving on a jet plane

On our way to the airport on our day of departure, we got blocked away from the road that should have taken us to the airport.  The road was blocked by traffic officers.  Seeing a large number of taxis in the distance near Bellville taxi ranks, my heart sank. A taxi strike may well cause us to not be able to reach the airport in time, or even at all.  My wife did a quick check on Twitter, which indicated that there had been a shooting incident.  We managed to find an alternative route, and arrived at the airport only minutes later than intended.

 

Dubai to Schiphol

Cape Town to Dubai took nine and a half hours. We arrived in Dubai in 34 degrees Celsius – half-past-five in the morning! Fortunately we left less than three hours later, before the temperature could get serious. Some seven hours later we touched down in a wet Amsterdam – it rains there from time to time.

Schiphol rendered a novel experience: friendly immigration officials. Kudos to the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee officers.  Google was kind enough to teach me how this word is pronounced.  (I just thought this was something you should know).

At Schiphol you basically step from the airport building into the train station.  We contacted our friends on WhatsApp to find out to which of the three Hilversum stations we should catch a train. But before we could …

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 2

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 2 –  Day visit to Amsterdam

 

Monday, 24th of September

Amsterdam

We headed to Amsterdam for the day, under guidance of our host.  It really helps tagging along with someone who not only knows where the station is, but also how the ticket sales and incidental detail works.  Such as where you need to run your ticket through the machine when you enter the station, and again when you leave the station at your destination.

The bicycle is evidently king in the Netherlands.

Even assuming that not all these riders headed for the Starbucks, it still remains impressive.

There is a complete network of roads for bicycles, and quite often cars need go yield to bicycles. Pedestrians too – something cyclists are renowned for reminding you about lest you forget, or worse, dare to transgress.

Under guidance of our host, we also travelled to the station by bicycle, but you must be very attentive to the rules to get it right. In fact, kids get trained in this at school and get “certified” after an evaluation. We, of course, did not have the benefit of that training. So we stuck to the back roads.

Katie Melua sings about the nine million bicycles in Beijing. She should come here.

The bicycles are heavy duty models with large wheels and with all manners of saddle bags and carriers. More like the SUV format of bicycles. I guess the reason for the sturdiness is to enable you to travel with your luggage. Everyone rides bicycles, and in their office clothes. I mean, really smartly dressed folks travel like that.

In downtown Amsterdam you need to pay even more attention. There you need to watch out, in addition to vehicles, for bicycles, pedestrians and tourists, also for the trams.

And if you’re from a country where you keep left and pass right, you really need to concentrate. Oh, of course in Amsterdam there are boats too, but they tend to stick to the water, which helps.

Everything is automated. Train ticket sales happen online or at an automated booth. You swipe your card as you enter the station, and again at the station where you get off. This opens the gates for you and registers the length of your travel. It works really smooth, but it is not cheap. A train station is part of the setup at Schiphol airport. And at Amsterdam Centraal the train station is also the place where trams and ferries meet.

Everything works efficiently.

 

I Am sterdam

You need to have a look at a map to get an idea of the Amsterdam water ways.

[Source:  Map Data 2018 © Google  South Africa]

We started our day with a channel boat trip. Ours was a fixed trip, as opposed to the hop on hop off tours. Commentary is provided in 19 languages on headphones, but I thought it best to stick to a language that I was familiar with.

One gets the feel of an old town with houses crammed together in limited space. Some of the building lines have become skew because of foundations having been damaged over time.  Because by “old” I mean really, really old.

Limited land space had caused the Dutch to go upwards many stories, rather than expansive on a floor plan.  And the “building line” is basically the next door building.  One can understand why the Dutch had to develop proper rules on various servitudes providing for neighbourly tolerance.

After the boat trip we took the ferry that crosses the large channel to the northeast of the station.

We had no business on the other side of the channel.  But the ferry was for free, departing every three minutes, so we did it just because it is there.

To reach the ferry you walk through a subway.  As everywhere, bicycles galore.

Inside the tunnel, the walls are covered, not with …

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 3

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 3 – Paris

 September 25th– 27 th

Paris

Shortly before our departure to Europe, we had contact with a relative who is living in Paris temporarily.  He offered us his flat to stay in as he would be out of town during the time of our tour.

So with our Dutch host as guide we left Schiphol for Orley airport South of Paris.  From there we caught a bus that took us to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. We found the flat a 340m walk from the far side of the Arc de Triomphe.  Or if you want to be pedantic, 300m from the near side of the circle.

 

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe turned out to be a massive thing.   Twelve big streets connect at the circle around the Arc de Triomphe, with no traffic lights to regulate traffic. Although I found it entertaining to watch, I would not want to drive there!

[Source:  Imagery 2018 © Google, map data © Google]

 

 

Big bus tours

We got tickets for the hop on hop off Big Bus Tours bus, valid for two days.   We were told that if you start your trip on the bus past 16:00 in the afternoon, then that day does not count. So we trundled down the Champs Elysees, whiling away the time until four before boarding the bus.

We considered this to be an exploratory trip, so we did not hop off. We wanted to get the feel of the route. Just as I got to the Eiffel tower, my camera memory was full, and I had to resort to some picture with my phone instead.  The bus does not wait.

 

Eiffel

The next day we did the tour again, this time getting off at the Eiffel tower to begin with.  As we got to the Eiffel tower, I realised that I have not put the camera batteries back after I charged them the previous evening.  Fortunately I found a set of back-up batteries in the camera bag that I actually forgot about!

It’s really no use describing the details of a tour like this. It’s like taking pictures. I later gave up on taking them. Paris is massive and old, with a seemingly endless supply of really impressive old buildings.  And as far as the Eiffel tower is concerned, every ten meters that you walk in any direction from or around it, you find a better angle for a picture.  You just can’t win!

What left me in awe was hanging around these highly recognizable landmarks in the world such as the Eiffel tower and the Louvre and the Notre Dame.  Just being there was just amazing.

According to the running commentary on the bus, the Champs Elysees is a rather expensive street to run a business from. I was thus surprised to find, tucked away on the Champs Elysees, even a MacDonald’s.

It turned out to be the start of fashion week in Paris. Everywhere girls in bridal or other fancy dresses got photographed against the backdrop of the Eiffel tower or other exotic views.

 

Lafayette

Between changing from the Red Bus to the Blue Bus (for different routes) we visited one of the Lafayette buildings to get to the rooftop which offers a commanding view of Paris – for free.  Getting anything free here is noteworthy.  Even toilets require payment.  Speaking of which, I was initially rather surprised to find a female cleaner going about her business of cleaning the gents’ toilets, unperturbed by the gents using the urinals.  I never quite fancied taking a leak as a spectator sport.

Sorry, I digress.  To get to the top floor of the Lafayette building, you pass a number of exotic stores. At some of these outlets you can buy yourself some really hideous outfits for €1800 and upwards if you are so inclined.   Not even the …

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 4

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 4

Friday, 28 September 2018

Exploring locally – Hilversum museums

Our host took my wife to IKEA. I understand IKEA to be a shop selling furniture and stuff.  Fearing that my wife might come home with a double bed or something that would be guaranteed to not fit into our luggage, I decided to explore a bit of Hilversum by bicycle to calm my nerves down.

Pretty much everyone can ride a bicycle, but doing so whilst obeying rules is a real novel experience. I decided to rather stick to quiet streets and watch what fellow cyclists do. I also ran a quick check on Google on the things you should not do while cycling in the Netherlands. And off I went.

These big bikes are very comfortable, but if Lance Armstrong had to do the Tour de France with such a bicycle he would probably have become a plumber or something on the side to put food on the table.

I am happy to report that things went rather well. One interesting observation is that there is no need to stick to smaller roads. In fact, it is on the smaller roads where you may find yourself sharing the road with cars. On the big roads, on the other hand, you have your own cycle lane.  One must just remember to stay on the lane on the right hand side of the road and to go around a circle anti-clockwise.

My first stop was the Hilversum museum.  There I found a nude art exhibition by Carla van de Puttelaar.  I really only found that out only after I entered.  From there I headed for the Instituut vir Beeld en Geluid.  This is a cultural archive and museum that collects information on the Dutch audio-visual heritage.

I spent quite a few hours there and had great fun!

They have a number of interactive activities where you can be the star in your show, for instance being the driver of a car in a car chase scene in a movie, or reading the news.  Recordings hereof are then sent to your email where it is stored for thirty days.

For my navigation I was reliant on Google Maps, but only on the voice prompts, of course.  I would be looking at a sudden death if I were to look on my phone’s screen while staying out of trouble with the bicycle.  However, picture (or try listening to it in your imagination) the English voice prompts and accent on street names such as Gijsbrecth van Amstel street, Roeitjiesweg, and Burgemeester Gülcherlaan.  I missed quite a number of turnoffs, because I was looking for a street name that sounded like the voice prompts.

 

Saturday, 29 September

Naarden Vesting

The Naarden Fortress city is built in a star format with fortified walls and a moat around it to keep attackers out.  Napoleon’s brother, however, apparently did manage to breach the fortress, but that was a while ago. These days you can go there without running the risk of being held at bay by the locals.  One can do a boat trip around the city in the moat for a small fee.

As with many of these places, being there of course makes it impossible to get a view of the place.  Below is a 3d picture from Google Maps. The colour scheme makes it look a bit strange, but the two variations of dark green are the water masses surrounding the city, providing the required security against breaching.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]

This is one of the entrances to the Vesting, viewed from the inside.  Note the ground wall behind the building.

In what used to be the court house (or rather the mayor’s house) a local gave us the historical background. One room appeared to have been the court room. As this visit commemorated our 30…

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 5

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 5

 

Delta Werke Neeltje Jans

The South-western province of the Netherlands is Zeeland.  Geographically, this part has large peninsulas.  In 1953 the Netherlands suffered from massive floods.  The floods caused the forced evacuation of 70 000 people, and left more than 1800 people dead.  More than 47000 houses were damaged, and dykes were breached at more than 60 places.

 

The Dutch then embarked on a massive project, Delta Works, to build new water restraining mechanisms.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]

 

The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees and storm surge barriers in South Holland and Zeeland.  The purpose of all these was to shorten the Dutch coastline by building dykes and sluices on the outer perimeter,  and in doing so reducing the number of dikes that had to be raised further inland at different places.

[Source:  Imagery © Google, Data SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2018 Google]

The problem here is similar to climbing on top of the Eiffel tower – once up there you can’t see the Eiffel anymore. These delta constructions are huge, and given the layout of the land being so flat you have no vantage point to get to see the project.  Hence the need to resort to Google maps just to give an indication of what one is looking at.  Suffice maybe just to say that I was awestruck.

Bear in mind that the Dutch had the ability to (and did) reclaim land from somewhere in the 1400’s already, and they are still at it, only better.

If ever you get the chance to see the Dutch movie, De Storm, do watch it.  It tells the story of the 1953 storm that caused havoc, and preceded the construction of these Delta works series of dykes.

As a child we were told this story of the boy that put his finger in the hole in a dyke to prevent it from getting worse.  After having seen these dykes, I rather doubt that story.

 

Monday, 1 October

Utrecht

Utrecht is a 15 minutes train drive to the South of Hilversum.   We stuck to the part of town that centers around the Dom church, so I have no real idea what the rest of Utrecht would look like.

 

Dom church

It’s a Gothic church, huge and old, as these structures invariably seem to be.  Interesting here is that the tower sits apart from the rest of the church.  See in the picture below the tower left, with the huge space between it and the rest of the church to the right.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]

It used to be one structure, but a storm in 1674 caused the connecting part of the church to collapse.  Bearing in mind how large the remaining part of the church still is, the complete structure must have resembled a warehouse.  Size wise, I mean, not architecturally, of course.

Serene church organ music was playing there.  Well, I guess that’s what church music is supposed to sound like.

Culture

From a cultural perspective, my wife was very happy to find in the Dom church a book written and illustrated by South African writer, Piet Grobler.  She also found Miffy.   Miffy is the one on the right below.  This bunny had been created by Dutch author Dick Bruna in 1955, and has featured in more than 30 books since then.

 

In service of the community

We also went to the Olivier’s pub, which is housed in an old church.  The original pipe organ is still there, but unlike as in the Dom church, nobody was playing it.  I’m probably not supposed to say this but I found the atmosphere in the Olivier’s church somewhat lighter.  Their wine on offer is not limited to communion.  Come to think of it, the architecture in …

Elandsbaai road trip

Sunday, 25 March, 2018

March 2018

We went on a little road trip to Elandsbaai recently.

First we did a stop-over at Stompneusbaai.

[Source:  Imagery ©2018 DigitalGlobe, DigitalGlobe, Data SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA GEBCO, Map data ©2018 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd]

St Helenabaai

The following picture had been taken from St Helenabaai to the North-East, the direction of our tour, with Elandsbaai just out of the picture to the left.

At the spot where I took the picture there was a warning sign indicating that pregnant Zebras would be crossing there.  We waited a bit, but not even those of the non-pregnant variant showed themselves.

Looking over the sea it seemed as if a Jack Sparrow crew moored out in the bay with a ship drifting in nothingness.

Getting the show on the road, our first stop was at Velddrif, at the Riviera hotel.

Sorry, I know, the pictures looks like the forecourt of a car sales outfit, but I actually intended to give an idea of what the hotel looks like seen from the river.  We had a very nice brunch there at very fair prices.

Just on the other side of the bridge, a number of (among other things) eateries could be seen.  I think next time I should go and check out the Kuiergat Pub.

Looking down from the stoep of the hotel where we had our brunch, I spotted this father and son combination in their boat.

I could just imagine the boy tuning his dad:  “Dad, when you said we’re going out on a boat, I had it play out differently in my mind.”

Velddrif/Laaiplek to Elandsbaai

From the hotel it is a leisurely 70km’s drive on tar road to Elandsbaai.  But first we had to do some shopping.  Laaiplek’s Tops has a Spar too.  A big one nogals.  No, I did not take a picture.

We travelled through Dwarskersbos and past Rocher pans.  Approaching the t-junction where you turn left to Elandsbaai and right to Auroa, one can see Klein Tafelberg in the distance.  And an arty variation of style and colours of different asphalts.

Just before Elandsbaai you find Verlorenvlei.  As the name indicates, it is supposed to be a water mass where birds to their thing.  If I may quote from http://verlorenvlei.co.za/home/

Verlorenvlei is one of the most important estuarine systems in the Western Cape and one of the largest natural wetlands along the west coast of South Africa. It is also one of the few coastal fresh water lakes in the country. The system comprises a coastal lake and reedswamp connected to the sea by a small estuary. Situated amid dramatic topography, the lake is approximately 13.5 km long and 1.4 km wide and occurs in the zone of transition between the karroid and fynbos vegetation types. This results in the region displaying a high species diversity typical of an ecotone area. (RAMSAR)

Due to the drought, though, it seems fair to assume that this estuary does at the moment not quite meet estuarian requirements.  Below is a picture I took, and just below a comparison with what it looked like when the Google Streetview car passed through in 2010.  Spot the difference.

Elandsbaai

For years I had wanted to sleep over in the Elandsbaai hotel.  At long last we now did exactly this.

The entrance to the hotel.

The front view of the hotel, viewed from the sea.

The view from the stoep.  Those promising clouds did, in fact, deliver a bit of rain that night.

View from the upper sea front rooms.

And on the other side of this mountain is where the Saldanha Sishen train would come through.

Incidentally we caught the train on its return trip from Saldanha.  Apparently the longest this train had been on occasion was 7,5km (660 wagons).  I did not count the wagons, but I would guess this train was closer to its normal …

Namibia tour – further comments

Saturday, 5 August, 2017

In my previous post + the 5 that followed on it, I reflected on our recent trip to the southern part of Namibia.  With this posting I make a few additional comments which I hope readers may find useful.

In my previous posts I have tried to paint the picture of the vastness of the landscape.

One may add that camping sites also need to be viewed a bit differently from, say, Mossel Bay in December. I thought I’ll try to give an idea what I’m talking about, courtesy of Google Maps’ 3D function.

Oewerbos. 
It was a rather glorious evening, sitting on the banks of the Orange river with the sun setting. On a cable (seemed like the feed of a foefie slide) a few birds were sitting. The variety with real wings, I mean. One had caught a fish, which he had in his beak. The fish was still very much alive, and evidently not amused. So the bird casually bludgeoning the fish to death on the cable. It took a number of attempts before the fish gave up the good fight. Such is life, nuh?

[Source: Imagery ©2017 CNES / Airbus, Map data ©2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google, South Africa www.google.com/maps]

Border post
The experience had been swift and painless on both occasions (in and out). Not knowing where to go, I stopped at the first official looking office, where I was told where to park, “where you unpack”. Aag no! It thought. But it turned out the stern looking member of SAPS was just having a bit of fun with me. No unpacking.

From what I understood from Neville at Oewerbos, the hunting season just opened a day or two before. Or maybe on that day – it was 1 July. That probably explained why, on the day of our return, all the vehicles in our vicinity, ours included, got searched.

In an endeavor to maximize packing effectivity, my wife bought us each a R50 nylon zipper bag. They were enormous. You could pack an illegal immigrant in it with ease. We did not, though, just for the records. But on first blush, the rear of the bakkie did look as though it could have been packed with “goods”, with these enormous bags being very evident. Well, actually, it was not that evident. It only became evident once I removed the groundsheet that I had over it to protect from dust and rain. Given that there had been neither dust nor rain when we arrived at the post, it might have raised some suspicion. So the gentlemen from (I assume) SARS and SAPS opened each of these bags, and meticulously went through our clothing.

A docile looking dog that appeared to be half ridge-back and two-and-a-half some other things, stood by. I greeted him friendly. He showed no interest, but I took that as a good sign.

My wife was contemplating whether the combination of our packing system and the age of our vehicle might have counted against us. I think not, though. All vehicles that looked like it could accommodate meat seem to have been checked, and one could easily stack a few kudu’s into those bags of us, provided of course they were not alive any more, and also not in one peace.

But even the lady right in front of us with a midget Peugeot got checked. The friendly dog gave her more than just a sniff-over and she had to park elsewhere for a more thorough search. I did see here again at Klawer, though, so evidently there was just a bit of mis-sniffing that had to be sorted out.

Once in Namibia
My youngest had difficulties grasping the concept that we’re driving along a river in Namibia, but just about 100m away from us – you could swim there – was a completely different country.  Ours.

On that road we …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 1

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Gate crashing a tour

When I met up with my cousin Lizette earlier this year, first on a funeral and the next day on a birthday (the birthday was the happier of the two affairs) she told me about their planned trip to Namibia in July.  Due to a combination of over eagerness, loud family interaction and a slight hearing problem, I understood her to invite us to join the tour  – something she afterwards denied having done.   We are still, however, on speaking terms, chiefly due to Lizette’s innate kindness.

But this is how it came about that on the morning of Saturday July 1st, we departed from Durbanville heading north, with my Mazda bakkie’s odometer indicating 310 001 km’s.  In between these two dates, of course, a lot happened, such as satisfying burocrats at Home Affairs, getting my twenty year old noble steed properly serviced, and acquiring some necessary camping equipment.  Mine was a party of four, which included my wife Marga and our 15 year old son, and a friend, Mariki.  We would join a convoy totalling four vehicles, us included.

The route would roughly cover the area as on the map:

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google  www.google.com/maps]

Each made it on their own time to our first rendezvous point at Vioolsdrift.  As we stopped at roadworks just before Klawer, the vehicle that pulled up right behind me happened to be Lizette and Adriaan’s Colt double cab.  We travelled further in convoy to Oewerbos, some 13 kilometers north-west of the Vioolsdrift border post, but on the South African side.  About a half-an-hour later, Toit and Christine arrived with their Toyota double cab.  Then we were three cars.

It was a busy day at Oewerbos, with rugby on the big screen, and lots of people in the bar.  Apparently there had been an annual church bazaar, Neville behind the bar counter explained.  And the following day a church group would be moving in, he said.  I could not help but wonder when Neville would find the time to restock the bar for the church group of the next day, but it was evident that nothing could seriously unsettle Neville.  Not even a number of his guests absconding after ordering off a tab.

We had a drink on the river bank, watching the sun set.  There was a cano available, and I quite liked the idea of rowing to the middle of the river just to get a feel of Namibia.  That is now assuming the international border to be in the middle of the river.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

We then retreated to the two-bed bungalows where we were staying.  Wors braai and two minute noodles with mince got our field kitchen started.  Not having to set up camp would give us an early head start the next morning.  Brother Johnie and his wife Rose were waiting at Ai-Ais, where he already had a puncture.  They would meet us the following morning where the C37 from Ai-Ais meets the C13 that runs along the Orange river to Rosh Pinah.  But there was no South African cell phone reception at Oewerbos, so we had to leave the final arrangements for the next morning.

 

Day one in Namibia

Sendelingsdrift, Rosh Pinah, Aus, Luderitz

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google  www.google.com/maps]

We made an early start the next morning, and were the first travellers at the border post.  Formalities were swift and painless.  At the first garage just across the border we filled up with Namibia’s substantially cheaper fuel, and bought MTC sim cards. We could then make contact with my brother Johnie to arrange for the rendezvous.  Him and his wife Rosie were now …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 2

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Kolmanskop

Mariki was up early to climb the rocky koppie just meters away from Zum Anker.  It provided a nice bird’s eye view of Luderitz.

We were the only newbies to Luderitz.  As the rest of the touring group had all previously done Kolmanskop, we went there on our own.  This was one of the two primary objectives of my tour, and we did not intend missing this.

Due to high numbers of tourists, we were divided in three groups.  English, German, and Afrikaans.  Our guide was very knowledgeable, and her presentation very good.   Space would preclude a complete rundown of the history of Kolmanskop, but you can read more about it at http://kolmanskop.net/

But in short, diamonds were found there in 1908.  It was so prevalent that it was picked up in jars, even at night with diamonds identifiable in the moonlight.  Amazingly, each house in Kolmanskop at that time had electricity and a telephone, with ice blocks being delivered to each house every morning to be used in the “top loader” fridges to cool down food.  The complex even sported a pool which looked about25m x 25m and about 3m deep.  However, in 1928 even richer diamond deposits were found at Oranjemund, and everyone then flocked there, simply leaving their homes at Kolmanskop.  Easy come easy go, I guess.

 

I’d prefer not to stay in this one.

The railway line between Luderitz and Aus, which had been in rehabilitation for more than ten years now, had been built at that time within an amazing ten months by 1908.  It is scheduled to re-open again this year.   It seems like an uphill battle, though, as there are places where whole sand dunes became settled across the tracks.

Johnie hoped to go on a tour to Bogenfels, but apparently these tours require two days’ notice, for which we did not have sufficient time.  We took a drive around the Luderitz peninsula, instead.  We managed to see Kleiner Bogenfels,

and also went down to one of two fjords.  The rather bad smaller roads caused us to thereafter rather aim for Diaz point, where the wind was blowing that I believe would meet the criteria of “fresh”.  Sommer very fresh.

Water over a troubled bridge?

Down below from Diaz cross a young man had a spot of bother with his Nissan bakkie.  After a picnic with his girlfriend, he got stuck.  Under Rosie’s command those of us close enough not to be able to ignore his plight, were all commanded to assist in pushing the bakkie back to dry ground.

It turned out that, independent of our group, my remaining brother also arrived in Luderitz sometime during the day.  Just after dark we happened to pass each other on the road, and he recognized my vehicle.  Well, he should, I would think.  I’ve had it for the past 17 years.

I took him along to Barrels, where the rest of our crowd already convened for dinner.

We might have arrived there a bit late, as the place was full, and we were taken through the kitchen to what seems to be a breakfast corner. This was a lot quieter than the hustle and bustle of the main restaurant and bar.   We also met up again with the gentleman with the Nissan.  He still had the same girlfriend.

We had to wait rather long for our food, but we were advised that, due to the popularity of the place, if you’re not there by six in the evening, this is bound to happen.   We in any event were not in a hurry.

 

Day three    

The horses of Aus, Tiras Mountains, Gunsbewys

We could once again get on the road fairly quickly, as we only had to pack our bags, with all the camping stuff having remained in the bakkie for the two nights we stayed at Zum Anker.

Before we left …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 3

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Day four

Gunsbewys

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google  www.google.com/maps]

Trying to describe our journey with words and pictures can simply not do justice to the experience.  Everything is big and vast and majestic.  It enfolds you.  You need to live it to get a feel for it.  So bear with me in the endeavours that follow.

Hart wie Kameldornholz ist unser Land
Und trocken sind seine Riviere                              -Das Sudwesterlied

 

Arriving at Gunsbewys gave a first impression of a dusty farmstead with outside buildings.  The farm itself had never actually been actively farmed.   The fenced in erf has very little green.  And looking around you, you see vast expanse of land with very little that livestock would be able to live off.

However, Gertrude turned out to be a living encyclopedia.  One of the buildings houses a display of the animals and wildlife to be found in the area.  The magazine Go! visited Gunsbewys and interviewed Gertrude inside her display.  You can find the video clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99p4yBaigsI

Cooking is done by green power, using the sun.

Electricity is generated by solar power, with battery backup to last through the night if used sparingly.

Gertrude provided us with laminated cards and instructions how to get to various places of interest close to each other at the southern foot of the Tiras mountains.  These included San rock paintings, and evidence of the San people having been active there at some stage.

The spots were clearly marked and we could easily find all but one of the attractions.   It was 32 degrees, but in the extreme arid conditions, it felt like 26 degrees.  Only a slight breeze is required to improve comfort.

The evening Gertrude took us on a short drive of about 3 km’s away from her house on a sand track.  To my embarrassment my vehicle got bogged down in what appeared to be very straight forward sand driving, albeit at a bit of an incline.   As it happened at the end of the motorised journey, it did not matter – for the moment.

Once disembarked, we have not walked 10 meters before Gertrude pointed out three markings in the sand.  It looked like three little half moons, with nothing to it.  However, as she demonstrated to us, it turned out to be a spider trap.

 

[Picture: Mariki Stassen]

Gertrude would point out the small markings of beetles and small creatures.

[Picture: Mariki Stassen]

We could follow the trail of a dung beatle forcing his black gold uphill to where his family was waiting on the feast.  I may mention that my nutritional needs differ vastly from the amaBhungane’s.

Gertrude demonstrated how one could collecte iron oxide with magnets from the dunes.

We could see the tracks of the Gemsbok that we saw running as we pulled up there.  The Gemsbok’s urine patch was the only remotely wet spot around.   We stayed there, watching the sun set on the dunes, before returning home.

Gertrude was very impressed with Adriaan’s driving skills, and even named him “the headboy of headboys”.  Gmph….!  She was less impressed with Johnie’s endeavours to turn his Land Rover around in the limited space of the sand track.  She even jumped out to help push in spite of Johnie’s protestations that he was not stuck.  I chose not to stick around, and removed my bakke from the scene downhill in reverse gear, rather than to invite any comments on my driving skills.

That evening Gertrude joined us again for wors and patties, pap, salad and wine.  I’m not much of a cook, so I stood amazed at the absolute five star meals that the ladies could organise (to be executed as per instructions by the males) every day.

As one can imagine, harmony is key to living, touring and …