Kolmanskop, a photographer's paradise!
The main reason why we drove all the way down to the Lüderitz area, was to visit one of the diamond fever ghost towns.
We had our minds set on Kolmanskop, but once we found out there was another, less visited ghost town called Pomona, we were eager to go there instead (or as well? Still an ongoing debate at that point). However, the day of our arrival at Lüderitz, we learned there is a permit required for the Bogenfels/Pomona tour and it can take up to 10 days to get it. Right, then two weekend days definitely weren't gonna cut it.
Only a minor setback though, thanks to our initial plan to visit Kolmanskop (First ideas are always better, no?).
Now if you've read my post on Lüderitz (read here), you know about the serious windy weather out there. While we were checking out, our hosts revealed to us that this was quite common for the region. Apparently even beneficiary for the oysters because they absorb oxygen through the water (yes, these delicious creatures breathe) and more wind means more waves and thus more oxygen in the water. Interesting, because here we were, postponing our visit to Kolmanskop to the last minute, hoping this was just a temporary 'storm'... (NOT)!
Nevertheless we were really lucky that last morning. The wind was significantly less strong than the past few days.
And our luck extended further than just the weather! Driving up to the entrance of Kolmanskop, we learned that visiting hour starts at 8am and ends at 1pm ... So without having a clue, we chose the best (and our only) moment to visit. This could easily have gone wrong...but no need to think about that now. Lesson learned!
We waited in front of the closed barrier (we were 15 minutes early) and after about 5 minutes, a guard slowly walked up to our car. Instead of letting us in, like we thought he would, he asked us for the time. He was clearly in no rush to let some early birds in, so Bernd joked to maybe wait 10 minutes more? He disappeared into his little office with not so much of a smile. Clearly not a morning person!
When he came back to fill in the paperwork for the permit, I asked him about my flip flops and the chance of them having a close encounter with a snake...(some instagram comments had me worried about that). Raised eyebrows, both from him and Bernd. What, a girl can't worry about her shoes (or toes in this case)? Besides, I think I noticed a smile when he assured me it would be fine! (Talking about a victory!)
Once you enter the town, you can park in front of the main building. From there you can start exploring on your own or join one of the guided tours that leave on different times. Excited to finally be there, we set off (just the two of us) towards the houses in front of us. They are well preserved and most of the rooms are still quite sand free...but the desert is slowly creeping up on them too...
Except for a few bathtubs and sinks, there isn't much furniture left in any of the houses. But there's still a homevibe thanks to the remaining bright painted walls and detailed pieces of wallpaper, refusing to let go.
Wandering from one room to another, we reflected on all the things that might have happened in that town...
...all the secrets carefully buried inside each of these homes and all of the laughter and tears that have forever vanished into the hot african air. How an empty town can be full of memories ... I find it fascinating!
Every house has a sign that shows who used to live there or what the building was used for back in the day. There is a teacher's house, a librarian's a school and (our personal favourite) a hospital.
The further we went to the edge of town, the more the desert was taking over, up to a point where waves of sand were touching the ceilings, making it almost impossible to access.
There were quarters where the sun beamed through the cracks and created a geometrical game of light and shadows on the floor and walls. A unique sight...
Kolmanskop had us running around from one building to another, trying to capture as many of these artistic scenes as possible within the limited amount of time we had left before closure.
People warned us to put away our cameras to protect them from the sand. The wind was picking up again and we started to understand why visiting hours ended around noon.
We didn't explore all of the houses...there simply wansn't enough time, but Kolmanskop delivered the magic we hoped to find.
In our opinion, the long drive was more than worth it. If given the chance, we would do it again within a heartbeat. However, if photography is not your thing, I would reconsider if a visit merits the multihour roadtrip. You might prefer to go straight to your next destination.
For us that was the Fish River Canyon (read about it here). On our way over there, we made one last stop: the Garub water hole where the wild namib desert horses roam. I would love to show off with a picture of these untamed horses galopping across the desert, the wind through their manes... wildlife at its best! But they're not called wild because they stand there all day waiting for tourists to take pictures of them...
Here are some extra useful tips if you're planning a trip to Kolmanskop:
- The permit can be obtained at the gate, but also in the town of Lüderitz.
- There is a special photography permit to enter before sunrise.
- Go early in the morning to avoid large crowds and firm winds (+ you'll need the time).
- Visit the beautiful authentic bowling alley in the main building.
- Be extremely careful with your camera gear. There's no stopping the sand from getting in.
Some of our lenses crunched and cracked for a few days!