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Kolmanskop, Namibia

Oroboro safely anchored in Luderitz, Namibia.  The anchorage provides good holding, although it’s exposed to strong winds (we anchored in 35 knots of wind).  In town there are a couple of supermarkets, gas stations and banks. The local Yacht Club has a nice bar.  The main reason why we anchored here is to be able to visit a ghost town.

I have always been fascinated by ghost towns.  I visited many of them in California and Nevada during my motorcycle adventure rides with my friend Bill.  Getting there was never easy, it’s an expedition that takes several weeks or even month of preparation, and many miles of unpaved roads in heat, cold or rain or any combination thereof, on steep, narrow, muddy, sandy or rocky trails, unpassable with anything else than a dirt bike.  Thanks to these motorcycle adventure rides, I’ve seen places in the US that probably most Americans will never see in their entire lifetime.

So when about a year ago I heard from my South African friend Allan, that close to Luderitz there was a diamonds mine ghost town, I started dreaming of it, and the fact that this time I could go there on a sailboat and with my Better Half instead than on a motorcycle, made the whole thing even more fascinating.  Sailboats departing Cape Town to go to the Caribbean usually go straight to St Helena, and they rarely stop in Namibia.  The coast of Namibia is one of the most desolated and dangerous coasts in the world. In fact, it is called the Skeleton Coast, because of the many ships that wrecked on these shores.

My crew has circumnavigated twice from Cape Town, but they never stopped in Namibia and never heard of the ghost town called Kolmannskuppe.  So when I told them about it, I got everybody excited about sailing to Luderitz. So we put it as a must, in our Navigation Plan.

And I’m glad we did.  When we got there everybody was blown away by the singularity of its beauty.  Ligia told me that she felt like exploring a wreck, only this time it was not underwater and so she didn’t have the pressure of time.  Joao looked like a Bartolomeu Dias, map in hand he explored every single building.  I organized to get there at sunrise, when you have a better light for taking pictures.

So we got in our dinghy at 6:15 and our driver met us at the jetty.  We drove 20 minutes through the desert and we arrived to Kolmannskuppe.

A little bit of history: In 1897 the master of a sailing ship, captain R. Jones, returned to Cape Town with a bunch of diamonds and claimed to have found them off the coast of Namibia. Unfortunately he fell ill and died before he could return. Diamonds were not found until 1908 when a lonely railway employee at one of the most desolated outpost on earth stumbled upon them while freeing the railroad tracks of desert sand, close to Ludertitz. His name was August Stauch. The diamonds rush that followed was to reveal, in time, a treasure beyond Stauch’s wildest dreams. There is no other commodity with such an irresistible fascination as diamonds. And diamonds could be found here without digging, you could see them shining in the desert’s sand at night with a full moon. In seven years after the discovery of diamonds in Kolmannshuppe, the South West African Mine produced more than 5ML carats. About 1,200 people lived and worked in Kolmannskuppe. The hospital had the first X-Ray machine in the southern hemisphere, mostly to check that nobody smuggled diamonds.  The town started to decline after World War II when the diamond-field slowly started to deplete. By the early 50s, the last inhabitants left.

This ghost town is unique, I feel very lucky to be able to visit.  Here are some pics that Yuka took.

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