2. Namibia: The south – Car Wrecks, Seeheim, Spaghetti Western, Bethanie, Helmeringhausen, Paris Texas and wild cats at the Hammerstein Camp Site

From car wreck to flower vase

Namibie_Zuid_2015_Img0015The desert of south Namibia is a transition area between the eastern Kalahari Desert in Botswana and the Namib desert, located parallel to the Namibian coast line, and in between some dry mountainous areas. In this vast desert plains you’ll only find an occasional very small village and towns are all on the coast. If you drive through this vast desert and your car breaks down, there is really no one who can and wants to repair the car and owns spare parts in the vicinity. And therefore such a broken car is left behind and never picked up because there is no car towing service or AA in the desert. Such a car lies there for years and very slowly rots away under the blazing merciles sun. And so it came to be that the Wandelgek passed these cars years later. They are reduced to beautiful car wrecks and sometimes a wreck is collected and taken in tow by local restaurants owners who change them in to garden decoration, and soon quiver trees grow through the open hood of a car wreck or a flower bed full of cacti surrounds such a wreck.

Namibie_Zuid_2015_Img0021Thus The Wandelgek arrived, after a long drive through the Gondwana Canon National Park, at the Canon Roadhouse. Both the interior and exterior of this roadhouse, where you could eat, drink and buy souvenirs, were full of car wrecks, trucks, a fuel pump and motor cycles ….

Namibie Map 1

Seeheim

After a stop at the Canon Roadhouse The Wandelgek drove through southern Namibia further north, driving parallel to the Fish River Canyon. The route followed went through empty desert plains along dusty roads and eventually partially in westward direction towards Luderitz and along side of a railroad, passing strange place names in the middle of nowhere like Holoog and Seeheim. At Seeheim the Fish River Canyon ends. Seeheim was once a prosperous town in the desert and in the rainy season a lake appeared near the town. Because the lake reminded the German soldiers of home, they named the place Seeheim meaning at home at the lake. Nowadays there’s only a few buildings left, including a hotel, which has only recently opened again. There were oil tanks and a windmill. These windmills are seen throughout south Namibia and seem to come directly from Once Upon a Time in the West. I still hear the screeching moan of metal that was shrieking at every turn of the bladed wheel

Namibie_Zuid_2015_Img0055Namibie_Zuid_2015_Img0056

On either side of the railway running passed Seeheim was nothing. The railwy itself looked like it came from the movie Paris Texas and I al;most thought I saw Travis walking through the desert wearing his distinctive red cap. Near to the railway was a little fence behind which a tame Oryx was kept.

Seeheim is a settlement in ǁKaras Region, southern Namibia. The only notable structures in Seeheim today are the hotel and the railway station; only a handful of people live there. Seeheim belongs to the Keetmanshoop Rural electoral constituency.

History

Seeheim was founded in 1896 as a base for the German Schutztruppe. Early in the 20th century its sole purpose was that of a junction station where the lines from Keetmanshoop diverted to Lüderitz and Karasburg. The line Keetmanshoop-Lüderitz was built from 1905 to 1908, the line Keetmanshoop-Karasburg in 1909. The First World War was the reason to build these railway links through inhospitable land but the main use was soon the peaking transport demand triggered by the diamond rush that developed after a railway worker picked up a diamond near Grasplatz station, 24 kilometers east of Lüderitz. However, people travelling from the inland to Lüderitz had to stay overnight at Seeheim junction. This was the reason for the erection of two hotels, one of which is again in operation today after standing empty for 30 years.

In the 1950s, Seeheim was a settlement of considerable size. Afterwards, the town gradually fell into decline. The school closed down and the residents began to leave.

Transport

In 1974 the main road B2 was re-directed, leaving Seeheim in the middle of nowhere with only a small gravel access road, and the railway access.

Seeheim station today is part of the Namibian Railways. The passenger line to Lüderitz has been defunct for many years because the rails were destroyed between Aus and Lüderitz. This missing section is currently being rebuilt. Until its estimated finish in 2010, the few irregular passenger trains to the West end in Aus.

Economic activities

Apart from Seeheim Hotel, a nostalgic stopover for tourists on their way to Fish River Canyon, there is a furniture maker.

Beyond Seeheim the route continued mostly southward to Bethanie, a small dusty town with a supermarket and a beergarten 🙂

Bethanie


In Bethanie we paused to eat something and in the local supermarket they sold cold drinks and snacks for the next part of the road trip. At the local bakery they sold what was described to us as the best apfelstrudel in southern Namibia and to be honest: it was delicious.

Bethanie (often in German: Bethanien, and in English: Bethany, previously Klipfontein, Khoekhoegowab: ǀUiǂgandes) is a village in the ǁKaras Region of southern Namibia. It is ranked as one of the oldest settlements in the country. It is situated on the road C14 between Goageb and Walvis Bay, 100 km west of Keetmanshoop. It has a population of about 2,000.

History

The area around Bethanie originally belonged to the Red Nation. At the beginning of the 18th century the ǃAman (Bethanie Orlam), a subtribe of the Orlam people, obtained settlement rights and settled here. As missionaries started travelling north from the Cape Colony in the early 19th century, they established mission stations on their way. The London Missionary Society founded the town, but, because of a shortage of missionaries and presumably because of the cooperation between the London and Rhenish Missionary Society at the time, they instead sent a German.

Reverend Heinrich Schmelen arrived in 1814 as missionary of the Kaiǀkhauan (Khauas Nama) and their leader Amraal Lambert. The Schmelenhaus was built the same year, long considered the oldest structure in Namibia, and currently a National Monument and memorabilia museum. It was later discovered that the church and the pastor’s house in Warmbad, both destroyed in 1811, were older than the Schmelenhaus, and that the fortification of ǁKhauxaǃnas predates all European constructions. Schmelen also initiated the building of a chapel which was in ruins when James Edward Alexander visited the village in 1837.

In 1822, Schmelen left Bethanie< after becoming dissatisfied with his missionary work among the local tribes, who refused his repeated and impassioned pleas to attend church and an ongoing conflict between Amraal Lambert’s Orlam and another Namaqua tribe living at the station. Livestock and men were killed, and buildings burned. According to James Edward Alexander, Schmelen had “tried in vain to prevent the people of the station exchanging their cattle at [Lüderitz] … for fire-arms and ammunition” and saw no end to the local conflicts.

The original church was built in 1859, and also still stands today.

In 1883, Bethanie was the scene of the historical land sale at the house of Namaqua chief Josef Frederiks II that would eventually establish Imperial Germany‍‍ ’​‍s colony of German South-West Africa. Adolf Lüderitz in May 1883 obtained the area of Angra Pequena (today the town of Lüderitz) from Frederiks for 100£ in gold and 200 rifles. Three months later on 21 August, Frederiks sold Lüderitz a stretch of land 140 kilometres (87 mi) wide, between the Orange River and Angra Pequena, for 500£ and 60 rifles. This area was far bigger than Frederiks had thought, as the contract specified its width as ’20 geographical miles’, a term that the tribal chief was not familiar with: 1 German geographical mile equals 7.4 kilometres (4.6 mi), whereas the common mile in the territory was the English mile, 1.6 kilometres.

And on we went to Helmeringhausen…

Helmeringhausen

At Hotel Helmeringhausen where we lunched were many car wrecks in the garden and they had very creative male and female signs for the men and women restrooms. They actually were so creative that more common signs were now hanging above the restroom doors 😉

Helmeringhausen is a settlement in southern Namibia in the Berseba Constituency in the ǁKaras Region. It is located 200 km northeast of Lüderitz and 500 km south of Windhoek on the crossing of the national roads C14 (Goageb – Walvis Bay) and C13 (Rosh Pinah – Helmeringhausen), and the road D414 (Aus – Mariental).

Helmeringhausen does not have an official governing body nor status as it is completely situated on private land, and all infrastructure except the roads are part of Farm Helmeringhausen. It features a small airfield (ICAO code: FYHH), a country hotel, and a private agricultural museum.

Helmeringhausen was founded as a farm by a member of the Schutztruppe, the colonial armed force of Imperial Germany.

And an authentic Namibian Windhoek Premium Draught beer is always a treat 🙂. Windhoek is the Dutch name of the capital of Namibia.

Hammerstein

Then The Wandelgek travelled further south and westward to the Hammerstein Rest Camp, where The Wandelgek stayed for two nights.

At the restcamp some springboks walked around and behind a high fence which enclosed a large piece of land, three types of wild cats lived. A Leopard, two Caracals and two cheetahs. Awesome animals. The animals all appeared to have been captured at a young age and since then were imprisoned here. In the wild, they could no longer survive. Our guide told us that no new animals were to be improned here.

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