Namibia Part II – Mariental and Lüderitz

Lovedale Farm and Lüderitz

On 6 March we finally got up early for a change and managed to leave before ten o’clock! I have to say though, I have no idea why on earth we brought the children with. They are completely useless when it comes to setting up or taking down everything, too short to reach and not strong enough for anything. I think we need to trade them in for two who are a bit older, maybe about 12 and 10 years old?

Kidding, we love them to bits, at least they are old enough now to know when to stay out of the way. They do love to help and really like it when we take time to show them how, we need to slow down and practice some patience with them, even when it is easier to just do it ourselves. Sophia has already learned how to make scrambled eggs!

We had breakfast at Maltahöhe at Oa Hera Arts, a place recommended by Weg (Go!) again, but I am not certain whether it is that wonderful. Hugo had kudu goulash which was so-so and they charged R25 for a single pannekoek (crepe), scandalous! We left there with our hunger kind of taken care off and took the gravel road towards Lüderitz. After a while we passed a sign to Duwisib Castle, and since we have 9 and a half months left of the year, we decided to go have a look.

“In a remote valley, on the edge of the Namib Dune Desert, set amidst huge camel-thorn trees, lies one of Namibia’s most famous and extraordinary buildings – the historic Duwisib Castle.

Built in 1909, by Baron Captain Heinrich Von Wolf, the castle stands on the high ground looking southwards onto a valley. It is situated in semi-arid lands, 70kms south-west of Maltahöhe.

After the German-Nama war, the ‘Baron’ and his wife commissioned an architect to build a castle that would ‘reflect Von Wolf’s commitment to the German Military cause.’ The interior was designed for comfort and clever placing of its windows allowed for maximum sunlight to shine into the vast rooms. Metre thick stone walls and high ceilings made for coolness in the hot summers and two huge fireplaces were built to ward off the bitter cold winter nights. Beneath the hall, there was a large cellar, full of imported wines and French cognacs.

Much of the raw materials used in the construction of the fort were imported from Germany. After landing at Lüderitz, the materials were transported by ox-wagon for over 600kms through the Namib Desert. Eventually, a castle consisting of 22 rooms, was completed.

While travelling to Europe in 1914, the First World War broke out, and on their arrival the Baron re-joined the German army, but was killed at the battle of the Somme in 1916. His wife never returned to Duwisib Castle, settled in Switzerland, and after the war sold the castle to a Swedish family.

One of the legends around the castle is that the Baron’s horses escaped into the Namib Desert and where responsible for the Namib Desert Feral horses which are found in the region.

Duwisib castle was transferred to the state in the late 1970’s, and was opened to the public in 1991. The castle now houses a collection of 18th and 19th century antiques, armour and paintings.”

Some of the antiques are very “antique”. For instance this chair which together with an identical twin, were the property of King Philip II of Spain circa 1581.

I really loved the woodwork that went into the ceiling. The wardrobes were all very old as well, some were already antique before they were brought here and date from the early sixteenth century.

One educational day trip – tick! The castle used to only have campsites, but now boast beautiful rooms with original furniture as well. As it belongs to NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts), they also have 75% off on all accommodation. Alas, it was still early in the day and we decided to push on. This detour took us on a road that passed several guest farms. After about three in the afternoon, we started to look out for somewhere to stay. You have to know, this area is vast, and there are not many farmsteads to be seen. Only sheep, springbok, ostriches, goats. We have also noticed the increase in cattle next to the road. These farms must be huge to carry so many cattle on such dry land. Almost all farms offer B&B’s or camping facilities; we chose the third farm we saw, Lovedale Farm. What a lucky choice!

Lovedale, in the Helmeringhausen area, is the oldest commercial farm in Namibia still in the same family (since 1854). They are one of the oldest swakara studs still active and you can take part in farming activities and enjoy real farm life. They often win prices for farming and conservation.

“Home of one of the oldest swakara studs in Namibia – since 1946. We farm with black and white swakara in stud form as well as in commercial flock form. Swakara is still the main farming activity with round about 1200 active breeding swakara ewes and many champions and record holders were bred out of the Lovedale stud. The latest new world record of N$94,000.00 were paid for a white swakara ram from Lovedale at the Annual swakara Elite Auction on 20 September 2012. We try to improve the quality of our stud year after year and to satisfy all our customers. Plus minus 50 swakara rams are presented on ram auctions yearly in April, July and September. The swakara stud has been in the family and has been improved for three generations.

Other livestock studs include Jersey cattle (for dairy), Boergoats (for bush grazing) and Afrikaner sheep.”

– Source:

Lovedale has beautiful campsites but we decided to spoil ourselves (in order to get started early the next morning) and opted for a chalet. It is basic and rustic, but very comfortable and well maintained. All electricity on the farm comes either from solar power or generators, so they make sparingly use of lights and other electric devices. Cooking happens either outside on the fire or on a gas stove top. Hot water for showers comes from an old-fashioned donkey. I still remember having those on my parents’ farm, they are very delicate, make the fire too big and you burst a pipe, or worse, the thing explodes.

Just before having a much-needed sundowner, you can go for a swim in the dam and race a springbok on the way there. Really! It is hilarious. They have two tame springbok in a huge enclosure, a ram and ewe. The ewe is a bit shy but the ram will eat from your hand. And race you. Whenever someone would run next to the fence, he would join in and jump with glee. I don’t know how many times the children ran up and down but the springbok never disappointed (just like our rugby team… uh-hmm). In this photo you can see all feet off the ground! I wonder who is having the most fun?

Hugo and the children wore colour coded tops especially for the photos ;-).

After all the running we finally made it to the dam. I know I did it as a child, even once when at university, but my brain refused to allow me to swim in one now. Just eew… Even Sophia had her doubts and decided to stick with her paper, pencil and cello tape. And Hugo cheated – he wore shoes so his feet didn’t have to touch the icky slippery algae.

Did you see Hugo’s tan? He’s got a real boere-tan (farmer’s tan) now. No more office jock! Gustav slipped and fell when I tried to “gently help” him into the dam and before you could blink Sophia ran off to fetch him a band-aid. It was probably more than 100 metres and she came back with the band-aid as well as a wet wipe to clean the wound and some smiley face stickers. My heart almost melted, such a kind little soul she is.

Early on Sunday (yes really! We broke our own record, we left at 8:30!) we left Lovedale Farm for Lüderitz. We’ve encountered many versamelvoëlneste (nests of sociable weavers) over the last few weeks, but I finally remembered to take a photo when we saw one this time.

“The sociable weaver (Philetairus socius), also commonly known as the common social weaver, common social-weaver, and social weaver, is a species of bird in the Passeridae family endemic to Southern Africa. It is monotypic within the genus Philetairus. It is found in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. but their range is centered within the Northern Cape Province of South Africa . They build large compound community nests, a rarity among birds. These nests are perhaps the most spectacular structure built by any bird.

Sociable weavers construct permanent nests on trees and other tall objects. These nests are the largest built by any bird, and are large enough to house over a hundred pairs of birds, containing several generations at a time. The nests are highly structured and provide birds with a more advantageous temperature relative to the outside. The central chambers retain heat and are used for nighttime roosting. The outer rooms are used for daytime shade and maintain temperatures of 7-8 degrees Celsius inside while outside temperatures may range from 16-33 degrees Celsius. Sociable weaver nests are used commensally by several other bird species, most commonly the pygmy falcon. Whereas this falcon is mostly believed to be an indifferent in most places, instances of predation of sociable weaver nestlings and animosity with the weavers has been reported from some sites in Kimberley. Red-headed finches and rosy-faced lovebirds use the nests for breeding while other bird species such as acacia pied barbet, familiar chat and ashy tit may use it for roosting. Larger birds like owls and vultures use the nest as a platform to build their nests.

The nests consist of separate chambers, each of which is occupied by a pair (sometimes with offspring) roost and breed. Nests are built around large and sturdy structures like acacia trees or sometimes even telephone poles. The trees generally used for nest-building are Acacia erioloba, Boscia albitrunca and Aloe dichotoma. The birds at Etosha National Park also use Colophospermum mopane trees for nesting. Large nesting colonies can be active across many generations, sometimes over a hundred years. The nest appears like a large haystack in the tree. If seen from below, entrances into the chambers may be seen, giving a honey-comb appearance. The entrances may be about 3 in (76 mm) wide and can be up to 10 in (250 mm) long. Sharp sticks may be placed to deter predators from entering. Snakes, especially Cape cobras and boomslangs are the most common nest predators, often consuming all the eggs in all the chambers of a large nest. Nest predation is often as high – in one study 70% of the clutches laid were depredated.

Nests built in electricity poles sometimes cause short circuits in the rainy season and can catch fire in the dry season.

– Source: Wikipedia

Interesting read hey? We’ve seen nests that has become so heavy that they break the branches of the tree. Sometimes the birds continue to use the nest even though it is on the ground.

We arrive in Lüderitz before lunch and drove straight to the NWR campsite. It is wide open and right on the ocean. And even windier than any other place we have been to so far. By now we know that our tent doesn’t really work well in strong wind so we go in search of somewhere else to stay or at least have lunch. Our GPS suggests a few hotels but all of them are closed. We finally find Lüderitz Nest Hotel, a big, beautiful four star hotel in a tiny town. Their accommodation is extremely expensive though, so we opt for lunch. After lunch we started to look for guesthouses but the ones we go to are fully booked. No wonder, with the expensive hotel. We finally find a Protea Hotel with decent prices and we check in. We were the only guests there and I have no idea why. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful, they helped us to unhook the trailer, turn it around and attach it to electricity to keep the fridge running and the batteries charged. The rooms were clean and tidy and we couldn’t fault anything, even the carpets and upholstery were clean and the bathrooms weren’t mouldy or smelly at all. Their food was also of good quality and they really went out of their way for us. Although it was just us for breakfast, they did not hold back and served a full breakfast with eggs (the whole array, including omelets), bacon, sausages, as well as a selection of cheeses, cold meats, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, bread and juices. We can recommend them with a clean conscience.

Everywhere we go, we ask people where we can do our laundry. Hallo, one beer, two bottles of water and one coffee please. Where can we wash our clothes? Fill up with unleaded please. Any laundromats in town? We want to book a tour to Kolmanskop please, two adults and two children. Do you know someone who does laundry? Something for motion sickness please. May we use your washing machine? In the end, we found a place, a waiter somewhere told us: Joyce’s Laundromat. They wash, dry and iron if you want. Our mountain of laundry did not faze them one bit, handed it in in the morning and got it back at two in the afternoon. At a very decent price as well.

On Monday we went in search of Namibia’s most famous ghost town, Kolmanskop.

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