Our base in Swakopmund was the “Alte Brücke”, a luxurious campsite, where we not only had our own bathroom with hot shower but also our own palm tree for some shade. We came here a couple of times, explored the town, did some shopping and went on some of the tours on offer when we came here with our kids.
Swakopmund has a lovely beach, just that the water temperature is a little scaring, but nonetheless we saw somebody going for a swim.
Senior lieutenant Edmund Troost had the idea to import a traction engine, to facilitate the transport from the coast to the interior. His steam ox, as he jokingly called it, was supposed to drive from Swakopmund to meet the ox wagons at Heigamgab and save them half the trip through the desert.
Already the vehicle’s arrival in 1896 started with a glitch: It could only be off-loaded in Walvis Bay and the departure to Swakopmund was delayed until the contract with the engine driver had expired. As Troost reported later on, the nickname ‘Martin Luther’ had already been coined at that stage. First an American gold hunter, and after him a Boer, tried to drive the vehicle. The deep sand became a gruelling obstacle: The engine got stuck every 50 metres and shovelling it clear was a tedious process. Labourers simply stayed away, water had to be obtained up to 30 km away. Three months passed before the steam ox finally huffed into Swakopmund.
The last blow for the steam ox already came after less than ten transports. Some 1.5 km out of Swakopmund several pipes melted in the boiler because apparently there was not enough water in the steam system. Repairs were not worth the effort since in the meantime governor Theodor Leutwein had received confirmation from Germany that a narrow-gauge railway line was going to be built from Swakopmund into the interior.
In Swakopmund it is for sure worth going to the museum, many aspects of Namibia, from the native tribes, to the minerals, fauna and flora as well as the live during the last centuries is well documented.
We had enjoyed our stays in Swakopmund, but after our third visit it is now time to go north along the coast – more on our next post!