Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Southeast Namibia: Warmbad Pt 1

Towards the end of November I took a trip to south-eastern Namibia.

It was my first visit to the area - I had heard that it was underdeveloped but was not prepared for the poverty I found there.

Our first stop was Warmbad, a depressed settlement on the Homs River.

Warmbad was known to the Nama people for centuries as |Aixa-aibes and was first named in 1760 by scout Jacobus Coetzee, the first documented European to cross the Oranje River into the South-West African territory that today forms the state of Namibia.

'Warmbad' means 'hot bath' in Afrikaans and German and refers to the hot spring around which the settlement is located.

One of the first intact buildings I saw was this shebeen - Para-dise, which started the Dylan song, 'The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest' playing in my head:

“Eternity ?” said Frankie Lee
With a voice as cold as ice
“That’s right”, said Judas Priest, “Eternity
Though you might call it Paradise”

The community-owned camp-site is sub-standard and unattractive so we chose to rather stay in the bungalows which were decent and not too expensive.

Pictured above are two of the single bungalows.

Stairway to Paradise?

Some of the oldest buildings and ruins in Namibia are to be found in Warmbad - built by Missionaries in the early 1800's.

At the Hot Spring close to the Camp Site a bath has been built, housed in a fancy building but, the place is closed.

Some kids had gained entrance through an open window and were frolicking in the water.

It's my understanding that various Governments and aid organisations have donated millions to the Warmbad community so that they can improve facilities and attract tourists to this historically important area but, for reasons unknown to me, they just don't seem to be able to get their act together.

Around sunset, I took a walk around the area to see what I could capture in the magic light.

A goat kid jumps off a wall. There are many goats here - they seem to be the only animals that thrive and are an important source of food and revenue for the community.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the largest concentration of Aloe garipensis I've seen, in the rocks adjoining the camp-site - there are hundreds and they were glowing bright red in the setting sun.

Ruins - the camp-site and bungalows are to the left of the palm trees - in the distance, the desolate, flat landscape.

I was fascinated by this old rock building - not only because it had no windows and only one locked entrance, but also for the way the builders had constructed the roof with rocks too ... I wonder what purpose the building served?

The Doctor's house adjoining the old hospital - a relic of the German Colonial era - I took many pics here.

After the sun had set this bird of prey, which had been roosting in the old hospital, hovered over me indignantly at being disturbed. I've identified it - probably incorrectly - as a Rock Kestrel.

Unfortunately, being hung-up on taking pics of the ruins I'd forgotten to change my ASA settings and the image turned out fuzzy.


Dr. Klaus Dierks



  1. So whatever took you to Warmbad? the single bungalows look rather small but they are probably nice and cool on a hot day. I hope you've got some inside photos for us later and that you are going to share more about this place called Warmbad.

    The little boy is very cute and no doubt he and the children who "broke into" the bath were and are having a grand time staying cool that way on a hot day.

  2. Hi Penny - one of the main reasons I visited the area was that I was looking for a road along the Orange River east of the Noordoewer border post (there isn't) ... only two roads that go down to grape farming projects ...

    I also wanted to visit because I'd not been there yet - I'll be going back, but more on that later.

    Sadly I didn't take any pics of inside the bungalows ...

    I'll do Part two soon ...

  3. Super. I figured you had more to say but I wasn't quite sure. Glad to hear there is more coming. I'm off to snooze land now so have a great day over there. I hope it isn't too hot for you.

  4. great photos again Graham:) It's such a pity when communities lack the "get up and go" to better themselves. Is alcohol a big problem in your poorer areas too?
    Looking foward to reading part 2 when I'm back online in January...

  5. It's always great to travel with you through your pictures and your stories.
    Everytime very interesting.


  6. Thanks Coral - yes, alcohol abuse is Namibia's biggest social problem ... but it's not just confined to poorer people ...

  7. Thanks Andrea - it gives me great satisfaction to show photos of Namibia ... especially when I know that people enjoy them.

  8. So very sad it has been abandoned, what a fantastic tourist spot it could be.
    That rock building must have been a storage place of some sort where nobody could see what was in there. Maybe it is full of gold ingots LOL
    Great photos. Diane

  9. Thanks Diane - yes, with a bit of effort Warmbad has great tourist potential - at the moment it's way off the main tourist routes ...

    Gold Ingots hey? ... I'll be heading back to Warmbad sometime soon ...

  10. warmbad..such funny names. I wonder, what is stopping anyone from moving into one of those abandoned or derelict houses?

  11. Hehe Monica - yeah, I guess our names must sound weird to you, just as some north American and Australian names sound funny to me - there's one I love from the USA though and that's 'Ozark' ... :)

    ... mmmm I can't think of any good reason that people can't live in the derelict buildings, perhaps they just don't want to ...

  12. I like the look of the bungalows. Is it clean inside? Do you get more than a bed?

  13. I think I would like visiting such a historical place and the ruins would only make it more interesting with my mind speculating about its history. Those bungalows really look very small though. It's a pity that all that aid did not result in some lasting benefit to the community.

  14. Hi Bill - yes, the bungalows are clean and comfortable with a kettle to make coffee or tea.

    ... the most important to me though was that they had electricity ... so that I could download my pictures and recharge my camera batteries ...

  15. Yeah Calvin, I've heard that there's much in-fighting among the community leaders as to how the donated money should be spent ...

    I am also attracted to the historical aspect and will be returning for a more in-depth visit sometime soon ...

  16. Wow, your photos are FANTASTIC, Graham! I love the little lad with a scramble motif on his tee-shirt. And of course, I love the kid in a high jump. Well done! You do capture stunniningly beautiful photos. Thanks for your visit and comment on my post. We WILL meet one day in Namibia, I'm sure. We loved our bike trip there in 2009 and hope to repeat it one day again. I'm not good with Id'ing birds. I use my book extensively and still scratch my head! Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. Blessings, Jo

  17. Thank you Jo - seasons greetings to you and your loved ones.

  18. Thank you for the great photographs and for sharing with us Graham.

  19. Beautiful photos as always Graham. You must think of putting these together in a book. You are so adept at capturing the uniqueness of Namibia.

  20. Thanks for your words of encouragement Laurie - perhaps I'll get it together someday ...

  21. Graham your photography is breathtaking in this post.

  22. Hi Graham .. I read this a while ago - but am just going to read your newer posts .. and now see I didn't comment here - love the Para Dise .. but in particular the Rock Kestrel - great shot ... despite being out of focus ..

    Delightful .. thanks Hilary

  23. Thanks Hillary - I will return to Warmbad, if only to get better pics of the birds ... now that I know where they live ...