Sunday, December 18, 2011

Southeast Namibia: Warmbad Pt 2

I awoke early in Warmbad and went out looking for images in the rising Sun:

Three churches dominate the Warmbad skyline - this rock structure was built by the Rhenish Missionary Society in 1877.

The first European style buildings, including a church, were built between 1805 and 1810, by Christian and Abraham Albrecht from the London Missionary Society, thereby establishing the first mission station in South-West Africa, (pre-independence Namibia).

This derelict building stands in Warmbad's 'main street'.

Through Wikipedia I found the photo below, taken between 1908 and 1914 and which appears to show the building above in better days:

Donkey cart in front of the Warmbad S.A. Territories Ltd building, early 20th century.

At this time Warmbad lost its original importance as a stop-over for travellers, being bypassed by railway connections and new road construction - many of the buildings began to decay.

A liquor store - or "Bottle Store" as they're known in Southern Africa - one of only two shops I saw in Warmbad, the other is a small general store.

Alcohol abuse is the root cause of many of Namibia's many social evils - it is not only a problem amongst the poor, but the wealthy as well.

The majority of Warmbad's inhabitants live in abject poverty. There is no industry in the area, residents survive from old-age pensions and subsistence goat farming.

An old disused public Telephone Box outside the Post Office - I haven't seen one of these in ages.

Another decaying building - there are many of these old and interesting structures in Warmbad but it seems that not much effort is being made to preserve them.

Walking around Warmbad I saw many opportunities for developing the historical aspect of the settlement in order to attract tourists and revenue to the area - there is a museum and guided tours but there's so much more that can be done.

A common type of Namibian shelter, corrugated sheets nailed to a wooden frame - the residents of this dwelling have electric power and are able to afford satellite TV.

I was forced to question my perceptions when a German woman I met there - apparently on a Mission to assist the people of Warmbad - related that she was shocked once to see four young boys kill a tiny bird then cook and devour it between themselves.

She assumed that the kids were starving.

My perception of the incident would have been that the kids, having no other form of entertainment, were doing what rural kids do, playing outside, with hunting being one of their activities ...

... and as for four of them sharing one tiny bird - that's the culture of the Poor, they share what food they have, no matter how little.

People were starting to rise and I spotted two young women carrying their water containers to a communal water point - this is the daily reality of millions of people not only throughout Africa but, I suspect, in many other countries around the world.

I can't believe that these frail-looking girls carry those full containers home without assistance - I doubt that I could carry one container for more than a few meters.

The bliss of having water on tap ...

The rock entrance gate of a German colonial fort which now serves as the entrance to the Police Station.

After Imperial Germany declared its territorial rights over South-West Africa, a fort was built in Warmbad in 1905 and Schutztruppe soldiers were stationed at the settlement to counter the Herero and Nama uprising.

The old German Garrison Hospital, adjacent to the Doctor's house shown in the previous Warmbad post.

My first (fuzzy) picture of an Owl - This Barn Owl lives in the old hospital and flew off as I approached.

I don't know exactly why, but I feel compelled to revisit Warmbad as soon as possible ... maybe it's the lure of the Owl and the many other birds of prey I saw there ... or perhaps I have a 'higher' purpose to serve there ...

Nah, I'm too old for going on missions ...

Related Post: Southeast Namibia: Warmbad Pt 1

Dr Klaus Dierks



  1. Hey Graham I just logged in and see your post of the day. There is a certain beautiful atmosphere about Warmbad. The lighting or maybe the echo of the former inhabitants continue to haunt the place. The architecture is different in style from previous places in your country that you have shown us.An old english style church being lit by a south african sun.

  2. Love your photos, but so sad the place is so derelict. It seems such a waste. I am afraid my perception of the bird would also have been that they were playing around and hunting for the hell of it. I guess though perhaps they were starving, but I am sure they would still have been after eating a small bird!
    Love that picture of the Barn owl, one of my favourite birds, but there are not so many left in the UK any more. Not sure what the position is in France. Great post Graham. Have a good Christmas. Diane

  3. Thanks Diane - even though I had enough to eat as a kid I remember that I always felt hungry, my parents said it was because I was a 'growing boy' - I know that there are hungry people in Namibia but I don't think any are starving ...

    Compliments of the season to you and Nigel Diane.

  4. G'morning Monica - you see through the eye of an artist ... the light there, at sunrise and set is amazing ... I wonder what you would conjure up from your paintbox?

    ... you're right about the echoes ...

  5. Some very interesting photos and commentary, Graham. It's good to see how the place looks in early morning light.

    Don't be too quick to say you're too old for a mission. You just never know. We all have a purpose and being old usually means you have more "time" on your hands ;-)

    I can't imagine how those girls can carry all those containers full of water either. I just wouldn't last doing that kind of work, esp. now with all the joint and muscle problems I've been having. My mom used to warn me about such things, but I thought I knew better. A youthful thought in better health. *Sign, why must some of us have to experience things before we beieve or accept them, lol.

    Have a wonderful Christmas.

  6. Yeah you're right Penny - never say never - I'll see what happens when I go back there ... I'd like to see the place in mid summer when there's a touch of green on the ground ...

    Here's wishing you a peaceful Festive season Penny.

  7. Seeing those thin girls with their large buckets, made me appreciate what I have. Times may the tough with little money here, but I have so much, a freezer full of food, transportation, a well, a tap that the water comes out of, a bathtub and shower, some land and so much more. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Thanks Inger - yes, seeing the hardships of others does make us appreciate what we've got ...

    ... I'll bet that most of the kids here don't even know about the existence of the internet.

  9. There is often a wonderful elegance to those sparse colonial buildings. The military hospital is one. It would be great if we had continued that tradition more often.

  10. I assume you added some money to their economy on your visit.
    "The bliss of having water on tap"
    - we really do take much for granted.
    It was interesting to me that the old picture showed the porch roof had rippled waves when it was built. Seems odd to me.

  11. Indeed Kerry - I love crawling around in old buildings ...

  12. Yeah Bill, I guess that by the time that pic was taken the building was already old ...

    Well, I added money to the economy but whether or not it benefited the the community I don't know ... when paying for the accommodation the receipt book had mysteriously vanished so I can't be sure if the cash went into the communal coffers ...

  13. Hi Graham, I think all derelict buildings look mysterious and I wonder how or why its previous inhabitants just 'upped and left'.That looks like a mule train in front of the building, would they have been used as such with people travelling overland at the time.
    I did wonder as well at the photo of the 2 slim girls going to the well with those big containers.

  14. Hi Peggy ... I think the people gradually drifted away because, it's a very harsh environment and after roads were constructed which bypassed Warmbad, few people passed that way ...

    ... they also had Camels in Warmbad, the ruins of large rock pens still exist there.

  15. with such poverty and lack of opportunities, I am surprised that people (especially the young) have not moved away altogether to more hospitable places.

  16. ... many people do move away Calvin - they end up in the mushrooming squatter camps (or 'informal settlements' in PC talk) where they are probably worse off ...

    ... the mass migration to the towns and cities is resulting in the demise of traditional values and also the loss of life-skills as people move further from their tribal roots ...

  17. Oh my Graham....I stopped in from Dianne's blog....when I read these bring to mind how truly fortunate we in America are...and how grateful I am to be living in my country.

    Thanks for this.


  18. Thanks for your visit and comment Jo.

  19. The picture of the owl is beautiful, like a painting. You give soul to the town in your posts.

    Who could resist the lure of old buildings and birds.

  20. Excellent photos...the owl is magnificent!

    All it takes is for a highway or railway to move and towns tend to decay!

    Perhaps one day when you're back in Warmbad you'll "capture" the young ladies actually hauling the water in those huge containers!

    I'm impressed that the boys ate the bird and didn't just kill it for fun and discard it for other critters to clean up!

  21. Thanks Fazlisa - I love Owls and I'll return to Warmbad just to sit for awhile and try to get a decent image ... and I'm drawn to old buildings too ...

  22. Thanks Theanne - good idea ... next time I'll stay and watch how they transport those heavy containers ...

  23. Fantastic photos. Too bad there is such poverty there though. I can't imagine carrying all that water. I found your blog through Inger at Desert Canyon Living.

  24. Thanks for your visit and comment Sandy - I hope you'll return sometime ...

  25. Hi Graham .. it's interesting that the railway caused the town's downfall .. great photos and potted history .. thanks ..

    They said today on the tv .. that the Barn Owls are making a comeback here - and there's a concerted effort with some farmers and the Barn Owl Society .. including leaving wild strips on edges of the fields, and putting up boxes on the edge of buildings ..

    PS Was it this one or the last one - thank goodness for tap water = yes!!

    Cheers Hilary

  26. yes ... running water, what a blessing ...

    I saw the segment on Sky News about the Barn Owls Hilary ... what beautiful birds they are hey ...