Sunday, January 8, 2012

Southeast Namibia: Karasburg & More Poverty

After leaving Warmbad the day's destination was Karasburg, 48 km to the North.

Instead of going directly there though, we headed South first, 78 km to the Orange River and Vellorsdrif, a remote border crossing to South Africa - just to see what there was to see.

I'd seen 'Tantalite Valley' marked on a map and was intrigued, so we took this road which ended 20 km later at a deserted Mine. The buildings were still in reasonable shape and it looked like mining may resume in the future.

At the time I had no idea what Tantalite is - I thought it had something to do with Mica because there was a lot of it around but it's turns out that it is a source of Tantalum.

Tantalum is a chemical element, used in alloys for strength and higher melting points, in glass to increase the index of refraction, and in surgical steel, as it is non-reactive and non-irritating to body tissues.

The countryside around Warmbad had been pretty drab and featureless but this changed approaching the Orange River, to scattered Quiver Trees and hills, the sides of which were patterned with roundish black rocks.

A furry Goatherd turns to check me out.

Sociable Weavers' nests in a quiver tree.

This rock tower suddenly appeared on the skyline on the road between Ariamsvlei and Karasburg - it's probably about 15m high - it's what I'd originally envisioned for the en suite bathroom I'm building on my house.

I'm impressed with the straightness of the walls, quite a tricky task.

In Karasburg I heard that the farmer had constructed it in order to deter poachers.

Late afternoon we reached Karasburg - a drab town set in a desolate landscape. I have no idea what caused it to come into existence, the only industry in the area is a few large farms.

Although Karasburg is in better shape than Warmbad the majority of the population also lives in abject poverty.

Many people were obviously intoxicated and openly consuming alcohol. To me, the overall impression was depressing.

Two women and children walk along the road carrying their possessions.

Horse and Donkey transport is common in Namibia and generally the animals are in reasonable shape but I was disturbed by the poor condition of the many horses I saw in Karasburg.

These girls, aged between about 12 and 14, were hanging around in front of a general store and when they saw me sitting in the car with a camera they asked me to take their pic - taking great delight in viewing the images in the LCD screen.

I saw that the young lady in the left of the pic was talking to me and indicated to her that I couldn't hear what she was saying - with all the familiarity in the world, she grabbed my head with both her hands, pulled it out of the window and shouted in my ear that I should give her some money.

I asked her what she wanted money for and she replied that she wanted to buy bread. I hesitated a moment because I've given kids money before, only to see them spend it on sweets.

I gave her some money and watched them rush into the shop - they emerged with a loaf of bread.

Looking at close-ups of their faces makes me feel sad because I know that, barring a miracle, these kids will be trapped in a cycle of poverty for the rest of their lives - and there are millions more like them throughout the world, living without hope.

This smartly-dressed lady posed for a picture - she was with a friend and both were dressed in identical outfits - one of the girls from the previous pic photo-bombing the scene ... :)



  1. That town looked so much like some of the small desert towns you see around here. People in our towns are poor as well, yet so much better off than those in that community. It must be difficult to see this and not be able to do much to help.

  2. Yes, it is troubling Inger - and I can see no solutions ...

  3. Great serie.
    I like so much to travel in Namibia through your pictures.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thank you Andrea - I hope that you will return to Namibia again someday.

  5. I have never heard of Tantalum, interesting I have learnt something new today.
    I am really sad to see those poor horses with their ribs standing out. Poverty is not good, but when I see animals half starved I get very upset as they are tied to their life. They cannot go out and try to earn money for food. Diane

  6. Beautiful and touching post Graham :)

  7. Yes, what I don't understand Diane, is that there seems to be ample grazing around - could the horses suffer from some disease, or parasite? ...

  8. I feel sad for the girls too but looking at their faces,they still seem to have the joy of life and do not appear to be weighed down by their situation. I hope that things will get better for them.

  9. Yes, you're right Calvin - they do have joy on their faces ...

    ... and it makes me wonder if I'm not being arrogant in assuming that poverty equals unhappiness ...

  10. Hi Graham, I'm only able to view the first photo. None of the others would download. I'll be back to check later. Touching post. Have a great week ahead. Jo

  11. Thanks Jo, I hope you get to view all the images ...

  12. Yes Graham you could be right, I wonder if they ever get wormed? Diane

  13. Your story is sad but interesting. I might be reading too much from your few words but do you think that girl has become an aggressive beggar? Do travelers pass through the town often enough to make a life from begging? It is sad to think their families can't find any other options.

  14. No, I don't think that those kids are habitual beggars Bill - I do know of cases where parents send their kids out to beg ... when they should be in school.

  15. Curiously, while looking like quite a few SA towns, it's clearly n ot in SA. I can tell by the absence of litter through the town.
    As dusty as it may be, it is clean.
    The girls all have sparkles in their eyes, the older lady too, that's re-assuring.
    peace :)

  16. Yes, you're right David - there's not much litter around and it's something I want to comment on in my next post ... some towns in Nam though, are big trash-heaps ...

  17. Hi Graham .. great shots again - a challenging part of the world to live in ...

    We have gangs from other parts of the world - who send their tiny kids out to beg on the streets here in London - they have BMWs and Mercs in the driveways and numerous houses, yet the kids and their parents live in abject poverty here in the UK ..

    Life is challenging to put it mildly - to watch it and be in it ..

    Glad they bought some bread ..

    But the animals - as you and Diane say so well ..

    Thanks - great info and post .. Hilary

  18. I was glad to leave Karasburg Hilary - the whole atmosphere was depressing ... I see poverty daily and I don't really know why this place affected me so ...

  19. Sometimes I do not know what I enjoy the more...if the pics or the texts...or both...You are great Graham! Keep blogging forever! Greetings!

  20. The municipality of which I am the mayor of in Sweden has a twinning arrangement with Karasburg. The object is to help with our experiences in planning and goverment. Where Karasburg is now, some swedish small municipalities were 60 years ago. Some, not as many though, felt the same poverty. They could emigrate, not an option here. Diseases were frequent, schooling not for all.

    I've been to Karasburg several times, and see the qualities and the challenges. I wish them all luck in the future! Hope you did not miss the good food at Hanzell's filling station!


  21. Thanks for your visit and comment Lars - it's always exciting when someone who has a connection to something I post leaves a comment ...

    I hope that your efforts bear fruit in Karasburg - I assume that you also visited Warmbad ...

    ... no, I missed Hanzells but when I go to Karasburg again I'll be sure to check it out ... :)

  22. I have stumbled across your post, and felt compelled to respond. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia, stationed for 2 years in Karasburg. My term ended this March and I have since returned to the U.S. Memories flood back to me when I look at these pictures, especially because I know the girls in the picture you showed. The one in particular on the left, Aloysia, was in my after-school program for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. I'm happy to hear she bought bread with the money, since I know I always gave her lots of candy :) Judging by the date of your post, I was still living in Karasburg during your visit. I appreciate your pictures because they are of scenery I never captured on film. Thank you for sharing your photos and experiences :) For the record, though, Karasburg may have appeared as a "drab town in a desolate landscape" but the people are warm and friendly and the scenery is amazing. Karasburg is home to the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life. Maybe it's because I spent over 2 years there, but it still feels like home and I am eager to return. I'm glad you took the time to visit Karasburg, many people just pass through. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for enriching this post with your personal experience Kristen - and thanks also for your good work in Namibia.

  23. Hi there. Loved the pics. I was born (1974) & raised on a sheep farm just outside Karasburg (25km outside, towards Ariamsvlei). It is an amazing town & Namibia is an amazing Country. It's just in our blood. Yes, for visitors it might look poor, but the people living there are happy. It is still a free, peaceful life & is filled with warm-hearted people. I'm a proud Karasburger! Proudly Namibian! Regards... Mags

    1. Hi Mags thanks for your visit and comment - I appreciate your positive comments regarding Karasberg and environs ... :)