Sunday, October 7, 2012



South West Africa (Namibia)
In 1966 I just turned 18 and got my drivers license .I was studying  at the  Art School in Bloemfontein decide to join my parents and the rest of the family on a winter vacation to Namibia -or South West Africa as it was called then. My grandfather's brother Wilfred emigrated there after the Boer War and his sons were farming on the Khomas Hochland near Windhoek -the capital of South West Africa.Today it is called Namibia.

South West Africa  Road

SWA was a deserted area and one drove for hours between towns. The landscape looked like the moon surface and it was located between two deserts .The Namib and the Kalahari . The first night we drove as far as the Kalahari dessert and tried to find a place to sleep. When we got to a camp in the desert the only had one room so my parents decided that they would take the room and Carin and Quintin the two younger ones would sleep on the floor.

Kalahari Desert

Pontiac Strato Chief 1961

 Charel and myself had to sleep on the front seat of the car and Zackie and Frikkie on the back seat. My father was driving a yellow Pontiac Strato Chief  during that time. This was a disaster but there was nothing else we could do. Every time I would turn around I would hit the horn of the car and that would wake everybody up. Very early in the morning we saw some Bushmen at the camp and they had a fire going so we the four of us joined them around the fire. It was at least warmer and more comfortable there than in the car.

Bushmen of the Kalahari

The Bushmen where very small and Carin at six years old was as tall as them. When they speak the click their tongues and it is a very strange sound to hear them talking to one another. At last my parents woke up and we were on our way continuing on to Windhoek the capital of SWA.

Carin with the Bushmen in  the Kalahari

 Windhoek is a wonderful town to while away the day. In downtown Windhoek you can find many examples of German colonial architecture, including the equestrian monument, the Alte Feste fort, Christuskirche (Christ’s Church), the well-kept gardens of Tintenpalast (Ink Palace), the House of Parliament, and the neatly preserved railway station northwest of the city center.

Alte Feste 1891

Present-day Windhoek was founded on 18 October 1890, when Von François fixed the foundation stone of the fort, which is now known as the Alte Feste  (Old Fortress). After 1907, development accelerated as people migrated from the countryside to the city. There was also a larger influx of European settlers arriving from Germany and South Africa. The German colonial era came to an end during World War 1 when South African troops occupied Windhoek in May 1915 on behalf of the British Empire. With South -West Africa  independence from South African administration in 1990, Windhoek was recognized as the capital city of the new Namibia .

Khomas Hochland

After lunch we drove into to Khomas Hochland where we were to visit my father three cousins.
Kallie , Boy and Uys Schickerling. They lived on three different  farms and were to  spend a few days with each of them. They were cattle farmers.

Schickerling family in the Khomas Hochland  near Windhoek

South Westerners are know for their hospitality and we were received with open arms. My fathers cousin use to visit "the Republic" (as they called South Africa) when they were kids but it was the first time we visited them. Oom Kallie and Tannie Bertha was out first hosts. He was the eldest. They took us out on their  big Landrover to go hunting. Everybody went along.  The meat of the buck that were shot, never went to waste. Biltong was made of it and the rest was given to the Africans -nothing was ever wasted or just killed for the sake of killing. 

My Father, Quintin and Frikkie, with the Kudus my father shot.

My father was a keen shot but this was the first time he killed a wild animal. He shot a Waterbuck .I got the feeling this was not something he enjoyed and I don't remember him shooting something again. The buck was loaded on the truck and taken home where it was cut up and the meat hung out to dry, after it was soaked in spices overnight.


The wild life in the Khomas Hochland is unbelievable with many types of buck, lions, leopards etc.



Herero women

Cousin, Carin and Quintin with some Herero women working on the farm.

I remember sitting in their living room reading  and hearing the Herero woman that worked in their house coming down the passage, her petticoats swishing against her legs. The Herero's style of dressing was influenced by the wives of German missionaries and colonialists who first came to the country in the early 1900s.The long dresses are heavy and reflect the style of the Victorian period with numerous petticoats worn to add fullness to their skirts. They are hand-sewn by the women who add their own personal style and flair. To wear them in the heat of the summer and can not be comfortable!

We went to visit Oom Uys and his young wife on their farm for a few days and he gave me a record of Mimi Coertse that I still have .When we went to visit Oom Uys and his wife Joy, we had to leave the Pontiac at a waterhole ,as the very slick city car was not suitable for these roads. They fetched us with a Landrover. When we got back a few days later the Pontiac was covered in dry slime. The  cattle licked it clean .The body of the car  might have had a salty taste but they it that they liked.. Oom Uys fetched us with a Landrover. That was the only way to reach their house deep into the Khomas Hochland. He was the youngest brother and a lot of fun. His wife Joy was very sophisticated and they had a beautiful home with several guests suites .She was  great cook and was used to having  house guests. We had a great time with them .After breakfast Oom Uys will get the Africans to form two teams  and they would play soccer. There is not too much work on a cattle farm it seemed!

Their son became a doctor and he was one of the doctors that Angelina  Jolie used when she gave birth to her daughter Shiloh  in April of  2006 in Swakopmund .


The  Schickerling family had a beach house on Wlotzkasbaken  and they said we should, use it to visit the coast .  Wlotzkasbaken is situated on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean  approximately 30 km north of Swakopmund. The town  was not electrified and not connected to the public water system. Water was delivered by road and stored in private water towers that characterize the settlement's skyline. It consists of 106 houses which are all designed and built by their owners. Every house is self-sustaining with regards to water and electricity. Privacy of the holiday parcels is achieved by the large distance between the houses. There are no walls or fences anywhere; boundaries are demarcated with rocks.

It was a cozy cabin and we used candles for light. I remember the beach was covered with fog till late morning and early afternoon the mist came back again .One felt all alone in the world there with the candle light and the roar of the ocean all covered in fog so thick you could not see you hand in front of your eyes. The road from Swakopmund looked like a tar road but it was a salt road. When the fog wet the road it became very slipper and dangerous to drive on. It was winter after all but during the day it heated up nicely and my brothers and father enjoyed the fishing. It is a fishing paradise.

My mother best friend Hannetjie's daughter  Rita was married to the son of a very prominent German family in SWA called  Enrich. They came to visit us there and he showed us how to smoke the fish in a tub  outside.


One morning we found an  seal's body on the beach. It was enormous .When they are swimming in the ocean one does not realize how large they are.

Skeleton Coast.

This is part of  the Skeleton Coast . In the days of human-powered boats it was possible to get ashore through the surf but impossible to launch from the shore. The only way out was by going through a marsh hundreds of miles long and only accessible through a hot and arid desert. The coast is named after the beached whale and seal bones which covered the shore when the whaling  industry was still active, as well as the skeletal shipwrecks  caused by rocks offshore in the fog. More than a thousand vessels of various sizes and areas litter the coast.

Swakopmund with the desert in the background

About 30 miles south of  Wlotzkasbaken is Swakopmund. It  is a beach resort  and an example of German colonial  architecture. It was founded in 1892 as the main harbor for German South -West Africa , and a sizable part of its population is still German-speaking today.

Walvis Bay

My father in silhouette in Walvis Bay

Walvis Bay lies some 30 miles further south of Swakopmund accessed on a stunning ocean road seamed by mighty dunes. The town is situated at a wide lagoon with innumerable sea birds , pelicans and flamingos. On a clear day one can see the black and white lighthouse at the tip of the premonitory at the northwest of the lagoon. Walvis Bay had already been discovered by Diaz as early as 1487 but was founded only in 1793 by the Cape Dutch and two years later annexed by the British.

Fish River Canyon

After a few days at the coast we turned back inland and started our return journey back home. We drove back to Windhoek and then south to visit the Fish River Canyon . The Canyon  is located in the southern part  of SWA. It is the second largest canyon in the world ,only being surpassed by the famous Grand Canyon in Colorado, and the largest in Africa . It features a gigantic ravine, in total about 100 miles (160 km) long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 meters deep.

Charel, Quintin Frikkie en Zackie at the Fish River Canyon

Henry + Quintin

Swakara Jacket 

From there we drove through Mariental back to "The Republic" .Little did we know that about 15 years later we would be coming back there when my brother Charel married Geretha Steenkamp who grew up on a Karakul farm near Mariental in the Kalahari. 
Swakara ( South West African Karakul ) was the name given the this Persian lamb or Karakul fur 
My parents decided to keep driving through the night. At about 4:00 am my father asked me to drive as he was falling asleep. My mother was sitting next to me and was keeping me awake as she was doing  through the night with my father. About 50 miles from Bloemfontein -just as the sun was rising I saw a dog running towards to road. I was so tired I could not even put the brakes on . Luckily I kept going and we missed the dog. My mother started to laugh but I think she was so exhausted that it was more a reaction to than everything else. When we got home we drove into garage -left the car as it was - and we all went to bed at 7:00 am!
We awoke late that afternoon and realizes while we were gone, there was a power outage and everything thing that was left in the deep freezer and the refrigerator was spoiled and was rotten.
My mother packed the fridge with coal for weeks to get the horrible stench out!

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