A LITTLE BIT OF Germany in Africa, pushed into the Atlantic by the shifting desert sands, a long way from anywhere, sparked to life by diamonds in 1908. Bowling alleys in the sand. Grand European public buildings, pastel coloured houses, penguins, flamingos, a ghost town…..welcome to Luderitz.
Down on southern part of Namibia's coast, on a bay with a busy port sits Luderitz.
Sometimes nicknamed "Ludicrous", the incongrous sights of this German town hemmed in by deserts and rocky headlands startles.
Grand public and private buildings, churches and more sprung up during a diamond fueled boom in the 1900s.
Nearby Kolmanskop was the company town for the diamond miners, a ghost town since the exhaustion of the precious stones.
And while the ghost town and the quirky Germanic influence are the chief drawcard for travellers, some OK walks around the headland to the south are rewarding.
Without a car, we were unable to explore the furthest reaches of the peninsula south of town, but several bays and inlets provided a dramatic variety of landscapes.
Much of the area was hilly and rocky, but several inlets hosted flat expanses of flora.
Flamingos and other water birds were the main visitors.
As is often the case in Namibia, the speed and frequency with which the scenery changes is outstanding.
Cold Atlantic air meets dry desert winds in the hills around Kolmanskop.
Overcast mornings usually give way to clear, blue skies, making for better photography later in the morning.
While the town's population peaked at 1300, the last three families left in 1956.
As well as houses, the town had a hospital (pic), baker, pub, post office, ice-works and a theatre.
And no German town would be complete, apparently, without a bowling alley!
A railway worker was removing sand from rail tracks in 1908, when he found some stones which he showed his boss.
Within 4 years, almost 12% of the world's diamonds came from the area.
Water came in by rail, and watered manicured gardens of green lawns. Opera, theatre, orchestra and gymnastics groups toured this outpost of Germany.
Seeing these buildings consumed by nature, walking through rooms full of sand, is surreal.
Some of the public buildings have been preserved for museums and visitor facilities. Others are closed for safety reasons, but you are free to wander through many.
As the diamonds here ran out, richer pickiings were found nearer the Orange River. Kolmanskop heyday passed.
Over seven decades of sand has built up in, on and around the buildings.
Many buildings have long since perished, but those that survive slowly get buried.
Luderitz grew in parallel with Kolmanskop, a flourishing town of art-noveau architecture and German culture, far, far away from anywhere.
Many fine German buildings remain, including the company boss's house and the 1911 Felsenkirche (Lutheran church).
The awesome stained-glass panels inside the church were a gift from none other than one Kaiser Wilhelm II.
A harsh desert to one side, and a harsh ocean on the other meant that progress and development have bypassed Luderitz since the diamond days.
This has meant the culture and character of the friendly town remains strong, but opportunities and jobs few.
Tourism and fishing- both commercial and recreational- are important businesses in town.
Diamonds still play a part in the economy, but the mind-arping discoveries in what became the Sperrgebiet (Forbidden Zone) left Luderitz a backwater.