Archive for October, 2009

Zimbabwe Butchery

October 28, 2009

There was a bit of debate about whether to post this image. My brother, Charles, softened it (to avoid people vomiting on their computers) but after much thought and with the go ahead of Pam, our Positive Living Magazine columnist who still hasn’t located her uncle abducted by Mugabe’s Blackboots, I’ve decided to post it.

As Pam said, if I don’t post it, nobody will see it.

Be outraged. Be very outraged!

The horrific injuries of political violence in Zimbabwe

An MDC supporter's terribly injured buttocks

Mugabe and his monstrosities must go!

Lists, Meatballs and Burger’s Bird Book

October 27, 2009

Greetings from Windhoek, Namibia!

Nothing too insane or dramatic has happened today. 

In this post I was going to introduce a fabulous series of free (not to mention lusciously illustrated) National Parks brochures and accompanying fact sheets that my friend, Ginger Mauney, and I have just put together for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).  But the MET website wasn’t performing. Give it a shot if you’ve got patience. Go to met.gov.na Let me know if you have better luck! Alternatively wait until Ginger, myself and the MET IT guys have re-designed the site.  We’re currently working on it.

In the mean time here’s one from the Annabel archives. It was published by Air Namibia’s inflight magazine Flamingo.

LISTS, MEATBALLS AND BIRD BOOK

Hi, it’s Annabel here again! I’m five years old, I started this column when I was 6 months old, and I believe it is safe to say that I’m still Africa’s youngest travel correspondent. It’s my job to let you parents know where you could take your children in Namibia. Just don’t sue me if it all goes horribly wrong, OK?

 

This column isn’t so much about where to go, but what to take with you, when you go. Wherever you are going.

It’s called’ serendipity comes in the form of a bird book’.

 

We were sitting around our dining room table making a rough check list of things not to forget to take to the Kalahari.

We do this every time we launch an expedition. And it is a proud Paxton family tradition not just to forget where we left the list, but to forget what we wrote on the list. We then fail to buy anything on the list. Because we’ve spent all of our pre-departure time looking for the list. And we haven’t had time to actually buy anything.

Ultimately we end up staring at a few cans of meatballs that we can’t really open or utilize. Because we are in the Kalahari, and have forgotten, not just the firelighters, but also the can opener.

This actually may have saved our lives on one occasion. I recall an incident where we had remembered the can opener and actually managed to open the meatballs. They were vile! Forgetting the guiding principle of ‘never feed wildlife’ my father hurled the meatballs into the bush. In his defence, he fed no wildlife. During our two nights at the campsite NOTHING touched them. Not the jackals, not the locally resident hyena, not even the seething ants or flies. The meatballs just sat there, gathering dust, smelling vaguely septic/chemical and hardening under the sun. For all I know they sit there still.

Annabel travel tip: Never buy discounted cans of super budget meatballs. And if you do, forget your can opener.

But I return to the plot! The pre-departure list. This time I sensed new purpose in the air, a wind of change sweeping across our African sitting room.

It smelled of lists, efficiency and it surprised me. My Daddy, for once, had a pen. It even worked. Obviously my dog had gnawed its plastic casing off and as pens go it really wasn’t up there with the Parkers. But after it had cracked and spurted a small, yet significantly expensive, splash of blue ink on to his new white shirt, he said something like “Let’s get this list right.”

I’d drawn an amusing portrait of a caracal killing a goblin on his piece of paper.

There had also been an incident involving my dog, my Daddy’s cup of coffee and an inflatable octopus. And his piece of paper. I won’t elaborate. Let’s just say his piece of paper wasn’t the sort of piece of paper it had been ten minutes earlier.

But he appeared determined to finish his list and announced his decision to do just that. Then he said he was going to nail it to the fridge. To prevent me from destroying it, writing my own additions, ripping off the fridge magnets, dropping them to smash into shards on the pantry floor etc.

My mother explained that nailing a piece of paper to a fridge wouldn’t stop me ripping it off but would destroy the fridge and release Freon gas that would spur the global warm up and help submerge low lying islands in the Maldives as ice bergs melted in Antarctica. This would displace people, kill corals. Rainforests would wither. And England would enter a new Ice Age. Namibian succulents would succumb.

My mother’s list went on.

My father surrendered.

“No nails in fridges! OK? But I want to make MY list!”

They sat and started writing. Everything was going unusually well. My father began the list with beer. It is a priority with him. Subsequent items were geared in my direction. Fruit juice, hand cuffs, baked beans, milk, a cattle prod, restraining devices, a garotte …

And then came the fatal words “bird book.”

“I hate bird books!” said my father. “And I don’t like them!”

“You don’t like birds? I thought you loved birds!”

“I love birds! I just don’t like bird books! They are invincibly boring! A bunch of pictures of birds and then some tiny snatch of script telling you what they look like. What’s the point of telling me what they look like when there’s a picture of them on the next page! And why do I want to know their Latin name? Was Julius Caesar over here with his binoculars? No, he was not. I want to know about birds! What they do, what they eat, where they nest! I want to know about birds! ”

For once, I was helpful.

After I had hidden his list I dug out a book I had stolen earlier and secreted behind my Pooh Bear blanket. I took it to him.

My father was initially unimpressed.

“It’s a coffee table book! I’m not taking a coffee table to the Kalahari! And I’m not taking a bird book this size anywhere, and…where’s my list? I forgot to add coffee! And a table!”

Him and his list!

After he’d failed to find the list he slumped in despair and opened the book. His eyes immediately brightened. He smiled.

“My God!” he blasphemed. Or maybe it was his Book of the Month recommendation to The Almighty. “Here’s a bird book written by somebody who says he doesn’t know anything about birds but loves them and can take brilliant pictures of them and has lots of funny stories. This is exactly my kind of bird book! No Latin! Facts and fun and gorgeous birds!”

“That’s Pompie Burger’s book, isn’t it?” asked my Mummy. “Wasn’t that on your list of review books?”

“Hell’s bells! It was. I just couldn’t find it! Hey, look at the time! We’ve got to hit the road! Where’s my list! Oh, forget it! We’ll grab some meatballs! And don’t forget the bird book!”

Annabel advisory: I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again. Skip the meatballs! But here’s a top tip! Buy the book! It’s all you didn’t know about birds written by a guy who doesn’t know it all either. It’s called Birds of Namibia-A Photographic Journey, and it is published by Venture Publications. Its ISBN is 978991682891. It’s brilliant!

 

Dope of the Day Awards: Party Animals – Swine Flu Parties

October 27, 2009

Swine flu parties?

Yes I found the concept totally insane, too. But Dopes of the Day think they are a good idea and they are happening. The guest of honor at a swine flu party is someone who’s got swine flu. The point of this deranged idea is for other guests to catch the virus in the hopes that they’ll have a mild illness and gain immunity so that they won’t get sick if the H1N1 virus worsens and mutates into a more lethal form.
“That’s a bad idea”, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “There’s no way to know whether swine flu will be severe or fatal in swine flu party guests — or anyone else that they, in turn, infect.” If any reader of Hugh Paxton’s Blog gets an invite my unequivocal advice is skip the RSVP.

Posted: 2009/10/27

Today’s Dope of the Day Award: Wow I win a prize!

October 26, 2009

It’s not normally appropriate to establish an award then award yourself  with your own award. But this I must do. I was driving Shirley, our housekeeper, to the BP station which is her normal spot for flagging down a taxi to take her home to Katutura. Two reasons for driving her. One: It’s the end of the month and the scumbags know that domestic workers will be carrying their wages and sometimes lie in ambush. Two: Shirley was carrying twenty kilos of frozen beef stew cuts. I run a small and very unsuccessful butcher’s shop in my garage (more of this on a future post! Quite a story!)

As I was driving, I dodged rush hour traffic and I regaled Shirley with the Dope of the Day Award I had awarded to the moron who didn’t close the rear door of his truck and swamped downtown Windhoek in milk. It seemed funnier by the minute, then our laughter and jeers were interrupted by a crash.

“We did it, Sir!”

And we had! While mocking the wretch who’d failed to close his rear doors and smothered the capital in milk, we’d done exactly the same damn thing! Not milk in our case. Chopped beef!

Computer games designers short of ideas take note! There can be no more stimulating a test of skill and death defying dexterity than trying to rescue 20 kilos of frozen beef cuts scattered between racing Windhoek taxis.

I accept my award and, with tears in my eyes, would like to thank everybody who made this amazing achievement  possible!

Shirley! And Me!

Dope of the Day Awards: Milk and Morons.

October 26, 2009

Hugh Paxton’s Blog’s ‘Dope of the Day’ award goes to the truck driver who forgot to properly secure his rear doors and who, while driving up Robert Mugabe Ave and hitting the Sam Nujoma Drive intersection, shed several thousand cartons of Long Life. One often reads of African streets running with blood. This time they were running with milk. OK. Accidents happen. Why the award? Well, I passed the incident at noon (and have the white walled tyres to prove it!). Namibians don’t slow to watch accidents. They park. And really enjoy the show. On Friday it was a flattened woman. Today, milk and massive congestion, cops getting irritable, truck driver desperately chucking cartons that hadn’t burst back into his vehicle. Many of these burst. I detoured to avoid the melee – it was beginning to look like a paint ball tournament organised by NamDairies. Hot day here today. That milk is going to make two streets named after two Presidents reek.

Chucking weakened cartons of milk into a truck made the man very eligible for the moron of the day award. But then he clinched the honour. Billy arrived and said “Hey partner! You wouldn’t believe it! There was milk exploding everywhere!”

“Yes. Been there. Seen it. Saw it.”

“By the Portuguese shop?”

“No, further up the hill.”

“No, by the Portuguese shop!”

I’ll skip further dialogue. EXEC SUMMARY: The driver had reloaded his undamaged milk cartons then had forgotten to secure his rear doors again and hey! Deja vu! This time near the Portuguese shop by Nelson Mandela Avenue. President number three!

Full Moon Game Count

October 26, 2009

Each year, in September and October, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) organises  a full moon game count of animals visiting the waterholes in Khaudom National Park. The counters are MET staff and volunteers. This year we didn’t participate but our friends did and as usual it was an  adventure!

To give you an idea of what it involves I’ve pulled one of Annabel’s archive stories from the Air Namibia’s in-flight magazine Flamingo. The counts involve continuous observation of water holes over a 72 hour period. None of Khaudom’s water holes are flood lit but the full moon provides sufficient illumination to enable counters to see what’s coming.

You’ve missed the boat this year but, if you’d like to volunteer next year, drop me a line!

Enough preamble. Over to Annabel!

START.

Hi, it’s Annabel again! Two years old and I’m proud to say I am still Namibia’s youngest travel correspondent. It’s my job to suggest places you can visit with your children. Just don’t sue me if it all goes horribly wrong, OK?

A Jordanian has just said good night to me and I’m now incarcerated in a tent because it’s one o’clock in the morning and four hyenas want to eat me. This strikes me as unfair. I’m here in Khaudom to count elephants!

What ticks me off particularly is that I made a considerable effort and suffered many torments just to get here before being stuck in my tent. I had to drive ten hours north and east from Windhoek on roads that ranged from excellent to bad to extremely hard to recognise as roads at all.

I had to endure my father singing along to his appalling collection of cassette tapes.

I was even arrested. The incident occurred in Grootfontein and involved a misunderstanding.

His.

The security guard spotted me exiting the establishment at high speed. Cackling wildly. With a handful of celery. While he tried to explain that running out of a Grootfontein supermarket with celery was illegal I explained loudly back that the celery was “Mine”. Everything’s “Mine!” at the moment. Because I’m a two year old and that’s the way the world works.

My mother eventually posted bail.

Despite the appalling behaviour of the security people at Grootfontein supermarkets and their repulsive tendency to bribery (the corrupt thug had tried to buy my silence with a lollipop) I’d have to say that if you are travelling in the north east of Namibia, Tsumeb and Grootfontein are two of the best places to buy supplies. They pretty much stock everything you’ll need for time on the road or in the bush.

This can’t, in all honesty, be said for many supermarkets in the Caprivi strip.  Thing’s up there get a little more basic. And it certainly can’t be said of Tsumkwe, the “capital” of the former Bushmanland where we stayed on the first night before entering Khaudom Game Reserve.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m fond of Tsumkwe. It’s just awfully small. Dries the warden of Khaudom Game Reserve lives here. I like him and he’s got a man eating lion skin on his wall (with two bullet holes in it), the foot of a demonically possessed elephant in the corner of his living room lots of big guns and 27 dogs.*

There’s a government guest house which is cheap and shabby but fun. There are a couple of shops that sell (very) basics. Unless they’ve run out. There’s a petrol station that doesn’t sell petrol (and hasn’t for years), there’s a private lodge but the manager suggested that we didn’t stay there because it was overpriced; and the first time we visited we actually drove past Tsumkwe without realising that it was there.

But enough of the bright lights of Tsumkwe. Back to the plot!

I endured all of the above because it’s the full moon. And in Khaudom Game Reserve in September and October that means it is time to count elephants – and other animals – as part of the annual Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) game survey. The full moon assists in nocturnal visibility.

The rules for ‘Full-mooners’ are simple. Teams of volunteers and MET staff stake out different waterholes. They devise a shift system and for 72 hours they count every animal that drinks. If it doesn’t drink they don’t count it. They also make notes regarding the sex, age and condition of the animals. They rough it. They cook for themselves. They have a ball.

Unless a team member has the misfortune to be two years old. Then she gets stuck in a tent!

Outside my tent the adults are having all the fun. As usual.

Leeverty hails from Caprivi in the North-East of Namibia. He works for the MET and was the warden of Mahango National Park. He did a really great job, got promoted and was posted to Windhoek as a reward. Then buried in paperwork.

Now he’s back in the bush where he belongs, happily manning binoculars and perched a couple of meters above terra firma in a hide built by volunteers from the British organization Raleigh International. He’s counting elephants.

With him is Lazarus. He’s also works for MET. I like him, too. And he’s also a Prince. One day maybe he’ll be an Ovambo king. I mingle in select company!

Jonathan, a witty young English gentleman adventurer from Somerset attached to MET, is seated comfortably in a camp chair with a cold beer in his hand and now that the Jordanian has left me, the two of them are resuming a leisurely debate about tribal customs in the Middle East. The Jordanian’s name is an easy one for me to remember. It’s MINE!  He’s a national parks manager in his own country over here to see how Namibia gets things done.

Jennifer, a cuddly Canadian volunteer, is doing some free-lance elephant counting. It’s not her shift. She’s just keen.

Next to me is my mother. Dozing. Just outside is my father with a Maglite torch destined to dent hyena skulls should they stop just wanting to eat me and start actually trying.

Time to sleep I suppose. Can’t count elephants if you’re imprisoned in a tent.

Morning has broken. And so has the waterhole pump. The Soncana hole has been sucked all but dry by elephant trunks and my father who took the graveyard shift and clambered into the tent at five in the morning (treading on my head as usual) has logged a typically unimpressive tally of no animals whatsoever. That’s my Dad. A total bust!

Breakfast is sizzling over hot coals, the wind blown dust is thickening the coffee nicely Mine is hacking up a chicken for a Jordanian dinner stew and there’s that thrilling feeling of the landscape waking up all around me– stirring, coming to life.

Hang on! Truck’s coming. Looks like the pump hasn’t broken after all. Just run out of fuel.

No hyenas around now but in the distance I hear the shrill calls of incoming elephants! Loads of them!

My turn in the Soncana hide! My turn. MINE!!!!

PS. After 72 hours full mooning at Soncana waterhole we logged 672 elephant, 112 Roan, 7 kudu, 4 wild dog, 15 spotted hyena and 4 black-backed jackal. The guys at Tsoana hole got 1,544 eles! At Tari Kora they had 135 eles, 7 lions, 2 leopards and other stuff. Total full moon count of eles in Khaudom 4038. Of all the10  waterholes I’m proud to say MINE had the most hyenas! They know a good thing when they smell it! Or hear it yelling!

*ED NOTE: The dog count must be readjusted. Downwards. A black mamba moved in and the dogs took great pleasure in chasing it. Due to various one sided encounters involving venom and aggression the canine population has been thinned.  Mamba? 20. Dogs? nill. Current count? Seven.

Hippomania

October 26, 2009

NAMIBIAN CRAFTS: AN URGENT HEALTH WARNING.

Hi, it is Annabel here again. I’m proud to say that I’m still Namibia’s youngest travel correspondent. It is my job to suggest places you could visit with your children. Just don’t sue me if it all goes horribly wrong, OK?

This month’s favored destination is Swakopmund. But first a few words on dangerous infections.

If you are new to Namibia you may have concerns about health, safety, disease; that sort of thing.

If you’ve just read  the “Facts for the Visitor” section in the Lonely Planet guide book you’ll definitely have concerns about health, safety and disease. And that sort of thing.

Immunisations are advised against Cholera, Diptheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Malaria, Meningococcal Meningitis, Polio, Rabies, TB, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever.

Author, Deanna Swaney, then recommends that you don’t eat the food if it hasn’t a) been cooked b) been peeled or c) been boiled. Nor should you drink the water, the milk or the fruit juice.

Beware she warns of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, prickly heat, sun burn, diarrhoea, Entamoeba histolycta, HIV AIDS, intestinal worms, Bilharzia, STDs, fungal infections,  Dengue fever, bees, wasps, scorpions, jellyfish, snakes,  filiaiasis, Leishmaniasis,  gynecological problems , armed guards in the diamond fields, tsetse flies, hippos, crocodiles and the toxic smoke that is given off when euphorbia twigs are burnt .

If you’ve managed to reach page 77 without fainting in terror you’ll have probably decided to reschedule your holiday plans;  book tickets to say, Mogadishu, Port Au Prince or Baghdad; some place less lethal.

Or just jump out of a high window  to save time.

Relax guys ! Swaney’s over cautious.  Most of the country is malaria free,  the water quality is some of the best in Africa, and you won’t go into convulsions if you eat an apple.  As for not drinking the milk – really, Swaney ! Gimme a break! I’m on two pints a day and I’ve never felt better!

OK, so the sun needs watching – it gets pretty toasty – and if a yellow mongoose comes racing out of the scrub with foam on its mouth and red, inflamed eyes, you’d be advised not to give it a cuddle. But overall this country is about as safe as Africa comes.

The one disease I’d strongly caution you of – a disease that Swaney has strangely missed in her extensive  catalogue of horrors – is Hippomania.

I regret to inform you that on our second day at the coast my parents and I caught quite a dose.

It happened in Swakopmund.  If you’ve not been there you should go. It’s not terribly big, it has a distinctly German atmosphere, and the buildings are colourful and quaint.

There are hotels and guest houses and lots of restaurants and their proprietors welcome children. There are gift shops and supermarkets and delicatessens and boutiques.

Yes, Swakopmund is a cheerful place.  And there are plenty of things to keep young persons such as myself happily occupied. There’s a sweet little aquarium occupied by gaily coloured fish,  sharks and sea turtles, a crystal gallery (with the world’s largest crystal on display), a very good snake park (with an exceptionally  fine black mamba that eats a rat each Saturday),  a play ground  with fine views of the surf breaking,  beaches, parks, ice cream parlours…lots of good stuff.

Day one we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Indeed all was calm and disease free until lunch on day two. We’d just finished a good meal  in a seaside terrace restaurant  with views of the Mole and passing pelicans and were cheerfully making plans for a camel ride when a young guy sauntered along the promenade.

He was carrying something.

A wooden hippo.

We didn’t know it then. But we were doomed.

The first symptoms of Hippomania are mild and barely diagnosable.  A slight restlessness takes over the infected individual.  He or she then becomes animated and impulsive.

Even at this stage there is hope. If the patient is immediately moved away from the source of the contagion (ten, twenty kilometers should suffice) Hippomania will be arrested.

If, however, no action is taken, the victim will announce that he or she feels like “checking out the crafts market” and will be drawn irresistibly – compulsively – to the nearest gathering of young men overseeing blankets covered with wooden carvings.

There they will experience accelerated pulse rates, sweating and an intense desire to buy a hippo.

Not a nice, neat, small hippo – the sort of hippo that can be tucked tidily into a suitcase  or carry on luggage– but a BIG FAT hippo, a REALLY HEAVY hippo made of leadwood or something equally backbreaking; the sort of monstrously proportioned hippo that single handedly exceeds airline weight allowances, sprains tendons and induces hernias.

Those accompanying hippomaniacs then succumb rapidly to the same disorder. They, too, must have a hippo.

Life without one would be intolerable ! Impossible ! I know. I’ve been there.

Chinese jade dealers can tell the levels of a buyer’s desire by the inadvertent dilation of the pupils.  Keep a poker face, bluff it out, pretend you don’t care one way or the other about jade – waste of time. Your eyes will betray you. The price will rise and rise.

Same with hippomaniacs and hippo salesmen.

A mere five minutes after infection we were trying to find room in our overburdened car for two GIGANTIC hippos that we certainly didn’t need nor had planned for. And that we couldn’t fit in. And that, in all honesty, we couldn’t really afford. Which is why I never did get to ride a camel.

It could have been worse, I suppose. Our friend Mitsuko could have been with us. She has terminal Hippomania; she had scoured the country for hippos during her two years here in Windhoek; her house bulged with hippos. She had, at last count, 33 hippos, several of which are almost as big as the real thing.  Her husband eventually medivacced her back to the States.  She took the hippos with her.

There is no inoculation. No rehab centers . No cure.

You have been warned.

Oh, and watch out for Metal Sculpture Warthogitis . And Totally Inconveniently Tall But Dammit I MUST Have A Big Herd Of Wooden Giraffia.

So take care.  Must dash. I’ve just heard there are two guys doing special discounts on baobab trees made out of wire in the car park at Eros Shopping Centre. I’m not buying them, you understand. Just, you know, looking.

The above is an extract from my as yet unpublished book The Diary of Abbot Buggly. The book is, as you’ll have deduced from the title, in diary format and details the weird and wonderful events that occurred during my daughter’s first year of life in Namibia.

Next Blog: Nambian Builders!

October 24, 2009

Brace yourself!

Dope of the Day Awards: How to win and lose!

October 24, 2009

Hugh Paxton’s Blog is inaugurating a new exciting testament to human stupidity – the Dope of the Day Award!

Christian, a German photographer and I located two blonde sexy models to help an on-line casino present a big silly media cheque hand out for 16 million (Nam dollars) to the lucky winner. The lucky winner said she wasn’t available for the photo shoot because she didn’t have transport to Windhoek. She’d also won a Toyota Hi-lux. If I had won sixteen mill plus a hi-lux I’d have caught the plane, told the pilot to skip the late arrivals and ordered him to break the sound barrier.

Not our winner.

The car, plus her cheque, plus her photographer etc. stood idle for a month. During that month, while all were waiting, she continued gambling online and lost $13 million!

Lucky Winner

Seriously dumb! We’ll be posting an image of the Toyota/prize money award as soon as Christian recovers from the shock of meeting this lady.

GHOST HUNTING WITH ANNABEL

October 23, 2009

Hi! Annabel Paxton here. Recently celebrated my 6th birthday but I think it’s still safe to say I’m Africa’s youngest travel correspondent. It’s my job to offer advice to you parents vis a vis where to take your young ones. Just don’t sue me if it all goes horribly wrong.

While at university, my father established The Oxford University Ghost Hunting Society (OUGHS). This fearless group of scheming delinquents then scoured England in search of free accommodation in luxurious country houses (inns and pubs were another favoured destination) armed with tape recorders, cameras, thermometers and other such props designed to convince the gullible fools who were hosting them that they weren’t just a bunch of scrounging charlatans.

OUGHS, it has to be said, was noteworthy for its total lack of success in locating anything remotely supernatural (the only spirits it hunted successfully came in liquid form) but nonetheless it proved habit forming. Ex-members are still up to their old tricks (and still aren’t finding any ghosts). My father included. Which brings me to Namibia.

One of the things you will not have failed to notice if you are a regular reader of the daily papers here is that this country is not short of bizarre stories.

To take just a few examples, a woman in Katutura made recent headlines by turning into a lion (from the breasts up) and threatening to eat her friend. She then threw water at an invisible fire while a crowd of some 200 onlookers either spoke in tongues, laughed derisively or merely looked understandably confused. In another incident a man went berserk after his neighbour became a giant, started levitating and sprouted donkey ears. A ghostly crocodile ate three postmen in Katima Mulilo. A demon elephant came back from the dead and went on a vengeful rampage in Bushmanland. Etc.

I could go on – the stories certainly do – but that’s not the point of this column.

If a ghost ever appears in a luxury hotel with a great chef, fine wine cellar and four poster beds – the Hotel Heinitzberg castle springs to mind – my father would be over like a shot with his thermometer and claptrap.

But most of the hauntings, werelions and ghostly mountains that suddenly appear in the middle of the trans-Caprivi highway, causing drunk taxi drivers to swerve off the road and hit trees, occur in areas that lack electricity or fluffy duvets or are three feet under water and fizzing with mosquitoes. And that sort of scenario fails to inspire my father’s former investigative zeal.

Being young, with an enquiring mind (and thoroughly tired of his increasingly repetitive “the ghost that got away” stories), I decided that it was time to rouse him from his inertia. “Together”, I informed him, “A hunting we will go! And bring Haunted Namibia to the attention of the Flamingo readership!”

His first course of action was lamentably predictable. I caught him phoning Hotel Heinitzberg and in a pathetically ingratiating voice asking whether they were haunted and could he stay there for a week in a room that overlooked the swimming pool to monitor the supernatural activtiy.

He was informed that they were not haunted, and no he couldn’t.

Next port of call was the Spook House. If you’ve taken the road from Windhoek to Rehoboth you’ll have seen the place. Not a mansion perhaps but a formerly grand farm house now abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Quite who it was that coined the title Spook House is unknown, but the name has stuck and that is how it is known to all Windhoekers, more than a few of whom have had a fearful peek inside the premises, conducted séances where somebody is cheating (or fired up a braai outside accompanied by ghost stories and panic attacks of the type designed to bring courting couples together). But it certainly looks the part. Quite who the spook is, is  also unknown. (See Box for Potential Candidates).

The Spook House, upon closer inspection, had bats, spider webs and such like Scooby Doo accoutrements. Of the spook there was no sign. This might not be giving it justice. I’d describe our hunt as perfunctory. After ascertaining that there was no wet bar or free massage service my father dispensed with the “Temperature is ambient…shows no signs of oscillation…no movement of objects… dog exhibits no evidential negative reaction, but that’s normal, it’s a dozy little mutt …” routine and cleared off in search of fancy restaurants experiencing poltergeists. Without success

Namibian’s southern coastline is well endowed with ghost towns, thrown up by diamond miners and then abandoned when the stones ran out. Kolmanskop on the road to Luderitz is the most famous and most easily visited. The hospital, which once hosted a wine cellar for medicinal purposes and the first X-ray machine in the southern hemisphere, is said to have “an atmosphere”. It certainly did when we visited. A savage gale was shrieking, slinging grit and making the thing wobble. It also sand-blasted our faces, made visibility not just invisible but agonising and after dropping his thermometer and blaspheming, we both fled for The Nest hotel in Luderitz where (after the management had explained that there were no ghosts and they didn’t need ghost hunters) my father reluctantly reached for his wallet.

An obscenely large glut of oysters and crisp Chardonnay had him briefly bellowing about ghosts at around 3 AM.

Diabolic snoring subsequently plagued the hotel. A zombie-like figure staggered down for breakfast and then ordered blood.

This was more like it! First a zombie! My father was now a vampire!

After several gallons of blood from Mary, we then went back to our room whereupon he returned to his grave (or more accurately his bed).

He rose from the dead when the cleaner told him it was check out time.

We subsequently investigated a few more ghost towns. No ghosts. Sorry. But! On the long drive back home my father had that rare thing – a good idea. And it worked!

He announced that he would invite everybody he knew in Namibia who had seen a ghost, had a ghost, or a ghost story to get in touch. The results are already astounding. And more are incoming.

Here’s one!

A REALLY CREEPY ONE (and not one I’m about to hunt if I can help it!)


THE HAUNTED MINE

Got this from an extremely level headed German geologist who was overseeing the reopening of an abandoned mine down south in the Namib desert.

The workers went in to clear rubble and detritus, make preliminary checks of the condition of props etc. Then they came out again and refused to go back in, on the grounds that there was a ghost sticking its head out of the wall of the access tunnel.

The geologist informed them that there were no such things as ghosts and if this was some African bullshine excuse to squeeze more money out of the company then the guys were wasting their time.

He then bullied everybody into resuming work and, to dispel the atmosphere of fear among his men, led the way into the workings.

The ghost stuck its head out of the wall and then climbed out and ran towards our fearless and skeptical geologist, who scarpered along with everybody else.

Outside, in the bright sunlight, there was a brief pause as the German tried to think of a rational explanation. A build up of mind altering  gas? Optical illusion? Prank?

His thoughts were interrupted by the ghost which emerged from the mine. He jumped into the driving seat of his bakkie (pickup truck), the workers scrambled onto the back ASAP.

The ghost kept coming. The geologist remembers it as looking like a young man, an adolescent perhaps, but the wrong colour. It grabbed one of the workers in the back of the vehicle and tried to pull him out. The other workers grabbed the guy and pulled him back in.  The ghost pulled, (it seemed to want to drag the man into the mine). The guys  pulled.

A lot of yelling and screaming but no sound from the ghost. It was apparently a remorseless, determined, very silent thing. No emotions obvious on its face.  The geologist floored the accelerator  and the ghost let go.

They drove away. The ghost watched them depart then returned to its mine.  Which is still abandoned.

NOTE: The geologist doesn’t want to be named. He doesn’t want people to think that he’s hallucinating, using LSD, or is just plain yarn spinning. But he states that the incident occurred exactly as described.













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