The Reluctant Travel Writer - The things I never did while in Namibia NAMIBIA! Where the heck is that?

Leonard Lea Frazer

I first visited Namibia, or South West Africa as I knew it, back in 1971. The freighter I was working on was loaded with ruff cut lumber from sawmills on Vancouver Island. When I say ‘loaded,’ what I mean is overloaded.

When the lumber was brought onboard in Canada the holds on the ship were filled to capacity, and when the hatch-covers were closed, more lumber was piled on top and on both sides of the ship. Everything above decks was held in place by large chains and cinched together in the middle with giant turnbuckles. When the ship left Victoria, BC it looked like it was sinking. I was relieved after traveling down the California coast, through the Panama Canal, across the Atlantic Ocean and down the Skeleton Coast to Walvis Bay, one of the three deep-water ports of Namibia.

Hi guys! I’m from Namibia. “Where the heck is that?” you say.
Hi guys! I’m from Namibia. “Where the heck is that?” you say.
A flock of pelicans.
A flock of pelicans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South West Africa (Namibia) was under South African administration at the time. I was in Walvis Bay for one week but only had the opportunity to go exploring on one of those days. The highlights included playing soccer with the guys from the ship at a nearby field and visiting the downtown area. The rest of the time was spent painting the side of the ship from a paint boat and on wooden stages that we lowered over the side. My job was to lower paint and equipment down to my co-workers and assist with the painting.

It was during this time that the two guys in our aluminum paint boat rescued an African seabird that was covered in oil. We gave the bird a bath but it eventually died. That’s when I composed my second popular Country and Western song called, “Old Henry.” The chorus went like this:

“Cause of all the sewage in the water    

Old Henry couldn’t swim like he otter,

He came back up, like he said,

But, Old Henry, he was dead

And we aren’t-a gonna see that bird no more!”

 ‘Old Henry’ the seabird.
‘Old Henry’ the seabird.
Two fellows from the ship in the paint-boat.
Two fellows from the ship in the paint-boat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The song was a big hit on the boat and the Norwegians insisted I sing it three times in a row. Yes, the ancestors of the Vikings like their Country Music!

Little did I know that the nearby Walvis Bay Wetland was the most important coastal wetland for birds in Southern Africa and the second most important in Africa. Visiting bird watchers can view the Chestnut-banded Plover, two kinds of flamingos, the Kelp Gull, white pelicans and the Black-necked Grebe.

Not being an ornithologist, or having the knowledge of all the other feathered friends that were close by, I missed out on that one.

I suppose, if I had been a Travel Writer back then, I would have ‘jumped ship.’ Yes, I could have rented a desert jeep 4x4 and cruised over to the Etosha National Park to view and photograph black rhinos and local herds of elephants. Or, perhaps I would have ventured further inland to and climbed the Könistein Mountain and took in the Numas Ravine and ‘White Lady’ rock paintings that were first discovered in 1918 and depicts indigenous people from the ‘Stone Age.’

The only real wildlife I saw besides seabirds, were two giraffes in a wooden crate about to be loaded on another ship for export to who knows where.

Leonard’s ship, ‘Bris,’ loaded with Canadian lumber at Walvis Bay.
Leonard’s ship, ‘Bris,’ loaded with Canadian lumber at Walvis Bay.
African workers unloading ruff lumber at Walvis Bay, 
Namibia.
African workers unloading ruff lumber at Walvis Bay, Namibia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, if I was in now-independent Namibia I could enjoy several unique attractions including: the ghost town (Kolmanskop) in the middle of the Namib Desert, the Skeleton Coast, Cape Cross, north of Swakomund, which is the home of one of the largest Cape Fur Seal colonies in the world, the Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia, which is second only in grandeur to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and, of course, a self-drive Safari in Etosha National Park where one can still view thousands of flamingos, herds of zebra, wildebeest and antelope. Yes, these are some of the sites I missed.

The second time I visited Walvis Bay in 1972, the ship was carrying ‘packaged lumber’ which was unloaded in record time. That meant even less time to go exploring.

Namibia is located close to South Africa. For those who, today, wish to fly in from Cape Town or Durban, South Africa, it’s a country with lots to offer the adventurous traveler.

Giraffes in a crate about to be loaded for export.
Giraffes in a crate about to be loaded for export.
A white pelican in Namibia.
A white pelican in Namibia.