07 April 2011 | Reiseberichte

Oasis in the Namib Desert

Rainy season in Namibia. Rich brown flood waves roll through a landscape where the dry desert usually prevails. The floods of the Swakop river flow powerfully through the lovely valley situated between the mountains of the Moon Landscape, leading down to the Atlantic ocean. The riverbed, which is dry throughout the year, now comes to life and water finds its way seemingly endless from north east Namibia through a stunning, peaceful landscape.
Where the Swakop river valley opens wide and the mountains release an astonishing valley, lies an oasis which was a centre of attraction for animals and men for decades. Situated just about 40 Kilometers from Swakopmund, Lions and Elephants, Rhinos and Buffalos were roaming. Antelopes, Ostriches and Kudus found green grass and bushes throughout the year since the Swakop provides groundwater and therewith food even in dry years.
Centre of attraction for centuries People from different tribes took a rest at this place, the first South African and European se-ttlers stopped over to feed their oxen and later on built farms where vegetables and fruit trees grew easily.
The so called "Baiweg", the ancient trail from Walvis Bay and Swakopmund to Windhoek trouled through Goanikontes, the oxen were fed and made ready before they provided the meat for the ships of the Walvis Bay harbour, and later on this was the place where the Swakopmunder "Musical Week" was founded.
1925 Goanikontes was mentioned as "Canecundas Farm", several names were given to this stunning place and still today, the oasis is an attraction in the middle of almost untouched nature for tourists and a lovely weekend destination for people living at the coast.
The name Goanikontes is said to have come from the Nama language, "The place where you remove your fur coat - Goan ni Shu en des" while others say it comes from the Nama word for camelthorn trees.
The oasis was divided into several parts over the years but in 2009, Winfried und Fabienne Metzger became the new owners and bought most of the land so that Goanikontes is now one big farm again. On Sundays, coffee and cake are provided like in the early days. Huge eucalyptus trees provide shade for the new campsite, holiday cottages have been built for families and groups. A restaurant was established in the historical farmhouse of the Hrabovsky family, built in 1903 and a huge swimming pool invites to a cooling splash.
Small houses looking like Igloos provide accommodation with a traditional flair, simple but clean and tidy, each of them with an outside barbecue and table to relax and enjoy stunning views over the lovely valley. More spacious cottages are being built, some of them integrated into the rocks creating a serene feeling of being part of nature.
Mrs. Hrabovsky is the historical figure who filled this place with life and music at the beginning of the 20th century. The well known German-Namibian short-story writer Helmut Fahrbach wrote in 1985: "...And on Sundays we drove to Hrabovsky at Goanikontes to have a cup of coffee... The self made fruit cake was unique and the milk cans were covered with crocheted doilies to keep the flies away. - You remember?"
At around 1750 the Herero moved from the little town of Otjimbingwe along the Swakop valley and imbued their oxen at Goanikontes. Later on, the oasis was inhabited by the nomadic Nama folk who found their food and made a living along the river bed.
Historical and resting place for ox wagons In 1845, Lieutenant Ruxon was the first to write about Goanikontes, mentioning "huge ponds and grazing land for thousands of cattle".
The Dixon family were the first white settlers in 1849. Peter Dixon and Thomas Morris had founded a trading company at Walvis Bay to provide cattle from Herero land to St. Helena where all ships travelling around Africa stopped over.
"Goanikontes was the ideal place for cattle posts", wrote Fahrbach: "Enough water, fertile soil, huge trees and lots of fire wood.
Vegetables and maize are growing so well that dogs had to be used to keep Kudus and Lions away. In these days, Goanikontes was a residential settlement and up to today there are several units in sizes between seven and 160 hectares."
Francis James Bassingthwaite who is said to have been the first permanent white settler of former Southwest Africa, also lived at Goanikontes for some time. Unfortunately, the catt-le trade with the Herero didn't work out well and the lions where a permanent problem. Finally, one year the Swakop river came down in full flood and destroyed all fields. The partnership between Morris and Dixon ended and Dixon moved with his family to Rooibank at the Kuiseb river, south-east of Walvis Bay. But Goanikontes still remained a favourite resting place of the old trail for ox wagon transports, providing water and grazing land.
In 1879, Dixons daughter Desirée Née wrote a booklet about their stay at the oasis at the Swakop river in the Namib desert: "We arrived in the dark. A Silesian gardener who looked like Rübezahl with wild beard and hair, welcomed us and apologized that he couldn't provide any light: The goat bock had eaten the last candle in the afternoon".
In June, 1893 the German Governor Curt von Francois wrote from Goanikontes to the ship company owner Adolph Woermann in Hamburg, Germany that it would be wise to use the Swakop river mouth as a harbour for the German protectorate since the logistics thought the South African government at the Walvis Bay harbour often became difficult. To control the important strategic trail, von Francois established a military and customs station at Goanikontes.
In 1903, the settler Rügheimer grew vege-tables at Goanikontes, 1906 August Leverman was growing cattle and the Gerecke family was farming at the oasis some time later.
During 1910, the Hrabovsky family provided vegetables for Walvis Bay and Swakopmund and another farmer was Wilhelm Brock, one of the managers of the well known Woermann Brock trading company.
Customs and Miliwwtary station During World W-ar 1 a German military company was positioned at Goanikontes. When in 1915 the South Africans under general Botha assigned the oasis, it was a big loss for the German protectorate.
When the railway was built up north of the Swakop river, Goanikontes lost it's strategic position, and finally after World War 1 it remained only as farm land.
Soon Goanikontes became a favourite holiday destination. The botanist Emil Jensen from Walvis Bay wrote in the 1950's: "When you travel through the Moon Landscape and see Goanikontes, you think: Like Mister Maier sees Africa! Huge palm trees and eucalyptus trees, a nice restaurant garden with beer and coffee."
Today a holiday attraction again Having heard so many stories and legends about Goanikontes, guests and residents know that this place is always worth a visit for a day, for camping or enjoying the comfortable accommodation in one of the guest rooms. The new owners bring a fresh breeze to this oasis in the middle of the astounding and silent valley, where the Swakop river presents its most beautiful side.
Thanks to a good rainy season, the floods of the river cross the valley and dams keep the water for some time. The mines in the north of the river drilled deep water holes into the river bed to use the groundwater so that nowadays the water at Goanikontes is saltier than in former years.
Winfried Metzger and his building coordinator Arno Schnabel have been testing the water quality for two years on a regular basis and discovered too much salt in the groundwater. Due to the heavy rains, the dams are now filled up to clean the soil and the roots of the trees from salt, and the groundwater is filled up again for the coming years. Ducks are breading in the ponds, and birds and dragonflies are dancing on the water while the Swakop river rustles along. Green grass and flowers emerge from the valley, bringing the desert to life again.

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