Namibia had always been high on our list of places to visit, mainly because of the wildlife there. By autumn 2010, the time had finally come for my wife and I to fulfil this dream. After packing our suitcases, we, together with my wife’s cousin and his wife, set off on our big tour of Namibia. You may not know that Namibia is more than twice the size of Germany! We had scheduled in five weeks for our trip, which we considered enough time to fit in our ambitious itinerary. ‘Ambitious’ being the operative word, as our travel plans would see us covering around 5000 kilometres!
We started our trip in the capital city of Windhoek, before heading south via Keetmanshoop to the Fischriver Canyon and to Aus. We then headed for Lüderitz on the coast, before continuing to the Sossusvlei dunes in the west, and Walvis Bay near Swakopmund further north. Our journey then took us north-east to the Etosha National Park, then further west to the Caprivi Strip. Next stop on the itinerary was Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls, followed by the Okavango Delta in Botswana, then, finally, back to Windhoek.
For me personally, the detour to the south was highly significant – as was the fact that we were able to make the journey in 2010. That particular year marked the 100th anniversary of my father being stationed in the country as a young soldier with the colonial German ‘Schutztruppe’ (‘protection forces’) there at the time. From a purely physical perspective, that was no mean feat back then, as my father told me when he was still alive. For example, the soldiers were required to undergo eight or nine health checks, with the last of these taking place on the ship on the way there; and even by that point, a few soldiers were sent back home. My father passed all the tests and went on to complete his service between autumn 1910 and spring 1914.
To do so, however, he first had to learn how to ride a horse, learn about the benefits of ointment in the process, before then being stationed on the southern edge of the Namib desert to guard the border. It wasn’t an overly exciting job back then, working with just one other person in the middle of nowhere, east of a little place called Koes, guarding a section of the border – all the time waiting in anticipation for the next delivery of fresh water and provisions, which arrived by oxen every six weeks. Nonetheless, it was a memorable period in my father’s life, working as a ‘Kompanie-Jäger zu Pferde’ (rifleman on horseback) – and I understand much better now, 100 years later, what he told me about his time in Africa.
The rest of our 2010 trip was, of course, an unforgettable adventure as well. Namibia is sandy and sunny, but also offers visitors unique landscapes and unforgettable wildlife. We enjoyed our time there, although we perhaps should have hired a 4×4, because the terrain soon gets treacherous away from the major highways. This of course does not apply to the Transatlantic Highway, which we found ourselves driving towards the end of our trip, on the way back to Windhoek.
As we turned off to go to our next overnight accommodation, we were met with a car park full of around 35 participants in a small luxury vintage car rally. I had to stop and look around of course. All of the participants were farmers of German descent from the Gobabis area. We said hello to them and looked at the cars, among which were Fords, Chevys, a Renault R5 and also two VW Beetles! One of the Beetles dated from 1953, while another, unbelievably, was built in 1951!
I found all this very interesting of course. I asked the participants who each vehicle belonged to and whether they would let me take a look inside the engine compartments. As they were happy for me to do so, the owner of the 1951 Beetle proceeded to open the tailgate for me, telling me: “All the parts are original except for the air filter.
I wouldn’t be able to use it here because of how much dust there is. It is in the front of the car though, in the boot.” He then went and got it out for me, and I recognised the MANN+HUMMEL felt cone filter straight away. I was gobsmacked of course, speechless even – after all, I had worked with air filters for 40 years, 36 of which were field service for VW. There it was, another piece of my past catching up with me – absolutely remarkable!