Nothing quite prepares you for the stark contrast between the immaculate ribbon of tar and its white desert surrounds, as you journey from Aus to Lüderitz. Adding to this surreal tableau are the Namib Desert horses you encounter, often appearing to be staggering across the road on spindly legs as they pass through the heat-driven mirages in the distance. These horses are also a reminder of the region’s controversial colonial past. And, even though it’s not advertised in any of the guidebooks, no site in this region is more redolent with controversy than the campsite on Shark Island.
As a concentration camp for Herero and Nama prisoners captured by the German Schutztruppe between 1905 and 1907, Shark Island was the most feared in the land. Living under appalling conditions, the majority of the prisoners were literally worked to death in what authors David Olusoga and Casper Erichsen in their book, The Kaiser’s Holocaust, claim was part of a deliberate plan of extermination.
These historic atrocities were fortunately far from the thoughts of my life-partner, Annette and me, as we tucked into some long-awaited takeaway fish and chips. As we’d been very hungry, we’d quickly selected a campsite in an area that the friendly on- duty manager had proclaimed to be less windy, and hoped for the best.