Lüderitz is as unlikely a town as they come. Wedged between the endless sand desert and and vast Atlantic ocean, it is a fisherman’s town with the facade of a Bavarian village.
Driving in from the desert, the first glimpse of Lüderitz is a gleaming white church, perched high on the rocks above the town. Then, a Hollywood-style sign spells out the name of the town. This seems fitting, as the downtown has the feeling of a film set: a Black Forest town in the not-too distant future when the whole world has turned to desert.
The stately homes bear the date they were built, mostly at the turn of the century, and their purpose. There was an old Butcherei (butcher), Bahnhof (train station), even a Kegelclub (bowling alley).
We camped on Shark Island, a spit of land (not an actual island) that juts out from Lüderitz to form the western edge of the harbor. From here, we could watch the dramatic sunsets over the ocean, and walk into town for dinner.
A short drive north of town, past herds of grazing oryx and springbok, is the wide and windy Agate Beach. Flocks of pink flamingos wade in the surf, adding noise and color against the background of the sea. Agate Beach is on the fringes of the Sperrgebiet (Forbidden Area), and offers a glimpse of the giant dunes spilling into the sea.
A short drive on a sand track to the west of town winds along the rugged coastline of the Lüderitz Peninsula. In 1488, Bartolomeu Diaz landed at this point and erected a cross in the name of God and the King of Portugal. He was on the return leg of a voyage that was attempting to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, but was turned back by storms.
A replica cross now stands in its place atop the high rock outcropping seen above. The wooden bridge leading to the point has collapsed, but when the tide is low the point can still be reached with a little stone-hopping.
This uninhabited area of the rest of the peninsula is probably almost exactly as it was when Bartolomeu Diaz stepped ashore. Just off of Diaz point is a small island that is almost entirely blanket in seals, and another hosts a large colony of penguins.
Driving a little off-road, we discovered a hidden inlet where turquoise waters lapped against a lunar landscape. Every nook and cranny of this country is just as bizarre and beautiful as the last.