Catriona Teed-Rollo, who had boarded with us during her days at school at Delta Waters International School, arrived by bus from Gaborone to spend a few days with us in Maun, Botswana, at the end of April 2002. She was hesitant to accept our invitation to join Sheila and I on a trip to Swakopmund, Namibia, as she told her mother that she did not want to spoil our second honeymoon! With Pat Hagan’s daughter Kirsty Hagan to keep her company, we went to Namibia for ten days. The newly built tarred road from Sehithwa to Ganzi was a pleasure after the nightmare rutted track to the east of Lake Ngami that it replaced.
We crossed into Namibia at Mamuna, passed through Gobabis and approached Windhoek’s Eros Airport but I got lost trying to find the camping ground there, winding up at Windhoek Town Lodge where we shared a reasonably priced family room.
Frustratingly, the Windhoek shops were shut the next day for the 1st May Labour Day holiday, but we managed to contact Herr Maschke. ( See Gunfire and Lightening, posted 13th May 2016: Herr Maschke, remembered by the girls as Mr Mouse-catcher, was an ex-WWII Luftwaffe fighter pilot, and had trained and worked at the world- renowned Hohner musical instrument factory.)
The old gentleman, well into his 80s, was an amazing character, who promised to repair Sheila’s 80-base Fonenelli piano accordion which she left with him as we headed on to the coastal town of Swakopmund. We got delayed in a pub in Usakos that had tempting draught-beer, biltong and boere-musiek, eventually arriving in Swakop as the sun set. We booked into a family room at the Erholungsheim Guesthouse, whose manager had incurred our wrath by making us wait for an hour before pitching up with the keys.
In the next couple of days, I recognised a lot of the historic buildings and features of Swakopmund from when I lived there in 1968. However, the town had also grown so much that it was easy to get lost. While Sheila and Kirsty spent most of their time at the beach, Catriona and I were more easily enticed by the museum, and it was only in the last two days that the two teenagers actually got together to do teenage things like boy-watching and buying beads, but we usually all met up at the Lighthouse pub for midday meals.
One day we all went to the seal colony at Cape Cross; interesting as it was, all agreed that the most memorable aspect would always be the stench. On another we visited the aquarium in Swakopmund at feeding time, and also watched the pelicans swooping in for offal as fishermen gutted their catch at the small-boat-landing fish tables.
On a visit to almost equally smelly Walvis Bay and the fish-factories there, it was apparent that there was some constructional activity on the Swakop River Bridge due to the fact that it was closed to traffic. I had been involved in the building of this 1.5km concrete bridge thirty years before in 1968 as a technician, post-stressing the precast beams. When the others were at the beach, I could not resist a visit to the site and had a chat to the foreman in charge of restoration work. It seemed that due to the salt air, severe rusting to the rebar and cables had occurred through cracks in the concrete. What was interesting was that they were attempting a process of electrolytic rust reversal by running current through exposed iron. Unfortunately, the foreman could not explain exactly how this was supposed to work in concrete, although I believe it works well in a sodium carbonate solution
It was a thoroughly enjoyable ten days, culminating in retrieving Sheila’s beautifully restored piano accordion from Herr Maschke on our way home to Maun, Botswana.