Pomona: Namibia's Forgotten Ghost Town
Namibia has several deserted and abandoned regions. This entry is about one of them.
Journey to the Sperrgebiet
Our day started at the Nest Hotel in Luderitz where we met our tour guide for the day. He would be taking us on a two person tour of the Sperrgebiet.
The road was rough, very rough. A 4x4 is an absolute necessity when visiting this part of Namibia. If it were not for our excellent little 4x4 mini-van then we would have gotten stuck numerous times. Eventually we got to the entrance of the Sperrgebiet, beyond lay Pomona and the Bogenfels.
The Sperrgebiet checkpoint
The Sperrgebiet is an area of land on the west coast of Namibia that was specially set aside for diamond mining. Even though only 5% of the Sperrgebiet’s 26 000km2 is used for mining today access to the whole area is strictly controlled. Checkpoints like the one our tour guide took us through are the only manner in which people can enter and leave the area without incurring massive penalties ranging from fines to jail time.
A signboard warning trespassers of various penalties
Once we were through the checkpoint we were treated to the vastness of the Sperrgebiet. There is almost no human life in this area as the diamond mining operations in this part of the Sperrgebiet have been winding down for years now.
Pictured above: Vastness
Pomona's satellite settlement
After an hour of driving from the checkpoint we noticed some buildings on the horizon. Our guide informed us that the buildings had been constructed to provide basic services to people of Pomona. This outpost was responsible for providing the mining town with fresh water and other such necessities.
An abandoned storage shed
A waterpump was housed within this building
An old building looking out over the road toward Pomona
The train station
Further down the dirt road we came upon a train station which had once been used to receive and dispatch goods to and from Pomona. Since the first motorcar only arrived in Pomona in 1917 the people of the isolated mining town had relied on trains to deliver basic goods in the early years of the town's settlement. Now, however, the train tracks lie in ruin and the loading station is being slowly swallowed by the desert.
Our van on the buckling tracks
One of the old station buildings
On the second floor of the loading area of the station
The loading area is packed with rusted and sandblasted pieces of machinery.
Arriving in Pomona
Eventually we got to the site where Pomona once stood. Looking at this place it was hard to believe that Pomona was once a town where people were able to live. All that is left are crumbling buildings, broken ceilings and abandoned bits of machinery.
...and abandoned machinery
The town was the center of an extremely productive region of the Sperrgebiet. Over 4 million carats worth of diamonds were discovered and processed by the German Diamond Company in Pomona and over 800 people at a time called this remote outpost home. By the 1940’s the diamonds had become much harder to find and it the town was later completely abandoned. All that is left now are quiet buildings and a peaceful graveyard overlooking the Atlantic ocean.
One of the graves in Pomona's cemetery
A failed settlement
To get to our next destination we were taken passed another site of abandoned buildings. Our tour guide told us that this site was in fact the first (failed) attempt to settle in this part of the Sperrgebiet.
Two chimneys that used to be part of a large canteen for the miners
Brutal winds made this site totally uninhabitable and the people who first settled here simply up and left, leaving even their beds behind.
The desert winds and sand are slowly eroding these traces of human settlement
from the Sperrgebiet
We ended off our day tour of the Sperrgebiet with a visit to the mighty Bogenfels. Bogenfels literally means “rock arch” and it is truly an impressive sight. Standing over 55 meters tall this massive rock formation is a perfect example of the impressive things you can find in Namibia if you are prepared to go out of your way.
On the right of the giant arch a ship is sailing out to sea.
Looking along the cliff-face from the top of the Bogenfels
How to get there
First, you will have to get to Luderitz. Luderitz is a charming seaside town located near Kolmanskop. You can fly into Luderitz's airport on Air Namibia or drive to Luderitz from Windhoek on the national road network.
Currently only one company does a tour in this region of the Sperrgebiet. They are called Coastaways and they are located in Luderitz. Our driver/guide was friendly and knowledgeable and he made sure we had a great experience. Coastaways offers several different tours of the surrounding areas. Visit their website for more details.
Why you should go there
A tour to the Sperrgebiet is something everyone visiting the South of Namibia should try and do. A key feature of the Sperrgebiet's appeal is how quiet and peaceful it is. There are no massive crowds and thus it is very easy to become absorbed in the uncanniness of the sights on this tour. It was amazing to see the contrasts of the Sperrgebiet. Its sights range from flimsy man-made structures of diamond to naturally sculpted geological wonders.
The view from the top of the Bogenfels...
and my travel buddy taking a photo