Abandoned Pylons Guard Town’s Past

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By Surihe Gaomas SWAKOPMUND Those who know its history say it is the bridge that was never meant to stay for long. Nestled in the crashing waves along the scenic Swakopmund coastline are peculiar-looking huge concrete structures right at the mouth of the Swakop River. Quite interestingly these cement-like structures are what contributed to the town getting its name ‘Swakopmund.’ History tells us that the remaining pylons situated in a southerly direction along the beach belong to a bridge that was built in 1928. Tourists who occasionally go and visit this site are informed by tour guides about the interesting tale of a bridge that tells the tale of the town’s history. Today, Swakopmund is a popular tourist destination, especially during holidays when both locals and foreigners flock to town for its diverse recreational activities. However, during the colonial era, this town had served a different purpose as during the German colonisation it was meant to become a harbour town instead. During the period 1884 to 1915, the then colonial administration built two wooden jetties for foreign ships to load and off-load their cargo. Yet it turns out that these plans had to be abandoned when the former South African regime took control and saw Walvis Bay as a fitting harbour town instead. This ultimately had to force Swakopmund to gradually transform itself into a popular tourist resort along with other towns such as Henties Bay in the Erongo Region. The idea to build the bridge started with the South Africans when the idea was to link the two coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay by constructing a railway line. Such a construction was accompanied by also building a small 18-meter long low railway bridge. However as Mother Nature calls the shots, the sometimes massive flooding of the Swakop River that came down regularly before independence caused large parts of the bridge to be washed away in the process. The flooding that destroyed the bridge occurred in January 15, 1931. A similar flooding occurred again in 1934, the year when one of the heaviest floods was ever recorded in Namibia’s history. This in turn meant the collapse of the idea of a railway line between the two towns along the coastline. All that now remains today are the leftover pylons of the bridge structure. When one passes there the strong concrete structures stand like historical monuments – a stark reminder of the past for the locals of Swakopmund. “I was told that the bridge did not stay very long, because it was not used that much,” said one elderly resident of the tourist town. The bridge built in 1928 was 330 meters long with 21 concrete pylons standing at approximately 16 meters wide. Iron cast sheeting was used for the railway line and on both sides of the bridge the sand from the dunes were raised to the level of the huge pylons to keep it secure and intact. However, the severe flooding caused its quick destruction. Green moss and algae can now be seen growing at the base of the remaining nine granite pylons along the coastline as the seawater keeps it constantly moist at the baseline. Although this structure may hold a historical past for the town’s locals, for the visitors this is also a place to lie down and sunbathe.