There’s little of obvious attraction in Keetmanshoop – or Keetmans, as many Namibians call it – but it makes for a convenient break in the long haul up or down the B1, and is a good place to pick up supplies if you’re heading out into the desert to camp. The administrative centre of southern Namibia, with a population of around 22,000, this former Nama settlement was named after Johann Keetman, a German industrialist who donated 1000 gold Marks to construct the first Rhenish Mission church in 1869. After you’ve made a pitstop and eaten, you might as well swing by the church’s more modern incarnation.
Rhenish Mission Church
Dating back to 1895, the Rhenish Mission Church is the town’s oldest building and houses a modest museum collection. The church is quite striking; made from stone brought by ox-cart from Lüderitz 337km away, it replaced an earlier wooden version that had been swept away in a flash flood in 1890.
The Rhenish Mission Church houses the Keetmanshoop museum, a collection of modest and rather shambolic displays populated mainly by donations – offered, one suspects, by people cleaning out their unwanted junk: Singer sewing machines, coal irons, Bavarian crockery and the like. However, the collection of faded photos is of greater historical interest, documenting in part the War of National Resistance and the awful conditions of the black population during colonial rule. Note the collection of brass passes that indigenous people had to wear round their necks – part of the ruling powers’ attempts to control their movements.
Quiver Tree Forest and around
If you’re looking for a worthwhile detour from the seemingly endless slog along the B1, the Quiver Tree Forest (Kokerboumwoud in Afrikaans), northeast of Keetmanshoop, is the spot to pick. Located on a farm, this unusually high density of one of Namibia’s most emblematic and photogenic plants is best appreciated in the early morning or evening light. Enjoy scrambling around the rocks to get a good look at the plants, before driving a couple of kilometres further down the road to the Giant’s Playground. Another picturesque natural phenomenon, it comprises a vast array of dolorite boulders, weathered over millennia, which resemble piles of giant marbles that have been stacked up by some alien colossus. Camping and chalet accommodation is also available.