|2. THE PRECOLONIAL HISTORY OF NAMIBIAN
2.1 THE PREHISTORIC ERA circa 1250 - circa 1770
Nothing is known about roads in the early days of Namibia. In pre-historical times the Namibian indigenes used tracks made by elephants proceeding from one water hole to the other. The original hunter and gatherer society as well as the early pastoral communities in Namibia did not have a need for systematic transport links. This pattern apparently changed in the 13th century when a re-arrangement of economic scale took place from the early stock-farming enterprises to much larger pastoral structures. During this period people began to leave the mountains and move to the plains with the consequent first developments of some form of trade patterns . Somewhere during this period the first human initiated road links must have come into existence in Namibia. This has been established by archaeological research whose results can be dated to approximately 700 years ago .
Nomadic people in the central Namib Desert built these first pathways. For many centuries this pastoral, nomadic way of life, which created the basis for these roads, dominated the economy in the western parts of Namibia. These early roads are not mentioned in recorded history, which began only in the 18th century. It was the archaeologist and not the historian who found proof of these first transport links in Namibia.
A unique site of these pathways was discovered by John Kinahan during 1983 and is situated in the south-western parts of the Brandberg mountains in the Hungorob River valley, which dewaters into the Messum River. From the entrance of the Hungorob valley into the interior of the Brandberg massif there is only one practicable route within the ravine itself. In the higher regions of the Brandberg the terrain is relatively open. This also holds true below the 1.000 m contour where there is easy access from the plains to the waterholes within the mountains. It was the most difficult part on this access route to the waterholes between 1.000 m and 1.200 m which required improvements by means of an artificial pathway. Kinahan (1986) reported as follows:
PATHWAYS IN THE HUNGOROB GORGE: BRANDBERG: ca 1250 A.D.
Although the Hungorob pathway site is the only indication of any road making activity in the early days of Namibia, it can be assumed that more such sites may exist. The recorded history of roads and road transportation begins, however, only around 1750 when, due to the arrival of European settlers, the pastoral economy of the early Namibian times was already in a stage of collapse. A similar pathway has recently been established at the old Nama fortress ||Khauxa!nas or Schans Vlakte, the oldest systematic urban structure in Namibia which has been discovered by the author of this paper, and which will be dealt with at a later stage.
||Khauxa!nas or Schans Vlakte
The very limited data of the prehistoric era of Namibian transport routes reflects the available historic source material. However, it has to be mentioned that it is possible that many more pathways than the two identified ones existed in the early days.
2.2 THE ERA OF THE ORLAMS circa 1770 - circa 1840
As from the second half of the 18th century Orlam communities of Nama descent escaping from the growing colonialising efforts of European settlers in the Cape Colony in South Africa as well as European adventures, explorers and traders began to penetrate Namibia. Before the Orlam migrations the different original Nama groups in the southern parts of Namibia lived in well-structured, independent and resourceful African societies, as reported by the first missionaries of the London and Wesleyan Societies . This favourable socio-economic pattern was not only drastically disturbed by an increasing European influence but also by the Orlam immigrations. The first few European explorers who arrived in the second half of the 18th century and the first missionaries who arrived shortly after 1800 did not mention any Nama or Orlam road-making activities.
The Orlams and the first European travellers all came from the south because the barren Namib Desert prohibited any access into the Namibian interior from the Atlantic coast. Most of them came from the Copper Mountains in the Cape Colony of South Africa, where the town of Springbok is now situated. The ox-wagon route to the Orange River contained difficult sandy stretches and rugged mountainous terrain, and water was scarce, but it must have been well-known to some of the local inhabitants, because three grants to graziers of loan-places on the south bank of the Orange had actually been made as early as 1776-77 . The first explorers on record who entered Namibia from the Orange River were Jacobus Coetzee and Hendrik Hop as well as the surveyor Carel Frederik Brink, who drew up the first map of the Namibian south . Pieter de Bruyn, Willem van Wyk and others reached and probably crossed the Orange River during 1738. Many more were to follow, such as Wikar, Paterson, Gordon, Le Vaillant, Willem van Reenen and Pieter Brand . They all more or less followed the same direction to the Orange River. It is not surprising that in this arid region successive travellers adhered to the same well-proven route . They reached the Orange most probably at the drift of Goodhouse, whose name has been derived from the Nama name "Gudaos" (Sheep Ford), the closest and most accessible point to a traveller coming from the Copper Mountains. Because of deficient pasturage at Goodhouse many travellers preferred to cross the Orange at Ramans Drift (also: "Compagnies Wagedrift", near ||Haraxas Drift (Knorhaan Ford)).
Jacobus Coetzee proceeded during 1760 to Dabi#gabis (Dabegabis 122 (present-day farm numbers)) at the western bank of the ||Houm River (Hom River), a point north of the hot springs of Warmbad, while the expedition of Hendrik Hop reached the Chamob River (Löwenfluß) north of the Great Karas Mountains on 22 November 1761. During the Hop expedition Jacobus Coetzee and Pieter Marais proceeded to the Fish River on 25 November 1761. Hendrik Jacob Wikar visited the areas south and north of the Orange in 1778/79. During the years 1778 and 1779, William Paterson undertook two journeys to areas in the vicinity of the Orange River, which was named by Robert Jacob Gordon in honour of the Dutch Royal dynasty in 1777 . Before this it was called Garieb (!Garib) or Great River. François Le Vaillant reached the Orange in 1783. The long journey that Le Vaillant claims to have made into what is now Namibia can only be regarded as imaginary. During 1791/92 Willem van Reenen and Pieter Brand proceeded as far as to the area of Rehoboth and probably to the Auas Mountains. They did not, however, reach Hereroland in northern Namibia. Two brothers of Willem van Reenen, Dirk Gijsberg and Sebastiaan Valentijn van Reenen, and Pieter Pienaar sailed with the ship "Meermin" to Walvis Bay in 1793 and were the first travellers on record who entered the Namibian interior through the Swakop valley .
All these explorers, fortune seekers, game hunters and adventurers used rugged ox-wagons to cross Namibia's natural terrain without having any constructed, man-made roads at their disposal. They followed the easiest way which they were able to find, here and there improving some difficult stretches in order to be able to surmount the most impossible obstacles on their way into the unknown interior of Namibia.
The first "White" to settle in Namibia was most probably Guilliam Visagie, who around 1785 established himself in #Nu#goaes (Swartmodder), the subsequent Keetmanshoop. The brothers, Abraham and Christian Albrecht, from the London Missionary Society in Warmbad initiated the first brick house in Namibia on 3 February 1806. But it took many more years before any roads in a modern sense came into existence. Heinrich Vedder writes the following about the period of circa 1810 :
With the increasing activities of European missionaries in Namibia and with more travellers entering "Great Namaland" north of the Orange River, the first permanent ox-wagon roads were established. However, it has to be said that these so-called "roads" did not deserve this term, because until far into the 20th century they were nothing more than slightly improved natural rough African terrain. The Bushmen, however, respected Johann Heinrich Schmelen's ox-wagon as a special kind of animal when they encountered the missionary travelled in a northwards direction via Büllspoort to the Kuiseb River. When one of the wheels of the wagon broke, the vehicle was duly abandoned in the desert, and Schmelen decided to replace the ox-wagon with the more reliable method of riding the ox. The Bushmen, in any case, did not attempt to touch the wagon tracks but jumped over them in large steps .
It also has to be mentioned that nothing constructive is known to-date about the establishment of roads in the Warmbad region in the early 1800s, although Schmelen was in Warmbad once in September/October 1812. In spite of this, it is generally accepted that the first road builder so far on record in the history of Namibia was Johann Heinrich Schmelen, who came to Namibia on the invitation of the "Kaptein" (Captain) of the Orlams ( Booi People) in Bethany in 1814. The decisive motive for any road building activity was not to have a road link to the Cape Colony but rather to open a road to the coast to Angra Pequeña in order to achieve contact with occasional ships there. Especially the trade with weapons and ammunition was important for the Orlams of Bethany. This first "Bay Road" to Angra Pequeña was initiated during Schmelen's stay at Bethany from 1814 to 1822. The missionary James Kitchingman visited Schmelen in 1820. His diary from 29 May 1820 reads as follows :
It is also on record in the journals of the London Missionary Society that the "Kaptein" and his "Raad" (Council), during the late 1810s, were involved in road construction activities, especially to the Bay of Angra Pequeña . It is not yet too clear how far these activities of the Orlam group in Bethany were influenced by the efforts of Heinrich Schmelen. One fact is certain, and that is that both Schmelen and the Orlams of Bethany were interested in such road links, albeit they acted from different motives.
James Archbell, the first Methodist missionary in Namibia, described in 1823 the location, whaling and harbour activities, and water supply of Walvis Bay, and the ecology of the interior . In 1821 he travelled from Bosfontein, during the Orlam conflicts halting work at this missionary station, to Bethany and Angra Pequeña. He wrote, "On my first setting out to Angra Pequeña I had no idea of its lying so far from us (from Bosfontein) but the distance by experience is immense."It took the party twelve days from Bosfontein to Bethany, travelling "at most night and day" and another 10 days on the southern Bay Road to Angra Pequeña . Bosfontein must have been situated in the vicinity of modern-day Rehoboth area, halfway between Naosanabis (modern-day Leonardville) and Tsebris (south west of modern-day Windhoek)  and not as suggested by Vigne  on the Fish River (modern-day Grootfontein South) . Otherwise the travel speeds from Bosfontein to Schmelen's London Missionary Society station at Bethany and from there to Angra Pequeña, pointed out by Archbell, would not have made sense.
By order of the "Royal Geographic Society" in London, Sir James Edward Alexander undertook an expedition during 1836/37 from Cape Town to Walvis Bay via Warmbad, Bethany and back via Glenelg Bath, which is modern-day Rehoboth. He took the usual route to the Orange River and crossed it in November 1836 at Karahas Ford near Ramans Drift. On 27 November 1836, Alexander reached Warmbad. From there he undertook an excursion to the Afrikaner's Kraal at Blydeverwacht. In January 1837, Alexander left Warmbad to undertake an excursion to "Robber Henrick's Place" (or "Räuber Heinrichs Platz" on Richter's Map of 1845), situated east of the Great Karas Mountains at a tributary of the Gaiab River (Kainab River). He left his wagons at Kanus and reached the fountains of Kama Kams near Henrick's place. My recent investigations (March 1988) have revealed that "Robber Henrick's Place", which could be synonymous with Ridsdale's Klip Fontein, in all probability is situated on the farm Narudas 268. The old stone ruins at the southern entrance to the Narudas Gorge are most probably of pre-German origin and fit into Alexander's and Ridsdale's descriptions of the main settlement of the ||Hawoben in the 1830s and 1840s .
From there he returned to Kanus on 28 January 1837 in order to proceed to Bethany. Alexander passed the deserted missionary station in March 1837. Jan and Hendrik Booi from the Bethany-Orlams assisted and guided him on his further travels to the north. From Bethany he travelled through the Konkiep and Haseweb valleys to the Naukluft Mountains, which he entered through the "Bull's Mouth Pass". From there he set a course via Abbabis to the Kuiseb River. Alexander arrived at Walvis Bay on 19 April 1837 .
From Walvis Bay he travelled in an eastward direction to Ni-ais and Glenelg Bath, modern-day Rehoboth. From Rehoboth Alexander took a route to the Great Fish River and travelled further in a south-western direction back to Bethany. From there he travelled via Huns and Haris to the Sendlings Drift at the Orange River. Alexander's route through the countries of the "Great Namaquas, the Boschman's and the Damara's of the Hills" which led to the first usable route map in the history of Namibia, can be described with modern place names in  where such have been established as follows:
Many of the ox-wagon tracks, entering Namibia from the Cape Colony, made use of suitable drifts and river crossings along the Orange River. At the western section of the Orange River, during its course through the Namib Desert, two crossings existed: Daberas Drift in the west and the somewhat eastward situated Sendlings Drift, approximately on the same longitude as the modern-day Rosh Pinah.
From these drifts two wagon roads developed. The one went in a north-eastern direction via Haris and Huns to Bethany and from there through the Konkiep Valley further to the north. The other went in a northern direction to Aus. From there it went through the Neisip Poort into the Konkiep Valley where it joined the Bethany road and ran further north into the Haseweb valley to Nomtsas at the upper Fish River, where the road branched into different directions. The more important branch took a direction towards the Auas Mountains and the other branch went via Büllspoort, through the Naukluft Mountains and further through the Namib Desert to Walvis Bay .
At the upstream section of the Orange River more river crossings existed, such as Vioolsdrift, and further east the crossings of Goodhouse and Ramans Drift, both previously mentioned, and ||Houms Drift as well as Pella Drift, which was used by the Orlams at the beginning of the 19th century and the Baster people in 1868 to cross into Namibia. The main transport direction of the roads coming from these Orange River crossings was directed to the hot water springs of Warmbad or Nisbett's Bath, as it was named by the Wesleyan missionaries. From Warmbad one road followed a natural direction to the gap between the Klein and the Great Karas Mountains and another one to the north-south running Fish River Valley. From there it was not too difficult to reach the area of Rehoboth and to travel further north to Damaraland. A third road ran in a north-eastern direction from Warmbad into the valleys of the Auob and Nossob rivers. This road opened an access to the settlement of Elephant's Fountain, the Wesleyan missionaries' name for Gobabis . From there a road branched off to Tunabis, the modern-day Rietfontein, and to Ghanzi in Ngamiland, which later became part of Botswana.
North of the main water edge of the Auas Mountains there are very few natural road building obstacles which could have influenced the alignment of roads north of modern-day Windhoek, except for the northern parts of the Kalahari, where the roads in many cases have been forced to follow the courses of omurambas (wide sand rivers). A reference to a road to the coast, from Bethany to Walvis Bay, can be found in Windhoek's State Archives . Franz Heinrich Kleinschmidt, founder of the town of Rehoboth, lived there between 1845 and 1864. His diary from 13 September 1858 reads as follows :
Schmelen undertook the journey from Bethany to Walvis Bay during the year 1825.
Heinrich Vedder reported that roads are only worthwhile at places where established human settlements already exist. Cultural progress can be measured exactly by the number, length and quality of usable roads. Roads were needed by the early missionaries in order to bring in by ox-wagon what the still undeveloped country could not supply. Also the Orlams, who had known roads and wagon traffic from the Cape Colony, where they originated from, started to build and use roads as the first traders had done. These began arriving once the till then unknown country was made more accessible .
The "Charte des Rheinischen Missionsgebietes in Süd-Afrika" (Richter's Map of 1845)  gives an indication of all existing ox-wagon roads at the beginning of the 1840s in the Great Nama qualand and Kamacha-Daman, the southern and central parts of Namibia. This was before Jonker Afrikaner started to build the " Bay Road" from Windhoek to Walvis Bay and before the roads from Elberfeld (Windhoek) to Schmelen's Hope (Okahandja) and to Ot jikango came into existence. Place names are spelt as indicated on Richter's Map with modern names in  brackets where such have been established:
7. Bulls Pforte - Chuntob
[Tsondab] River - [Abbabis 3] -
2.3 THE ERA OF JONKER AFRIKANER circa 1840 - circa 1860
After the "Kaptein of Bethanien" and Heinrich Schmelen the next documented road builder in Namibia's roads history was Jonker Afrikaner. Heinrich Vedder reported as follows :
It is interesting to note that Vedder omitted to mention that the Wesleyan missionary, Joseph Tindall, visited Windhoek before the two German missionaries. Tindall reported on 15 June 1842 :
Franz Heinrich Kleinschmidt wrote on 6 October 1842 :
These have been the first "road construction expenses" on record in the history of transportation in Namibia. The above mentioned roads, adequate for the rugged ox-wagon, have been built to a surprisingly high standard with primitive tools and very labour-intensive means. During 1843 Jonker Afrikaner continued to build the "Bay Road" from Windhoek in a western direction. The Nama and Damara communities who lived in the vicinity of the "Bay Road" were appointed by Jonker in order to help complete this major task. The road was finished during 1844. Carl Hugo Hahn used this road to travel from Windhoek to Walvis Bay. On 19 February 1844 he wrote the following about this Namibian major arterial road :
Jonker's "Bay Road" was leading from Windhoek in a western direction via Heusis and Abochaibis to the southern bank of the Swakop River without crossing this river. From there the road was aligned in a south-western direction via Tsaobis, Onanis and Texasgeis (Great Tinkas) and Texas#kharis (Little Tinkas) to the Kuiseb River. From there it went parallel to the Kuiseb to Rooibank and Walvis Bay.
Heinrich Vedder who, as in many identical cases neglected to supply his sources, mentioned that Jonker planned a road from Windhoek to the Waterberg in Hereroland. This plan was shelved by the outbreak of the war between the Herero and the Nama in the middle of the last century. It is doubtful, however, whether Jonker ever planned to build a road to the Namibian north. No primary historical evidence to support this claim could be traced. On the contrary, it was most probably not in the interest of Jonker to open a road into Hereroland but rather to keep traffic away from it. The first section of an arterial road to the north, to Okahandja and to Otjikango, west of Okahandja, was built by Hahn and Kleinschmidt and improved by Friedrich Wilhelm Kolbe in 1849.
This was the beginning of the development of a road infrastructure in Namibia during the 19th century. In 1845, the till then known parts of Namibia were more or less accessible by the rough ox-wagon. It was possible to reach Bethany from Sendlings Drift in the west or Ramans Drift (Kompagniefurt) in the east at the Orange River. From there it was possible to travel on a road that was not too bad, without danger to wheels and life, to Windhoek via Rehoboth. From Windhoek a connection existed via the "Bay Road" to Walvis Bay and via Okahandja to Otjikango, the subsequent Groß Barmen in southern Hereroland.
However, for the inhabitants of Otjikango it was quite difficult and exhausting to gain access to the harbour of Walvis Bay on the Atlantic coast. In 1845, the missionary conference at Otjikango decided to instruct the young missionary from Walvis Bay, Heinrich Scheppmann, to build a connection to the Windhoek-Walvis Bay road. A serious shooting accident prevented Scheppmann from completing this road . Carl Hugo Hahn wrote on 27 September 1847 that it was his colleague, Johannes Rath, who opened a road from Otjikango via Otjimbingwe in the Swakop Valley to Walvis Bay . Rath began his works in 1846 and determined during the alignment studies the later important site of Otjimbingwe, and completed the road in 1850. Rath's "Bay Road" joined Jonker Afrikaner's "Bay Road" somewhere between Tsaobis and the present-day farm Anschluß. The new "Bay Road" shortened the journey from Otjikango to Walvis Bay from four weeks to twelve days. In the middle of the last century the two "Bay Roads" made Namibia somewhat more independent from time wasting and expensive imports from South Africa. Before the completion of the two "Bay Roads", the journey from the Cape to Windhoek had taken eleven months. The completion of the "Bay Road" revealed a basic Namibian transportation principle, namely that it was in the interest of the country to have a short east-west connection to the Atlantic coast rather than the long and expensive transport link to South Africa.
This is confirmed by an "instruction to missionaries" given at the Rhenish Missionary Society in Barmen/Germany on 14 August 1844. This instruction mentions three missionary stations which it was the Society's intention to establish in central Namibia, namely Rehoboth (Annis), Okahandja (Schmelen's Hope or Schmelen's Verwachting) and a landing station at the Walvis Bay :
It was, however, James Chapman who during April 1861 recorded that, at his house in Otjimbingwe, Charles John Andersson mentioned that a road through the territory of the Swartboois at Rehoboth were to be built to take cattle to the Cape Colony .
Amongst the first travellers on record on the "Bay Road" from Walvis Bay to Otjimbingwe were the two explorers John Baines and James Chapman in 1861, although Charles John Andersson and Francis Galton used this road already in 1851, and Chapman travelled on it from Lake Ngami to Walvis Bay during 1855/56 . Baines did not elaborate on the condition of the roads he travelled but he must always have reached his destination. Baines and Chapman were also amongst the first travellers on record who crossed Namibia from west to east into Botswana, after the very first crossing made by Andersson in 1853 .
Further road building activities were continued in the south during this period. These and many other activities prove that it is a myth that only "Europeans" have initiated roads in Namibia. Benjamin Ridsdale reported in December 1846 the following about road construction by the "Veldschoendragers" in the vicinity of Warmbad :
On the 3 April 1847 Ridsdale wrote further :
The destination of the noteworthy road construction activities of the Veldschoendragers was the fortified town of ||Khauxa!nas (Schans Vlakte), which in itself must have been a very remarkable settlement of the Nama people. This unique place was all the more remarkable as it must have been one of the best guarded secrets of the people who lived there nearly two hundred years ago. Besides Ridsdale's and A.J.C. Bailie's mentions of ||Khauxa!nas there are no other historical sources known to the author which take note of such a settlement. The investigations for this publication lead to the conclusion that Ridsdale's Schans Vlakte has to be situated on the farms Schanzen 281 and Gugunas 301 east of the Karas Mountains. This assumption was subsequently verified by aerial photographs and in situ investigations which clearly showed a town on a mountain above a river, which matches Ridsdale's description closely.
Benjamin Ridsdale wrote the following about Schans Vlakte :
Ridsdale's observations highlight a chapter in the history of the Orlam Afrikaners - their initial collaboration with and subsequent resistance to European settlers in the northern frontier zone of the Cape Colony during the latter years of the 18th century. This resistance culminated in the shooting of Pieter Pienaar in March 1796, the same man who sailed to Walvis Bay in 1793 and explored the lower Swakop River valley, and the subsequent retreat of the Orlam Afrikaners into the inaccessible Karas Mountains in southern Namibia where they set up ||Khauxa!nas as their hidden refuge against further colonisation. This fortified Nama/Orlams town must have been erected shortly before or just after 1800 and represents the oldest, so far known sophisticated building structures in Namibia. New research to find the capital village of the Veldschoendragers disclosed that ||Khauxa!nas could not be identical with "Robber Henrick's Place", which Alexander tried to reach in January 1837.
Alexander was, however, not able to visit the capital of the Veldschoendragers and was only allowed to proceed as far as Kama Kams, some miles away from "Robber Henrick's Place". It has been revealed recently (March 1988) that this place could possibly be situated on the modern day farm Narudas 268 near Groen Rivier 265 which is the literal translation of the Nama name Kamkam. "Robber Henrick's Place" could be identical with Ridsdale's Klip Fontein, the main settlement of the Veldschoendragers between 1844 and 1846. It is unfortunate that Ridsdale's narrative of his journeys was not supported by a map, as this would have enabled us to obtain primary historical evidence that Alexander's "Robber Henrick's Place" or Ridsdale's Klip Fontein are to be found in the remains of a ruined town on a hill at the southern entrance to the Narudas Gorge. The building structures of these stone ruins are clearly of pre-colonial origin with European influenced structural elements but are most probably of a later period than the ruins of ||Khauxa!nas. These historical events have been confirmed by the author's surveys of the present farms Schanzen 281, Back River 302 and Gugunas 301 (||Khauxa!nas-Schans Vlakte) as well as of Narudas 268 (Klip Fontein - "Robber Henrick's Place"), respectively. What was found in the case of ||Khauxa!nas exactly matches Ridsdale's description of the settlement above the Bak River. There is always water in the river, even in times of drought. A ring wall virtually intact and over one kilometre long was found here with the ruins of houses and foundations of what was probably a council chamber for the Nama leaders, as well as kraals. There is also a well constructed pathway to the hill-top fortress, which is one of the first human made roads in the history of Namibia. The mountain top with its ruins, above the almost vertical rock face which drops to the Back River, provides an impressive sight.
The availability of water at all times must have made this place an ideal settlement and retreat for different Namibian groups in the early times of history. It can thus be accepted that ||Khauxa!nas on the present-day farms, Schanzen and Gugunas (Gugunas is derived from the Nama word ||Khauxa!nas which means in Afrikaans "Schans Vlakte" (plain of the bulwark) and was first mentioned on Theophilus Hahn's map, 1879) is the forgotten town of the Orlam Afrikaners, and later the Veldschoendragers, who occupied the settlement after the Orlams had left the Karas Mountains in their northward migration to the central parts of Namibia. The Nama had every good reason to keep ||Khauxa!nas a relative secret, especially from Europeans, and this is surely the reason why this place cannot be found in any primary historical source except in those of Ridsdale and Bailie.
||Khauxa!nas or Schans Vlakte
The fortified town of ||Khauxa!nas most probably played its last role as a retreat for the Nama leader Jakob Marengo during the resistance war of the Nama against the German colonial power from 1903 to 1909. The area is so inaccessible and was evidently so poorly known to the German Administration of the time, that, as far it has been possible to establish, they left behind no historical reference to the settlement. After having served the interests of the Nama people for the last time as Jakob Marengo's refuge, it sank into oblivion until it was rediscovered during the investigations for the early Namibian roads system .
Further road building activities in the Namibian south have been reported by Franz Heinrich Vollmer and Samuel Hahn. Vollmer reported for the 2 May 1848  that "yesterday the Nama-Chief Willem Swartbooi went with his men to build a decent road for wagons between Tsebris and Rehoboth".
On 13 September 1850, Samuel Hahn mentioned the following in a letter, written at "Grootbroekkros Mountain", about a trip to Berseba :
In the reports of the "Rheinische Missionsgesellschaft" for 1852 the following was written :
Heinrich Vedder also mentioned the activities of Samuel Hahn, who repaired the first ox-wagon tracks in the rainy season of 1849 by filling potholes with improved gravel material after the first "Bay Road", which Schmelen had built, had been washed away. These are the first road maintenance activities on record in Namibia's transportation history. Samuel Hahn also built the first ox-wagon road from Bethany to Gulbrandsdalen, east of Bethany, as well as to Berseba. This road was a very difficult one because one section was so steep that no wagon could pass it. All goods had to be off-loaded and then transported on human or animal back to the top.
The missionary Carl Hugo Hahn provided interesting transport statistic on the ox-wagon road between Berseba and the Orange River. He wrote on 4/5 September 1852 that the distance between Berseba and the Orange River can be estimated with 78 hours, where three hours of ox-wagon travelling time are equivalent to two hours of good walking. He also mentioned the first traffic count in the history of Namibia's roads. On his trip from Berseba to the Orange River he met only one "bushman" (San) and a small travel group of three persons :
From Berseba to |Aub
In the north of Namibia, Francis Galton and Charles John Andersson reached the Etosha Pan on 1 June 1851 and proceeded further than the 18th degree of latitude in Owamboland during their expedition to Nangolo's residence in Ondonga (modern-day Ondangwa), as was reported by Carl Hugo Hahn on 18 August 1851 after the two adventurers had returned to Otjikango. They followed a route from Otjikango to a point west of the Omatako Mountains and further to the Omuverume Mountains (Waterberg). They travelled east of the Waterberg to Okamabuti, near modern-day Grootfontein and turned then to the north-west to the Otjikoto Lake, near modern-day Tsumeb. From there they followed the established route to Owamboland via the fountains of Otjando and Namutoni .
2.4 THE PRE-GERMAN ERA circa 1860 - 1884
At the middle of the 19th century the southern and central parts of Namibia had a well developed ox-wagon roads system at their disposal. This concentration of roads in the southern two-thirds of the country reflects the available historic source material, but not necessarily the physical reality. It is most likely that the Namibian north, especially Owamboland, also had a well developed system of paths and perhaps even tracks. This can be assumed in view of the density of the population there, the long-standing social, economic and political links across the present-day Angolan border as well as the nature of political organisation of the various communities like Ondonga, Uukwanyama, Uukwambi etc. Even though there may not be any known recorded account of the situation there, the possibility of a precolonial roads network in the north of Namibia has to be mentioned .
Between 1850 and 1862 the wagon traffic increased considerably, especially in the central parts of Namibia. The mine traffic from the interior to Walvis Bay also grew in this time. The South Africa based " Walfisch Bay Mining Company" began developing the Matchless Mine just west of Windhoek in the Khomas Hochland during 1856. The key to the economic success of this mine was the satisfactory solution to the transport problem. Charles John An dersson became the mine manager in 1857. After some futile tests with pack oxen transporting the copper ore to the coast, he came to the conclusion that it was better to improve the "Bay Road" to Walvis Bay and use the conventional ox-wagon. The, by Andersson, improved "Bay Road" lead from the Matchless Mine to Remhoogte (Ganams 316 or Abochaibis 315), then via a route along the Kaarn River (Kaan River) to Davetsaub (29) and to Otjimbingwe. From there it went via Tsaobis (90), Onanis (121) and Tinkas to Walvis Bay. Andersson mentioned the difficulties in road making in the rough terrain between the Namib Desert and the Namibian interior in a letter to Wollaston of 4 March 1857 :
Andersson managed to find a new route to avoid six steep hills and he continued to say:
Andersson's claim must surely be a little bit exaggerated, because the Nama communities were, for their time, experienced and skilled road-builders. The most famous roads were probably those that Jonker Afrikaner had built from Windhoek to Walvis Bay and across the Auas Mountains in the early 1840s. But roads built by Namas between Bethany and Berseba as well as in the Warmbad region and even in the Great Karas Mountains won high acclaim by the missionaries, as has been previously shown in this publication.
Andersson also pursued the direct transport of the Matchless Mine ore via Walvis Bay to England instead of using the route via Cape Town. With an estimated annual shipment of 300 ton of ore, a saving of nearly 1.700 pound sterling per year could be achieved (direct route: 2.945 pounds against 4.549 pounds via Cape Town) which again proves the theorem that it would be beneficial for Namibia to use direct east-west transport links and avoid those via South Africa.
The closure of the Matchless Mine for economic reasons in 1859 and the outbreak of the rinderpest in 1861/62 decreased, however, the traffic numbers . The returning empty vehicles accepted loads from Walvis Bay to the interior, mainly to Otjimbingwe. Apart from ammunition, the ever increasing trade involved ivory, cattle and ostrich feathers. The Namaland got its supplies from Angra Pequeña , the subsequent Lüderitzbucht. Already in 1835 it was mentioned that dried meat and skins were exported from Angra Pequeña. In 1856 even Alexander Bay served as a harbour to transport goods into the interior of Namibia's south . It is interesting to read statistics compiled by Hugo Hahn over the ox-wagon traffic between Walvis Bay and Windhoek in the year 1853, which took 103 driving hours:
FromWalvis Bay (Rooibank)to Husab 16 hours
Husab to Jonkersfort (?) 5 hours
Jonkersfort to Tinkas 10 hours
Tinkas to Onanis 8,5 hours
Onanis to Tsaobis 13,5 hours
Tsaobis to Otjimbingwe 8,5 hours
Otjimbingwe to Omantjiva (Lievenberg ?) 14,5 hours
Omantjiva to Buxtonfontein (Klein Barmen 4 hours
Buxtonfontein to Groß Barmen (Otjikango) 4 hours
Groß Barmen to Windhoek (Concordiaville) 19,5 hours In comparison to Hahn's statistics, statistics compiled by James Chapman for 1861 for the section Otjimbingwe to Groß Barmen can be quoted. Hahn's statistics revealed 22,5 hours travelling time against Chapman's 24 hours:
From Otjimbengwe to Platklip
"For two and a half days I have worked with 10 people improving the road between here (Otjikango) and Buxtonfontein, a distance of three travelling hours on the road to Otjimbingwe. In earlier times this road went through the Tsoaxaub (Swakop) and crossed it several times with the consequence that it was during the dry season difficult to cross and during the rainy season not passable at all and even dangerous. The new road, however, doesn't touch the river anymore but traverses the mountains on a more straight alignment which is permanently and easier passable. The Herero are working well with sufficient food and under adequate supervision." (sic)
From 20 May to 11 September 1857 Carl Hugo Hahn travelled together with Johannes Rath to Owamboland. On some sections of this exploring trip they were accompanied by the hunter, trader and adventurer, Frederick Joseph Green. They travelled from Otjikango (Neu Barmen) to the Omatako Mountains, from where they followed the course of the Omuramba Omatako to Otjituo. They reached Auuns on the 30 June 1857 and then followed the course of the Omuramba Owambo to the eastern edge of the Etosha Pan. From there the party more or less followed the line of the modern-day trunk road 1/11 to Ondonga (Nangolo's residence). Nangolo's men attacked Hahn's expedition on 30/31 July 1857 and forced them to retreat to Hereroland. Hahn travelled again to Owamboland in 1866 and was instrumental in bringing Finnish missionaries to Owamboland. During a search journey to find the source of the Kunene River, Charles John Andersson "discovered" the Okavango River on 18 March 1859 .
The increase of ox-wagon traffic was a direct consequence of the rising trade in many parts of Namibia, and it changed the pattern of life for many Namibians. This resulted in an increasing request for more ox-wagons and carts. With the completion of the new Bay Road between Windhoek and Walvis Bay, Windhoek and Otjimbingwe developed as new important trade centres with new trade routes to Damara and Namaland, and even to Lake Ngami in modern-day B otswana, which was to become an important trading point before the lake dried out at the turn of the century. One of the more important traders was Andersson, who established a business in Otjimbingwe at the end of the 1850s. In Angra Pequeña the De Pass, Spence & Co Company established a post in order to trade with Namaland. During 1869, Axel Wilhelm Eriksson and Anders Ohlsson established a business in Omaruru in order to trade with the northern areas of Damaraland and with the trading post at Lake Ngami in Botswana. Eriksson kept up to sixty ox-wagons on the roads from Walvis Bay to Damaraland, Owamboland and the Lake Ngami area .
Palgrave Photo Album: Road to Grootfontein (South)In a letter to Hahn of 19 February 1866 Green reported reaching the long-sought Kunene River from the south. Green also reported that it was his intention to follow the river towards its mouth, but that he found that there was no practicable road westward, at least for wagons, because the country was so mountainous. It can therefore be concluded that by the mid 1860s Namibia was known and accessible to the ox-wagon from the Orange to the Kunene and Okavango rivers.
In 1879 William Coates Palgrave reported that there were five wholesale and retail stores in the area and about a hundred wagons and other vehicles engaged in trading and hunting pursuits . Palgrave further noted that Otjimbingwe had a population of about 20.000 people at this time which would seem to be completely unrealistic . Maybe he meant 2.000 people, which seems to be a more likely figure. Theophilus Hahn, who also was a trader, mentioned that "there are about 3.000 regular ostrich hunters in this country" and 30 to 40 traders . The 3.000 ostrich hunters, mentioned by Hahn, are most probably also exaggerated and should rather read 300. Serton  gave the following description regarding the conditions of Namibian roads in the 1870s:
The "Original Map of Great Namaqualand and Damaraland - compiled from his own observations and surveys by Theophilus Hahn Ph.D., 1879" , gives a survey of the existing ox-wagon roads at the end of the pre-colonial epoch in the transport history of Namibia, shortly before the Germans arrived. The major routes of this map are listed in Appendix Table 1 at the end of this publication. From this table it can be concluded that the pre-colonial Namibian roads network was well established, especially in the southern and central parts of the country. Adequate ox-wagon roads were in existence as far north as the Ugab River and as far as to Outjo with a track leading to the central parts of Owamboland, to the Waterberg and the area around Grootfontein. The southern and central Namibian roads system of this time was mainly orientated towards the Orange drifts at the border to the Cape Colony with some very prominent roads to the Atlantic coast, the two "Bay Roads" to Angra Pequeña (South Bay Road) and to Walvis Bay (North Bay Road), respectively. These two important east-west transport links are among the most outstanding examples of road construction during the pre-German era of the Namibian history of roads.
Palgrave Photo Album: Bethany to Berseba RoadThe great war between Nama and Herero in the years 1880 to 1890 ended a period of relative peace and progress. This peaceful period was most probably related to the tremendous expansion of trade and consequently establishment of the ox-wagon roads system at this time. It were the European traders who had been the main beneficiaries of this peaceful period. The traders, for instance, were able to supply Herero-speaking chiefs with guns and ammunition. Due to the increased influx of European capital and the expansion of trade more roads came into being. But it has to be observed that subsequently these roads increasingly served the economic interests of the European communities and, since the beginning of the German period in Namibia, the strategic interests of the colonial power. The last war between Herero and Nama in the 1880s ended all road building activities before the German administration began a new chapter in the history of roads in Namibia.
As has been shown, the first road building activities on record in the Namibian history are those of early nomadic communities in the western parts of Namibia which can be dated back as far as approximately 1250 A.D., and also of the Namas and Orlams of the south, as well as of Schmelen, Afrikaner and the German missionaries of the "Rhenish Mission". It is significant to note that these first Namibian road building efforts were not so much pursued to improve north-south road links between Namaland and the South African Cape Colony but rather east-west links between the Atlantic coast and the Namibian interior. These first road construction activities aimed at reducing Namibia's dependence on South Africa, and furthermore to create beneficial short east-west transport links to the open sea and to avoid the long, dangerous road to South Africa through the barren, rugged and waterless areas in the Namibian Great Namaqualand and the northern parts of the Cape Colony. Towards the end of the 19th century an extended and integrated roads system existed between the eastern parts of present-day Namibia and Botswana . Many links of the well developed network of the ox-wagon roads of the pre-colonial time disappeared after the arrival of the German colonial power in Namibia. They were, furthermore, never re-established by the South African mandatory power. This fact is sufficient evidence that east-west transport links were not in the interest of the South Africans, a fact which will later be proved in this publication. It has, however, also to be noted that roads running in a north-south direction to the Cape Colony in South Africa were a prominent transportation feature in the pre-German time, even if no very distinct north-south road construction activities can be reported due to a lack of historic data.
However, it is even more significant that it were not only Europeans but many Namibian indigenes who initiated and built roads in Namibia during the 19th century. The tendency of indigenes to build roads on their own was continued even until far into the German colonial epoch. For instance, during 1906 it was reported that Damaras built more than 100 miles of new roads between Ais [Ais/Otjihorongo (Okomahana) on "Kriegskarte" of 1904] and Sesfontein . The many examples of road building initiatives in the 19th century could most probably only be exercised in a free, non-colonial environment. The example of the Ais-Sesfontein road can be explained by the fact that the area between Sorris Sorris at the Ugab River and Sesfontein was by 1906 not under firm German control. To the writer's knowledge, it is the last example of any road construction undertaken by Namibians before the colonial structure destroyed the will of the people to pursue any such further activities. Their ability to continue would have been reduced and then eliminated by colonial control and by the fact that many of the old Namibian roads and trade flows associated with them would have been inimical to the new colonial objectives of the German and much later the South African periods.