To my 50th birthday Fenny had a wonderful birthday present for me.
A few days on a so called "Astrofarm" and the rental of a whole observatory in Namibia.
Renting an observatory was a big dream of mine for a couple of years.
After some research, she found the "Hakos Astrofarm" in the Gamsberg mountains of Namibia.
This place (at ra. 1800m) shall be one of the best places for Astrophotography in the world.
The farm - which basically is a guestfarm with campsites - offered 3 different observatories
and lots of different astro-equipment for renting... perfect for me... and finally my big dream should come true.
Excited as I was, I instantly began to research.
What stars could I see in December, what part of the milkyway would be visible and how many nebulas and other deepsky objects could I photograph?
At the 20th of November I wrote an email to Waltraud and Friedhelm (the owners), asking for 3-5 days in January. I also asked questions about the equipment and what rigs they would/could recommend for some stunning night-sky photos.
Furthermore I asked them, what I should or could prepare and what equipment I would need to bring with me.
2 weeks later I got an answer from Waltraud.
"Thanks for the booking" (did I book already???)
"Everything's possible", she would talk to Friedhelm about this and will get back to me later.
A few days later I got another email, telling me, that Friedhelm might be out at this date,
and that she hasn't any knowledge about all the stuff, but there's Jürgen, which could be of help,
but as he had a dead fall in his family, he might be out at this date, too (eh?... alright?)
December arrived and Fenny and me began our journey to Namibia. I wrote another email to Waltraud, telling her, that we're already here right now and that we'll see us in January. She answered, that she's looking forward to us and whished us a nice travel.
At the 27th of December we basically finished our Namibia journey. A bit too early, but we've already seen everything. And we still had 10 days left.
What to do now?
Fenny and me immediately decided to visit the Hakos Astrofarm earlier and planned to probably stay there for 10 days.
Again I wrote an email to Waltraud (at the 27th of Dec.) and asked her about the possibility and again about the recommended equipment.
She immediately answered, that we could come along and we talk about all the stuff, when we're there. So we drove back 576 KM from the Fishriver Canyon to the Hakos Farm. When we arrived at the Hakos Mountains and the Gamsberg, the sky was cloudy and it rained... so probably no "seeing" this evening. ("seeing" is astro-photographers slang for "visibility of the sky")
The Hakos Farm was located between the Hakos Mountains up a beautiful hill and we already saw the camp-sites, which have been 800m away from the main structures.
We entered the house and I asked for Waltraud. An elderly person came and I intruduced me as "Thorsten" and that we had email-contact yesterday.
"Ah... yes...ähm...Thorsten... you wanted to do Astrophotograpy, right?
I told her, that we're planning to stay here for 10 days, but it depends on what they could offer and I told her, that I need power, internet and a proper place for our tent, for keeping distances as short as possible. Again I asked her about a recommendation for equipment and she told me, that today in the morning, Friedhelm decided to go on vacation for a couple of days and she couldn't be of any help, as she doesn't know anything about our hobby. I asked for Jürgen, but even he shouldn't have any knowledge about all the tech stuff and she also mentioned, that Friedhelm will be back at the 2nd of January (wasn't it the date, she told us in November, when he wouldn't be accessible too?)
We made some (sort of "strange" smalltalk) and we didn't feel any warmth or welcome, rather than being "dumb newbies who're trying to do Astrophotography". At least she gave us this feeling and then she talked about, how much immense work and preparation it takes to shoot some good photos (ah... I didn't know, good that we spoke about it 😉 ).
"Ohhhhkay" (I thought), "why she didn't tell me all that yesterday"?
She offered me to speak with Friedhelm and called him on her mobile phone. "Maybe he's still on the road, otherwise we cannot contact him, as he won't have mobile access at his destination"
Obviously he still was on the road, so we were able to speak together. I again told him all the stuff, which I already told Waltraud several times and he answered, that it's not the best moment now and that he really doesn't know, what to recommend.
The equipment in the observatories is currently disassembled and he doesn't see any other way,
apart from the fact, that the main observatory is only for registered "Amateur-Photographers and not for beginners" (like me).
While we were speaking, the signal has been interrupted.
We waited for a couple of minutes, waiting for Friedhelm for calling us back. But nothing happened.
Then Jürgen came along, heard what we were talking about.
He told us, that he's got a fully working rig, but never tried it. He would give it to us for free, so that we - at least - could do something, without have taken all the way for nothing. He also mentioned, that he has no experience in Astro-Photography and couldn't be of any help, but we're welcome to just try.
"No problem for me... I know your rig a bit and might be able to handle it by myself. Thanks a lot, that sounds great, so far" (glad me)
Suddenly Waltraud intervened, that she still has to ask Friedhelm about this and I thought: "Why?
It's Jürgens private stuff and why she isn't glad, that we at least found a solution for the moment?
Things started to turn out strange
Fenny and me already knew, that we won't be able to rent an observatory, nor any other kind of equipment and asked ourselves, what Waltrauds intention was, when she said, that all that won't be a problem, even if she already knew, that she couldn't offer anything, just maybe a campsite?
We both were amused and shocked at the same time.
I mean, people in Namibia are really strange sometimes, but this kind of behaviour we didn't expect. At least not from a german couple (if I might mention it 😉 )
So we decided to don't stay there and as time was running (it already has been afternoon), we drove down the first part of the Gamsberg pass and searched for a wild place to stay, after I took two photos of the Hakos Farm.
I wrote an email to Waltraud, telling her, that I was pretty much disappointed and that I felt heavily joked. But I didn't feel the necessity of telling her, how such a business needs to run and that she already thrown 500-600€ into her trashcan, just by her ignorance.
And now the really funny part begins
After we both spent a night in a riverbed of the beautiful Gamsberg, the next morning we drove further along the Gamsberg pass and decided to visit to the Spreetshoogte pass, which is approximately 50 KM away from the Hakos Farm (direct distance).
In the afternoon we again needed a place for the night, but it wasn't possible in this area, so we found the "Spreetshoogte Camp", which also lied in the mountains and which offered an absolutely stunning view onto the surrounding valleys.
The campground had 3 campsites, two of them were already occupied.
We met Esther (the owner) there and told her about our experience at the Hakos Farm and that we now don't know, where to go and what to visit.
She instantly began to grin and told us: "Look... your neighbour is the owner of the Hakos Farm"
I: "What???... This is Friedhelm... really?"
Conversation, which wasn't one
Friedhelms rooftop-tent-camper was just 20m away from us and I instantly saw the sticker on his car: "Hakos Guestfarm"
"Ha..." I said, "now it's getting funny... I will visit him and ask him about the actual situation"
"Hey... a wonderful day to you, are you Friedhelm"?
"Yes" (obviously wondering)
"Are you the owner of the Hakos Farm"?
"Yes" (even more wondering)
"... and yesterday you decided to spent some nice days here on this campsite?"
"Yes" (not wondering anymore, but looking kind of ashamed)
"It's me, Thorsten, who wanted to stay on your farm for 10 days, rent an observatory and doing Astro-Photography".
He: (nothing... no word, just looking)
I (after a couple of seconds waiting for some more potential information)
"Please tell your wife, that I'm feeling heavily joked (I was laughing), as I had email conversation with here since 20th of November, and when we arrived, absolutely nothing happend, nor somebody could offer anything".
He: "Oh, I didn't know about it"
I: "Oh, she didn't tell you anything? That's a pity"
He: "No, she didn't"
I (waited for some more words, but there was silence and a stupid, ashamed look)
Then I: "Ok, don't worry, not that bad... we'll spent the 500€ anywhere else. Anyway... have a wonderful time and enjoy your vacation"
He: "You too, bye"
Usually after such a strange conversation I tend to get kind of angry, but I really had to laugh.
He wasn't able to support us - 50 KM away from home?
He wasn't after some good income- just around the corner?
He was just too lazy to speak with us - even if we were super friendly?
No words of regret, not even a tiny "sorry"?
I told Fenny, that we should think about staying here for a couple of days, close to him, taking photos of the sky, the sunset and the night sky, too 😀
We both really don't wanna speak out our thoughts but in germany there's a saying: "Ein Schelm, wer Böses denkt" (Evil to him who evil thinks).
The next day we stood up early for the sunrise and even Friedhelm was awake already, folding up his rooftop tent. Did we shoo him away?
An hour later he left his campsite, but stopped, when he was passing us. He wished us a further nice trip, even if it didn't work out with his farm, but again: no word of feeling sorry.
A few days later (and I didn't expect this), we've got an email from Waltraud. She totally agreed with my disapointment-email and mentioned, that she would have felt exactly the same, when something would have happened to her. Therefore she offered us a free "3 day stay with board and lodging", as well as a proper support for the astrophotography".
Well... as she already knew, that we wouldn't have time anymore to take this offer, this is easily said, but still no reason for us, to come back.
That said: Definitely NO recommendation for the Hakos Astrofarm.