One of the first lodge managers employed at Canyon Lodge was a 19-year-old man in his prime. At the time, Canyon Lodge was surrounded by a scattering of distant farms, the massive Fish River Canyon and a vast tract of arid land. Tourism was still taking off in Namibia and the lodge was small and isolated. The closest sign of civilisation was in the settlement of Grünau, 130 kilometres away, and Keetmanshoop, 157 kilometres further. The remoteness of his location was naturally taking its toll on the romantic aspirations of this young man.
But the dedicated Stephan stayed put for six years. On the arrival of every green bus filled with a motley collection of guests, Stephan would study the faces in eager anticipation, hoping for an attractive young woman to emerge. He was usually disappointed, however, as the women were middle-aged or older, irreversibly wrinkled, short of a limb or more ample than comfortable.
At that time in 1996 southern Namibia was still relatively underdeveloped, with a telephone line that still worked through an old exchange system. This meant that the caller would need to phone the operator, who would connect them to the required number. In doing so, he or she would invariably ask: “Nommer, asseblief?” (“Number, please?”)
It stands to reason that it’s not ideal for young men in their prime to be away from their peers and the possibility of love and partnership. And so it was that Stephan began to dream of romance. Whenever he phoned the head office in Windhoek, he would speak to the operator, Helga, in Grünau. Helga had a golden, honeyed voice that made the lonely man’s heart flutter. He naturally began to fantasise about the woman sitting on the other end of the line. At the office in Windhoek, they began to notice an increasing amount of phone calls from Canyon Lodge.
After many months Stephan finally built up the courage to invite Helga to dinner at the lodge. To his incredible delight she accepted. The table was set for two, the candles were lit for the romantic evening and the driver was sent to fetch her from town.
As the door of the vehicle opened Stephan could hardly contain his excitement. And then in an instant his dreams were shattered. His error was so painfully clear, even in the flattering colours of the setting sun. Helga was years older than his mother. The fantasy that he had created around her voice did not match the reality that stepped out of the car. But, she did have a splendid voice!
We’re not sure where life eventually took Stephan, but he resigned and left Canyon Lodge soon after that disappointing meeting - we hope to greener pastures with a more suitable lady.