It’s hard to say what’s the most depressing feature of this Kolmanskop tour — seeing this once-glamorous Germanic town slowly disappear beneath dunes of sand, or the museum of old mining implements — considered the cornerstone of the tour. Admittedly, this former diamond mine — abandoned in 1954 after supplies were exhausted — does have an interesting past. Even though it’s located in the middle of the Namib Desert, it was built to look like a quaint German village so that the German staff would feel right at home. After you buy a permit at the town’s front gate to enter, you too can feel right at home — but only if by right at home you mean walking once-grand residences knee-deep in sand.
Nothing says ‘holiday’ quite like donning a radiation suit and signing a lengthy waiver releasing the tour company of any liability should you contract cancer as a result of your visit. Then again, Prypiat — affectionately known as ‘The Dead Zone’ — is hardly your average holiday town. Established in the early ’70s, primarily to service the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Prypiat’s 49,360 residents were hastily evacuated one day after the 1986 nuclear disaster and it has remained abandoned — and highly radioactive — ever since. Yes, the rules of visiting are long (no touching of vegetation, no placing bags on ground, etc…), but not only will you get to see the land slowly reclaim the town’s amusement park, pool and schools, you’ll also be treated to both lunch (made from ‘clean food from the outside’) as well as a radiation screening on conclusion. Yay!
Hashima Island, Japan
There are a lot of reasons to give Japan’s high profile ‘Ghost Island’ a miss; namely because it’s become popular with hipster bloggers and photo ‘essayists’. But persevere with the 15km boat ride out from Nagasaki and you will be gifted with the feeling of being dropped into a music video by The Smiths, all grainy, dilapidated buildings falling around you and misery. So. Much. Misery. It wasn’t always like this, of course. For nearly a quarter of a century, Hashima was a bustling coal mining facility that had some 5,000 workers, plus a supermarket, school and cinema. But when the coal ran out in 1974, so did the worker’s luck and they were soon deported back to the mainland, effectively leaving the island abandoned for 30 years. Although it was reopened to tourists in 2009, the state of deterioration is such that travellers speak of large sheets of concrete dropping down around them. BYO hardhat, anyone?
You have to admire a destination that can take on nearby tourism winners such as glacier hiking and ice-climbing and still come out on top as an attraction worth seeing — particularly when your biggest sell is ‘a mill tour’. But Kennecott somehow does it in spades. Formerly a copper mining camp, it was abandoned in the late 1930s when ore supplies were depleted and workers jumped ship, leaving all of their personal effects behind. Over the years much has happened at Kennecott — its complete destruction was ordered yet never completed after workers got bored and nearby residents looted what they could. But you can still see the remaining structures and items that were clearly stapled down on three daily tours.
Covered in a thick carpet of volcanic ash littered with charred cars and tree stumps, this capital city of this tiny island in the West Indies isn’t going to feature on any ‘cruise the Caribbean’ brochures any time soon. Destroyed after a series of killer volcanic eruptions between 1995 and 1997, the town — still inexplicably the capital of Montserrat — was soon evacuated with residents never to return. Currently, the only way to tour the area is via helicopter, however those with a passing interest in death and destruction shouldn’t lose hope; over the past year, taxi drivers and tour guides from the general area have been participating in trial runs for upcoming tours into what is known as ‘the exclusion zone’. Stayed tuned.
There is much we can blame American entrepreneur Henry Ford for (globalisation, global warming, Fords, etc…), but perhaps the perfect counterbalance to all this is Fordlandia, his vision to create a slice of Americana, deep in the heart of Brazil’s rainforest. Created in the late 1920s as a way to increase rubber production cheaply, Ford built an American village (complete with enforced line-dancing), and for a while things looked good. That is, until the Brazilian workers (rightly) revolted about enforced line dancing, plus the introduction of synthetic rubber meant Fordlandia was no longer needed. Fordlandia still sees a bit of action from squatters but if you really want to visit, you can look forward to a three flights, followed by a three-day boat ride from Belém. Enjoy!
This Southern Italian medieval town has endured a lot of agony since the ’60s — 1963 saw a massive landslide, in 1972 it was hit with a disastrous flood and in 1980 it was crippled by an earthquake after which all remaining residents fled. And, if that’s not enough, in 2004 Mel Gibson fronted up with his camera crew to film The Passion of the Christ. If you’re keen to see the once-picturesque monastic centre and town, which is now overgrown and plundered within an inch of its life, you can either take a guided tour of its once-proud university, castle and numerous plazas, or you can save yourself some money and just watch it loom in the background of movies such as Quantum of Solace and Wonder Woman.
Let’s be clear; going to China to see the Eiffel Tower is like going to a brothel for a poetry gland slam — confusing and disorientating. But if you’re keen to avoid the eight million plus tourists who descend on the City of Lights like locusts each year, checking in at Tianducheng, essentially a replica of the famous city, might be your best bet. Located in the middle of farmland, work began on the luxury real estate development in 2007 with hopes that its 354-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower and Parisian-style cafes would draw hordes of both visitors and residents. It didn’t happen and the town now sits eerily empty since development was halted. Still, it’s worth a look.
Since it became a national park in 1960s, Bodie — a former gold mining ghost town located just east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range — has been labelled by the media as THE Gold Rush Town of the Wild, Wild, West. To everyone else who has actually visited, however, it’s known as, ‘the one place you don’t ever want to take home a souvenir from’. Said to be haunted since the mine was abandoned in 1913, visitors often speak of walking Bodie’s deserted streets and feeling like they’re being held down by ‘forces’ invisible to them. The park’s rangers also receive countless letters each year from visitors who want to return items they stole during the town tour, explaining that the items appear to be cursed. Best avoid the gift shop.
BY DILVIN YASA
For the full article grab the May 2016 issue of MAXIM Australia.
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