Henno’s Cave

When the Second World War broke out there were two German geologists working in Namibia who decided that they’d really rather not get involved. Henno Martin and Hermann Korn knew they would be enlisted to fight in a war they didn’t believe in so they decided to hide out in Namibia instead. They set a false trail for any investigators and then, with their dog Otto they traveled into the desert about 40K from Mirabib (but a heck of a lot further from anywhere with people). There they found a large cave in which they built a shelter and worked out how to be self- sufficient and unseen, something they managed to be for about two years. Finding their cave was my goal for the day.

It was pretty cold overnight and although it was hard to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag, it was actually warmer outside as the sun reached into our campsite.

 

 Up for porridge and hot chocolate and then we packed the tents away and reluctantly left that very special rock.

The main gravel road was only half an hour or so away and we saw dust trails in the distance as the handful of cars on it swished by. Henno’s cave was marked on the satnav and soon we were on another 4×4 trail to get a bit closer to it. There is even a parking area at the end of it overlooking a huge system of river gorges and ravines.

We picked our way along a rocky path and after fifteen minutes or so reached a rocky overhang with a couple of stone walls inside it.

 

It looked out over the gorges and the – now dry – river which was so essential to Henno and Hermann and had one or two permanent pools where they even found fish. It was hard to imagine them living there for two years – especially in the winter without luxury of our warm sleeping bags, and too scared to light fires for fear of being seen.
As we turned back we saw our parking area was full of vehicles and tourists, Most going to a viewpoint a few feet from their cars where their guide showed them the speck of Henno’s cave way off in the distance. Then they all got in their 4x4s and left in a sedate little convoy. We went further along the rim of the gorge for a dramatic lunch overlooking the view. Well the view was dramatic…
From there we drove on to the Kuiseb pass which curls steeply through the mountains, back wheels struggling for grip at times. Near the river I spotted a couple of ancient round stone houses, now roofless.

The desert was beginning to change, The pale sand of the Namib replaced by the deep red of the Kalahari basin, and dotted with many more plants. The mountains looming up either side of us were darker too – and wider and more craggy. It was a dramatic drive in the late afternoon sunshine. On a whim we stopped at tiny Solitaire to see if we could get a cold drink from the garage, and found that it had the most magnificent bakery with fancy cakes and biscuits, which obviously we bought by the bag-full.

There was a grocery selling ice-cream too so Tom had some of that. Outside were the wrecks of a range of cars going back to at least the 1950s.

 

 It was a really funky little place and a great stop. P and I got coffee to go and we scoffed some of the cakes in the truck as we drove on. We arrived eventually at Tsauchab River camp, and our site is in the shade of a large fig tree on the stony riverbank. The sun was setting as we got the tent up. It’s going to be cold…

Author: Richard Lister

Chasing horizons...

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