THE AUS REGION

In the German language the word “Aus” means “finished” or “The End”. To the unknown traveller this would sound more like a warning not to go there, but how surprised he will be once he stands on the edge of the Huib Plateau, gazing down at the Southern Namib Desert taking its declining course towards the Atlantic Ocean 125km (73 miles) further West. In the indigenous language the name “Aus” means “The place of snakes” or “Snake Fountain” - we are unsure why this place is put into connotation with the reptile as we have never really come into contact with any, but it would seem logical that snakes do inhabit the majestic mountain ranges and Inselbergs (“Island Mountains” one such historically being called “Fat Willem” after Germany’s chancellor during the 1st World War). Attractions in the Aus area are not constituted by the magnificent view alone, but also by the historical monuments reminding of the end of the German colonial era in 1915. 10km towards the coast guests will find the man-made waterpoint of “Garub”, the most probable location to see and experience the Wild Horses of the Namib Desert. One certain stop should be made at the Aus Information Centre, situated just off the B4 at the entrance to the small (tiny) town, where guests can grab a bite to eat and get a deep insight into the historical, ethnical and geological background of this magnificent place in Southern Namibia. The Aus region, reaching down to the Atlantic Ocean, is typified by the Succulent Karoo. Its’ climatic characteristics make it different from all other deserts in the world with a botanical diversity that is unparalleled by any other arid region on earth making it the world’s only plant hotspot that is entirely arid. This ecoregion is home to more than 5,000 higher plant species, nearly 40 percent of which are endemic, and 18 percent of which are threatened. It has the richest succulent flora in the world, harbouring about one-third of the world’s approximately 10,000 succulent species. Other unique features include the diversity of miniature succulents (435 spp.) and geophytes (bulb-like plants 630 spp.). The ecoregion is also a centre of diversity and endemism for reptiles and many invertebrate taxa, especially monkey beetles (Rutelinae: Hoplinii).

The Wild Horses of the Namib Desert

The wild horses of the Namib Desert hold an irresistible fascination for any traveller. The first question the first visitor undoubtedly asks is: “how on earth can any animal, never mind a horse, survive in such an arid environment?” For centuries their origin was shrouded in mystery. Their habitat, the barren plains around Garub on the eastern fringe of the Namib Desert, really is no paradise! Nevertheless they have managed to adapt to the harsh conditions over many generations – their need for water is strongly reduced to drinking every second or third day, while their digestive system has adapted to absorbing the maximum of nutrients from the sparse vegetation found in the area. Their forebears, once in the service of man, are believed to descend from South African army horses that scattered during a German raid during the 1st World War and inhabit the Namib desert ever since.

The Aus Prisoner Camp

The Aus Prisoner of War Camp consists of an area scattered with the last remains of clay buildings erected by the German POW soldiers after their surrender to the South African forces in 1915. The 1,438 prisoners were guarded by 600 garrison troops, which consisted mainly of South African soldiers unfit for duty in WW1. A condition of the agreement was that all non-commissioned officers and troops of the active forces and police would be held prisoner until the end of the war in a tented camp near Aus. The German POW’s baked their own clay bricks and build their own houses, which were slightly submerged to combat the ice-cold wind the area of Aus is known for, and these are the remnants the visitor can still see to this day (Aus is one of the coldest places in Namibia in winter and in September 1915 the climatic conditions varied to include blazing heat followed by snow and sandstorms). In November 1918, the Great War (WW1) was over. On the 13th May 1919 the camp was officially closed and the prisoners-of-war were no longer incarcerated at the camp near Aus. Most of these prisoners were deported back to Germany straight afterwards. The Prisoner-of-War Camp was proclaimed a national monument on 15th June 1985 and is situated about 5km east of Aus off the tar road to Rosh Pinah.

The Aus Military Cemetery

The Aus military cemetery is the final resting place of German and South African military troops that perished in the influenza pandemic that struck the Aus area in 1918. During the months of November and December a total of 65 German Prisoner of War soldiers and 60 South African guardsmen perished, the graves still very well visible from the B4 tar road and open to the public.