Carp Cliff, Namibia – A lonely desert setting for an extraordinary true-life adventure set in the time of the Second World War.
The Namib-Naukluft National Park – the Place Where There is Nothing is a wilderness of gravel plains, rolling dunes and horizons that melt and quiver in the heat haze. Giant winterthorn trees line the riverbeds but the rivers themselves are sometimes bone dry for years on end. I followed one such river, the Huasib, into the heart of these unforgiving barrenlands, to the point where it carves a dramatic canyon through the cindery hills.
This is where two Germans, Hermann Korn and Henno Martin, with their dog Otto, hid for nearly three years to avoid internment by the South Africans during the Second World War. Martin told their story in a book, The Sheltering Desert, in which he graphically describes their solitary lives, shooting game and searching for water in the bottom of the canyon.
Here I visited one of their hideouts, a place they called Carp Cliff, high above the Kuiseb Canyon, where they built a shelter under the rimrock and lived like Neolithic man on whatever game they could catch. At the foot of the cliff I found fresh mountain zebra spoor and remembered Martin’s account of how he and Korn would shoot zebra and gemsbok and turn the meat into biltong.
More than 20 years have passed since I was there but I cannot believe this secret heart of the Sheltering Desert has changed since their extraordinary adventures.
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