Wild Horses of the Namib
In South Western Namibia, in Karas district, lies a town famous for just about nothing.
Nestled halfway between the middle, and nowhere, Aus sits astride a black ribbon of tarmac that divides the stark sands of the Namib desert in two.
Just outside of town, near the bullet-riddled carcass of an old Hudson purportedly used as a getaway vehicle by diamond smugglers, is Garub pan.
Garub pan was the site of a South African encampment during the First World War, some 10,000 troops and 6,000 horses were billeted there before they followed the retreating Germans deeper into Namibia..
Those days are long gone and all signs of the troops too. All signs except one; they left some horses behind.
The horses of Garub Pan are feral and wild, now part of the Namib, as firmly entrenched as any other local wildlife. For more than 100 years these horses have roamed the land. Through drought and plenty they have somehow survived, against all odds, wild and free.
Left isolated and alone deep in the desert the wild horses have developed into a hardy breed of their own, named the ‘Namib’. They have come to characterise a stark and seldom visited area of the world and embody a spirit of unlikely survival that charms everyone.
Between 80-250 horses roam an area of about 450km2. The numbers fluctuate because they live and die at the whim of the rains and scarce grazing. They are an important Namibian icon and in the really harsh years people rally to provide fodder and to ensure the water runs at Garub Pan - if nowhere else.
The wild horses are particularly interesting because there are now so few populations in the world. Think about it, most horses live on farms in small tightly controlled groups. There are very few wild horses which are allowed, by man, to live within their natural and ancient social structures.
I visited Garub Pan in April 2016, I spent just a couple of mornings at the Pan and at the time I was disappointed that I hadn’t really seen much of the horses, just a few individuals.
Reading more about the horses, I realised that there are not very many at all, especially when one considers the size of their range - just one horse for every 2 or 3 square kilometres.
The few that I did see stirred my heart. Their long, unkempt manes flow in the hot wind. Stark, leafless mountains at their back and bright, hard, skies overhead. There is no mercy here and nature doesn't have a light touch.
I watched a few collect at the waters edge, dull, dusty coats barely concealing the ridges of their ribs.
Some looked up at me as they drank and despite their spare bodies, there was no concealing the bright, intelligent eyes; they looked proud and perfect in their desert.
When we left Garub, a few days later, I felt that I was leaving too soon and that perhaps I had missed this opportunity. I didn't know if I would ever get back to try again.
Now, a year-and-a-half later, I have finally processed the images from Garub and looking through them, I know without doubt, that I will be going back.