Visiting the Mineral Miners at Hohenstein
Coming from Usakos, the silhouette of the Hohenstein rapidly becomes larger and larger. In the mid-afternoon sun, the huge south-western edge of the Erongo range glows in reddish brown shades. Hohenstein Lodge is my destination.
After crossing a mighty dry river, I take turn D 1935 into the lodge area and arrive within a couple of minutes. I enjoy the cool drink offered by the friendly receptionist and sit down on the observation platform to let the powerful scenery of the Hohenstein work its magic on me. It still is another couple of hours till sunset. The mountain fascinates me. Is there a way to or even up the mountain, I ask. And am told that a hike taking just a couple of hours leads through „Boulder Forest“ up a canyon to the steep granite slopes in the lower third of the mountain. There, so-called ‚Small Miners‘ dig for semi-precious stones like mountain crystal, aquamarines and tourmalines in clefts and veins. ‚Small Miners‘? They are locals working in the mountains and exploring the area for minerals that they sell as small traders. I am interested. As the trail is supposedly well marked, I make sure to pack a lot of water and set off.
I pass through a basin with grass lands and lots of wildlife. After one hour, I reach Boulder Forest, a landscape with abundant bush and tree covering, characterized by large granite boulders. This is where the Hohenstein ascent starts. With the rising altitude, I can see more and more of the vast scenery surrounding the lodge. Ever so often, I diverge from the well-trodden path to climb up a granite structure and enjoy the view.
Far off, the tiny lodge can be seen. After another hour, I spot a couple of tents hovering above me on a small plain close to a steep rock face. Two ‚Small Miners‘ smile friendly at me while I climb the last steep bit to the plain. They explain to me that their mine is right there. And other ones are over there and up above. Proudly, they present their weekly yield. Aquamarines glitter, mountain crystals sparkle in black hands. More than 20 people work and live up here in caves and tents and spend their days digging for minerals. Everyone of them has staked their claim. It is a tedious business. Everything they need for daily life has to be brought up the mountain.
The sun starts to fade, the shadows grow longer, the granite shines red – the mountain almost seems to glow. Large iron pots dangle over fireplaces. One of the workers elegantly slides down the slope on one of the ropes leading up to higher clefts. He goes to his cave and stores the yield of the day. The atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful. On a stone slab, a couple of small aquamarines glitter. Next to them, a ‚Small Miner‘ sits cross-legged with torn clothes and bare chest. He looks over the indefinite vastness towards Spitzkoppe. He seems very content. I hold a crystal-clear light-blue stone against the sun. I need to get back even though up here, time seems to become timeless.
Soon, the voices of the ‚Small Miners‘ on the mountain above me become lower. Going down, I am much faster. I reach the lodge before nightfall. At night, I can see small fires at the mountain. Somehow, they make me feel like one of them.
I was there. I visited the ‚Small Miners‘ at Hohenstein.
More pictures you´ll find in the „Small Miner“ gallery.