I’ve been in the desert for 2 and half weeks by now, I’d survived a run in with a Rhino, a backbreaking hike up the mountain with a 40kg pack, freezing cold nights in the desert and the blistering heat of sun. It has been tough but worth it. I’m now tanned and lean. The desert heat bothers me no longer, it doesn't' burn but bronzes, the cold nights only brings happiness as the stars shine majestically in the blackness, hunger no longer gnaws at my stomach as we eat ration pack after ration pack, the team now works like a well oiled machine. It still amazes me how quickly the human body adapts, how quickly it gets stronger both physically and mentally. How fast people you’ve only know for a few weeks can become like family. Now after our trek to the wetlands and our week on base camp support we were ready to tackle the great Brandberg Mountain as we try to discover the secrets it holds in its hidden depths.
We entered Middle Base Camp (MBC) just before lunch after an early start. By the time the midday heat was upon us, we already had our camp set up and were sat in the shade eating lunch the usual boil in the bag ration pack. It’s incredible here, the clearing is surrounded by the mountain, bolder stacked upon bolder, with cracks, caves and crevasses to explore, one side of the rock has a huge lightning bolt shaped crack running through it. Once the heat of the day passes we begin our first climb. We split up into small teams of four to cover a larger area as we begin our search. The hours role by as we climb, scramble and duck through caves. Ultimately we were unsuccessful. Nobody said finding the ancient secrets of the mountain was going to be easy.
We rise before sun up to the howls and barks of a baboon troop crying out to the rising sun. I take a deep breath of chilly desert air it's instantly refreshing and reinvigorating. We were all ready for day two and we were determined to succeed. We split up into our 4's and began our pursuit. this time closer to the menacing lightning bolt. After a couple hours we reach our height limit and still we had no luck. Exhausted with sweat drenched clothes and sore legs we move across coming ever closer to the black bolt. We start our transect area and begin the decent.
We were halfway down when i found something worth investigating. I stood atop a slope, a slide that led to only darkness, a black pit in a land of sunshine. I kicked a stone down. It rolled only a short time before landing. Nothing with teeth and claws jumped out. The decision was made. I fixed on my head torch, plucked up my courage and then I slide down into the dark.
I began to crawl forward on my belly heading to the right. Slowly the desert sun is extinguished by the cold unforgiving blackness. The only sound is my own labored breathing. I continued to crawl. My Light revealing an opening not too far away. The gap between the roof and my head was getting ever smaller. My back began to scrape against the roof. It's all I can do not to bang my head. Intense claustrophobia begins to set in like a debilitating poison, down in the dark, cramped, un-moving rock only panic rises. I crawl forward, the skin on my fingers gradually stripped away as i pull myself onward. I pushed on and finally reach the opening. Fear begins to rise like incoming the tide as it pulses through me in waves. What dangers lay beyond? What surprises does the mountain have for us. Everything here wants to kill you; from the wild life to plants to the weather. Somehow I swallowed my fear, and I crawled through the opening, my bare shoulders scraping against the rock as i do and then I fall...
I land heavily, pain ricocheting through my body. I quickly shout a warning to my following team mates before they fall. I pick my self up and take in my surroundings. It's gloomy, there's a little light coming in from above me through the gaps in the boulders. What a sight to behold. I hear the others enter behind me one by one and one by one they gasp at the sight. We'd found what we were looking for. Walls and walls covered in the lost art of the ancient bushmen.
What we didn't know was this was only the beginning...
Latitude 21° 5'20.73"S
Written by Jonny Fairclough
Published by C&J Active