Text by Ron Swilling
The small village, initially called !Aus or Snake Fountain by the early hunter-gatherers who were attracted to the area, has a history that belies its appearance. The settlement was once the last source of water before the unforbidding expanse of desert that led to the coast. The Bay Road was used by ox wagons for the long, dry stretch to Lüderitz (Lüderitzbucht) at the beginning of the twentieth century. When the railway line was completed in 1906, traders and farmers were attracted to the area, and a hotel, café, shops and a post office were built.
Aus played an important part as a trading post for the diamond rush that raged through the south-western section of German South West Africa in 1908 when people flocked to the area, and soon developed into
an urban centre. It was also a German stronghold in World War I and missed – by a hair’s breadth – being the centre of a major confrontation between German and Union of South Africa troops. Although entrenched in fine fortifications, the Germans were vastly outnumbered. Upon the news of Union troops approaching from multiple directions, they quickly evacuated the area.
The rubble of a prisoner-of-war camp erected on the outskirts of Aus to house non-commissioned officers is still visible today, as are the graves of those who died in an influenza epidemic. When the turmoil of war had settled, people returned to farm in the vicinity and Aus remained a small village influenced over the years by the rise and decline of karakul farming.
Aus is a good stopover point to refill fuel tanks and pause for a drink or a bite to eat on the deck of the Bahnhof Hotel. Accommodation is offered at the Bahnhof and Namib Garage Guest House in Aus and at Klein Aus Vista, two kilometres further west.
This post originally appeared in the Travel News Namibia Autumn 2013 edition.