Squeezed in the back of the car between two car seats, occupied by a toddler and a 3-month-old, off we were to Waenhuiskrans – also known as Arniston – for the weekend. An easy 2-hour drive (depending on traffic and toilet breaks) makes it a cool local spot to explore over a weekend.
I say weekend because I can only imagine that over the holiday seasons this place loses its peace and quiet. And a true, local Arniston experience is for sure not one crammed with massive crowds on the beach or a queue to get into the cave. That just wouldn’t be authentic, now would it?
The Waenhuiskrans cave
The Waenhuiskrans cave is only accessible at low tide. This we knew beforehand so we carefully planned our day around it. We didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
With the wind-disturbed Indian ocean on our one side and soft-curved sand dunes on the other, we followed the sign posts and headed in the direction of the cave.
An easy walk from the parking area led to a steep set of steps down to a rocky beach. Once at the bottom, we were confronted by a rather aggressive man, adamant that we shouldn’t go any further because it was too dangerous. In spite of his insisting tone, we thanked him for his concern, bid him and his booze party farewell, and continued towards the cave.
Keeping to the right, we followed the rugged limestone wall over rocks and ridges, through puddles and under arches. We passed a pebbled cave on the right without giving it much attention. We hurried along as the sea startled us with crashing waves on the rocks nearby.
Around the next corner, we stumbled into one helluva of a fisherman’s party. Half of them sorting out rods and hooks; the other half donning their rain coats on a rocky ledge, trying to stand their ground as waves came crashing over.
Again, someone stopped us and told us that it’s really dangerous out here – especially with kids. His tone gentle, yet serious. Clearly we missed the low tide, because from this angle there was no way we’d be able to enter the cave.
Hearts sunken, we turned around when we couldn’t go any further without being smashed against the rocks by the waves. Passing by the fishermen again, we stopped to ask someone when the next low tide would be. “It’s low tide right now,” said one man. His eyes bloodshot and a bit confused.
“Are you looking for the cave?”
We nodded, not wanting to inhale his alcohol breath. “Oh,” he said. “It’s back that way.” He pointed to the first unimpressive cave we passed by earlier.
“There’s a small opening in the back of the wall of that cave. Climb through it to get to the Waenhuiskrans cave.”
Relieved, we thanked him for his help and headed off.
Did you know?
The town was originally named after the cave (Waenhuiskrantz in its original Dutch spelling) and only much later; after the tragic sinking of a British East Indiaman, the Arniston; did it gain its second name in memory of those who lost their lives.
Why Waenhuiskrans? Well, funnily enough, that’s how people described the size of the cave. It was said to be large enough for a wagon with a full span of oxen to turn around inside.
We’ve heard about another secret cave in Arniston which we’ll definitely explore next time. Do you know of any other cool caves in the area?