Part One: 23 December 2006

The sun is baking down on my back, the sweat jogging down my forehead, the miggies biting all sorts of places – it is on a small rocky outcrop that my companion and I are taking a short power-nap and lunch break. We have been exploring the crevices and shapes of the granite hills all morning and, thanks to the Namibian heat, are drained of most of our energy. The wind is a godsend. The ever-increasing cloud cover is to me like water is to the desert. We are surrounded by giant-sized boulders in a land where only the fittest survive. As we headed off yesterday for the areas surrounding Aus in southern Namibia, with no plans, our only concern was be back at work in Luderitz in a day’s time. The first day off in three weeks and we are taking full advantage of it.

After checking out two potential camping spots yesterday in Aus, we got chatting to a local man who pointed us in this direction. Onto yet another dirt road, in yet another jaw-dropping setting, we camped in the open for the night. The sunset always takes priority, and so we climbed up the back of what seemed to be the equivalent of Ayres Rock, fully loaded with cameras and leftovers for supper. Almost two hours were dedicated to capturing one of the most spell-binding day’s ends I have experienced. After clicking away enraptured, I christened the moment ‘the orgasm sunset’. But it was more then that. The moment was there, we were living it, and that is as much as anybody else will be able to understand.

With the fading colours came the contrast of the white-on-black, star-filled African sky. Lying in my sleeping bag looking up, at that moment I was at total peace with everything. If contentment could be personified, it would have been me.

This morning began with flicking a fly from my face, something which occupied one hand continuously for the entire day. Peeking at the day through half-open eyes, the early colours passed on the gardens of boulders surrounding me. Not one to attempt sleep with the buzzing of increasing number of flies, I sleepily put on my shoes and met the path for a run. Forgetting how unforgiving the land can be, I found myself straining in the early morning heat. Nature’s grace diverted me with some good-humoured consolations: a herd of springbok playfully nuzzling one another; a diversity of fresh spoor running in all directions; a few birds of prey following in my wake. All creatures busily going about their duties before the heat set in … nature’s logic. The bathing-from-a-pot episode to follow was something which brought memories streaming back. The family holidays camping in the Richtersveld, in the north-western corner of South Africa, were also characterised by a limited supply of the precious commodity of water. Now I find myself without the people who mean the most to me, in a place that we all would love. So as I sit here now in the sweltering heat, sweating what seems to be a little river onto this thirsty environment, nostalgia places her hand on my shoulders as I count my blessings and give thanks for all I have been given in life.

Part Two: 28 December 2006

To my right, Cookie (the little fuel-burning stove which a friend and I bought some time ago for our European travels) spits and burps while attempting to boil water for yet another cup of tea. To my left, the onion and sweet potato cosily bedded in tinfoil hiss on the coals as the flames dance behind them. In front of me is the raw openness of the Namibian grass planes, soon to be mere sand if the rain forgets to fall.

I am camped out on a huge slab of rock, raised like a muffin from my view of shimmering gold. As the sun sinks, Cookie gives one last splutter as the fuel burns out, leaving me with luke-warm water for my tea. To compensate for this half-hearted effort, the ‘grub’ on the red hot embers begins to let off the sweetest of smells. The wind is still warm and the dusk colours settle over the horizon. In the distance, the goat herders collect the remains of fallen trees for their fire after rounding up their stock for the night. Theirs too will be a meal from the flames. In the boulders of magnificent size behind me, a call echoes from the throat of yet another bird I wish I could identify. At least I can point out the pale-chanting goshawk and it’s foe, the grave-looking lapped-faced vulture.

Thinking back on the day’s events, I have to laugh at myself and my sometimes over-eager spirit for adventure. It has been a few weeks since I was last in this giant granite-strewn landscape near Aus, and I turned off onto the same dusty track leading into the endless stretching space. This time I travel solo, keen to explore more of this environment which previously whetted my appetite. This over-eagerness of which I speak resulted in my small Corsa bakkie spending many hours unwillingly perched on a thorny Acacia bush. I attempted to drive over this particular obstacle at speed instead of veering around it. I now realize why off-road vehicles are rather more raised than your average motor car, or smaller light-weight bakkie, as in my case. The situation was ironic, as my reason for not leaving the tracks in the first place was for fear of getting stuck in the soft sand. For about an hour I tried, in vain, to solve my sticky situation. This included a lot of laborious cutting, digging and sand removing. Eventually I gave in to the realization that I was not Super Woman and I may need some help. Luckily, I was not too far out of Aus so I put on my running gear and back-tracked. This time on foot, my gung-ho attitude was completely squashed, as if it were the bush on which my vehicle burdened its entire weight.

In town I found the gentleman who had recommended the giant boulder gardens to me a few weeks prior to my current visit. With a bottle of the local Tafel lager accessorising his left hand, he greeted me warmly as if we were old friends. I sheepishly recalled the events of the past few hours and he was determined to play the part of knight in shining armour. If I were living in a fairy tale, my rescuer would have been tall, well-toned and exotic looking. Instead, I got an aged, short, round-bellied garage owner with a thick Namibian-German accent. Well, I guess he could also be described as exotic. Then again, he might also have preferred to have his damsel-in-distress cut out from a glossy magazine, not looking and smelling like someone who had just run for an hour-and-a-half in the merciless heat. So with beer still in hand (and a few more loaded on the back of his bakkie … just in case), we made our way towards the pitiful little vehicle, with an even more pitiful bush of thorns beneath it.

Once again, I refer to off-road vehicles and how important it is to have the correct one for certain areas. My knight in his 4X4 took a mere 45 seconds to attach a tow rope to my 2X4-posing-as-a-4X4 vehicle, relieve the bush of its unwelcomed gazebo and open another beer (celebratory purposes, of course). To add to my gratification, he informed me that the track we were on became extremely sandy further on and eventually dwindled out. He pointed me in the direction I would want to head for more exploring. Luckily, I was able to thank him with my last two Tafels, as he would clearly run dry on his return at the rate he was quenching his thirst. Even though he did not leave on horse-back as I would have my fantasy evolve, it was unfortunate to see him leave. However, this allowed me to roam the entire area by myself, selfishly luxuriating myself in the beauty.

Another echoing bird-call rips me back to the present. My sleeping bag is inviting. The sky, still touched with a bold blueness, begins to fill with white pinpricks. My eyes become heavy. As the minutes pass I drift in and out of sleep, fighting to keep my eyes open to imprint the beauty above me. But when the body has been exposed to the harsh desert sun and wind all day, the eyelids choose to close, despite the unwillingness of the determination of the mind. The sun will show its face in the morning, touching each exposed surface of the now-darkened stretches surrounding me.

Another day brings opportunities and experiences to which I am excited to wake up. I might even cross paths with another exotic knight. But for now, the damsel rests her head. The k-less night will suffice.