I wish I had a well-crafted answer to the question that often follows my proclamation that I am about to set off on another adventure. When people ask “Why do you want to go there?”, instead of listing all the special sights and things unique to my chosen destination, I am known to reply over-enthusiastically with a crazy gleam in my eye “I want to go everywhere!” Of course, being back from Namibia, I wonder why I didn’t say that I wanted to experience one of the highest sand dunes in the world, to see the place where desert meets the sea and of course profess my love for any country within the African content. If I am being kind, I can spin some story about how my passion and thirst to explore overwhelms me and confuses my words. But we all know I do not have a penchant for being kind, least of all with myself, so I shall have to settle for the fact that I am neither clever nor sharp witted. Excuse me while I go cry in the corner.
Okay, now that that’s done, perhaps I should get back to Namibia. Landing in the barren sandiness of the desert that surrounds the airport, the warmth of the dry air felt unexpectedly light on my face. Perhaps I expected the ferocity of the dessert heat, a rough, calloused hand upon my throat, but instead Walvis Bay laid a gentle hand upon my arm that seemed to say “Welcome African sister”. I decided at once that I would love Namibia and so strong was that love that I almost forgot that it was not the country of my birth. When asked where I was from, genuine surprise would narrow my eyes and force my smile to retreat before I realised that I was in actual fact from South Africa and well, not Namibia.
Setting off towards Swakopmund, I kicked off my shoes and, anticipating a long car ride, I scrounged around in my oversized bag and triumphantly rescued a packet of chips from certain doom. Chips I one hand, book in another, I felt adequately prepared for the road trip. What I was totally unprepared for, was the magnitude of the beauty of my surroundings. A static ocean of sand, soft waves of pale, golden smoothness. The sun rushed towards the great mounds, illuminating ripples of stillness, following every curve and adding depth and variety of colour that seemed almost impossible. A light breeze picked up a sandy shawl from one mound and laid it gently on another. The silence of the dunes spoke to me, the unbroken music cajoled me. I could not bear to look away. It was only the sight of the ocean, with the sun burning a path towards the horizon, that finally drew my gaze away from the golden enchantress. The sun seemed to light the water on fire, brightening the blue against the starkness of the surrounding desert. Movement met stillness, sound met silence. Beauty made perfect though it’s stark contradiction.
It was only a day later that I would finally meet the desert head on. Literally. As it turns out, one should always pay attention to the instructions given before attempting sandboarding. But more about that in my next blog. Where I found myself that first evening on Namibian soil, was at the ocean. Cool, white sand beneath my feet, the sun melted into the horizon as the waves rhythmically crashed to shore. It seemed as though I could watch the sun set forever, a bright orange disc that dissolved into the ocean leaving behind a blush of red staining the horizon. In less than a day, Namibia had stolen my heart and taken my breath away more times than I could have ever dreamed possible.