Cue epiphany #846

Have you ever seen one of those cheesy coming of age movies? You know, those ones where a mellow song comes on and the protagonist stares out the car window all pensive. Well, my three-week bus trip from Zambia to Capetown was a constant priceless movie moment. The African roadside was the setting, and I was the stargazing traveller.

Days and days of watching country-sized football fields fly by the window, and observing giraffes gently grazing by the side of the road, led me to fall head over heels in love with Africa. About a week into the trip, I entered Namibia – a golden land of desert that is home to ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, and a sizeable segment of my heart.

Whilst preparing for the impending heat, we stocked up on hats, sunscreen, and most importantly, water. Lots and lots of water. Every two days or so, we would stop at a store and have to buy at least one five-litre water container each. Hydration is key.

During the briefing at our campsite one night, our fellow travellers enquired into how much shade there would be; the quality of hand-dug latrines; and the tactical escape plans for any encounters with deadly scorpions. I’m now eternally grateful for tent zippers. It was thrilling to say the least. Camping at its finest.

One of the Dutch girls in our group cautioned us about the desert, mirroring the foreshadowing in a Shakespeare play.

 

“Some people lose themselves in the desert. They go insane. They just can’t take all that raw, open space, and it drives them to madness,” warned one of them.

 

If I’d had a mouthful, I would have gulped. It was terrifying.

But despite the warnings, the next leg of our trip proved to be the most exhilarating travel I’ve ever experienced. There were endless hours of watching uninhabited desert dart past the window, revealing the sun-scorched earth. It ran for as far as my gaping eyes could see.

What to expect from your first African adventure:

  • Layers of sand, on top of sweat, on top of bug spray, on top of sunscreen, on top of more sweat.
  • Getting stage fright when trying to pee behind the truck.
  • Sunrise and sunset yoga in
  • Your washing drying in seconds from the intense dryness of the air.
  • Watching out for scorpions when you need to relieve yourself during the night
  • A starry night so vivid that it envies Van Gogh
  • Sunbathing on mattresses in the middle of the desert
  • Finding yourself trudging aimlessly (and slightly deliriously) across the desert

 

It was somewhat frustrating on the drive to and from Spitzkoppe. The frequent and painful lurches of the bus kept causing my earphones to dislodge themselves, disrupting my movie-moment-window-gazing bliss (as well as the stomach contents of one of the poor Germans).

It was surprising that I found such bewildering beauty in this place that was so bare and expansive. Hello insights! The peaks were surprisingly easy to climb, and we took full advantage of this by perching ourselves high above the sparse trees to behold a flawless sunset. Our vision was only hindered by the natural curvature of the planet.

Cue epiphany #846 from this trip. You know how people argue over whether it’s black with white stripes or white with black stripes? What we witnessed in the sky that particular night would no doubt be considered a white backdrop with fleeting moments of darkness, as the celestial glow that lit up the Sossusvlei sky, as we sat wide-eyed, stunned, and being nibbled by scorpions.

We continued to be exposed to this splendour long into the night in our sand-infested tents. Our unobstructed stargazing blurred into existential questioning. Somewhere amidst all the sleepy “what is life” moments and shooting star anticipation, I fell into the most restful sleep in this magical, star-kissed land.