I love lonely places far from home. I always have, even as a youngster; sailing to the empty islands and forgotten beaches of crowded Hong Kong.
The sea offers the ultimate lonely place and there is nothing like an ocean voyage to put the world in perspective. Flying down the faces of huge waves in the dark night, beyond help but under a sky set with bright stars is, to me, a glimpse of heaven..
The Namib is a little like the ocean. Perhaps the closest on land that one can come to a feeling of perfect solitude. I suppose that is why I love it!
The red dunes rise like waves and beat against the ragged shores of black hills while the oryx wanders, lonely as a baleen whale, through the emptiness.
Crossing an ocean, the days bleed together. They make chance meetings more poignant. The spume from a surfacing whale close to the boat is at once terrifying and like sighting a long-lost friend.
The same is true of the Namib, one looks for small signs, anything that might mark out company or companionship as the wind sighs in the sparse grasses.
Tiny tracks in the sand might lead to a Tok Tokkie beetle, scurrying over the heated grains. A meeting with any other beetle anywhere else might go unnoticed but not in the foreboding emptiness of the Namib.
Just sitting on the edge of a dune as the wind shapes new ripples, feels like a mindful use of time; a way to contemplate existence at different scales. The dune is moving toward the hills, a meeting centuries in the making, that I can only ever imagine, and never hope to see. The Namib, like the ocean, lends time a new perspective; a slower and more meaningful beat.
As shadows creep out of the valleys, up slopes and hills to claim each ridge line in succession, jackals wail for the falling sun. The wind softens and the desert fades through warm oranges and yellows to cool blues, violet and black.
Soon, nightfall hangs like a silent velvet shroud and the entire world shrinks to the crackling edge of the firelight: Until, one-by-one, each star turns bright and the geckos begin to sing.