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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Shining Right into Your Heart

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

“If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.” John Hemingway

After a tantalizing meal of mystery meat mixed with canned peas and carrots last night, we all gathered round for our evening debrief.

Malinga explained the following days activities;

  • Bus leaving at 4:45AM.

  • Leave all tents. Take all luggage.

  • Dune 45 for sunrise. Climb or don’t climb... your prerogative.

  • Breakfast served at truck when we were all down from Dune 45.

  • Continue to Sossusvlei.

  • Return to camp at approximately 11AM.

  • Dismantle tents.

  • Continue our journey...

Now I don’t want to pride myself too much on having had struggled through complicated schedules from time to time... but this seems pretty straight forward to me.

Laid out.


Apparently... not simple.

Whaaaaaaat? and British Humour could NOT grasp the simplicaity of it all.

They took our simple debrief and threw it in to a tailspin of gigantic proportions.

  • What time do we have to wake up? Who cares when you wake up. You’re an adult... set your alarm for whatever time works for you. 

  • Why are we taking our luggage? Because it’s safer than leaving everything unmanned in the tents.

  • Why are we leaving the tents? We are coming back for them.

  • When will we be back in camp? Approximately 11AM.

Approximately” was not good enough.

Apparently it was “not fair” for their planning.... they needed an exact and confirmed time


Perhaps they had friends meeting them here...

A conference call...

Dentist appointment...


Meltdown time...

Luggage IN truck, tents empty... who who who who cares what time we are back????

The degree of complexity to which they took our evening debrief was nothing short of embarrassing.

Embarrassing to the two of them. 

Embarrassing to our entire group.

It didn’t stop there.

  • How long to climb the dune? Malinga can do it in 15 minutes.

  • What if they didn’t want to climb the dune? Then don’t... no pressure. Go as far as you want. Whatever makes you comfortable.

  • How long does it take normal people to climb the dune?Implying perhaps that Malinga was some kind of super hero?

I made the mistake of sitting with the children, who were all but shoving their sleeves in their mouths to stop them from giggling out loud. It was too much to handle and every ridiculous question, concern or demand from them sent us all further in to hysterics.

Finally, it just went too far, hilarity overtook and we all burst in to laughter.

It was surreal.

Back to the mystery meat...

I asked Malinga what it was.


Weird beef.

The next day, he pulled me aside to let me know that it was a mix of beef and ostrich.  No wonder it tasted so gamey.

4:45AM came and went and believe it or not, we were all on the bus.

Even British Humour.

David made it to the Sesriem Gate for 4:57AM and as soon as it opened at 5AM, we were the first through and it was go time. Chop! Chop! Along the bumpy road at a speed of at least 120km so that we could all race to the top and enjoy the sunrise.

Wikipedia break:

Dune 45 is a star dune in the Sossusvlei area of the Namib Desert. It is named for the fact that it is at the 45th kilometre of the road that connects the Sesriem gate and Sossusvlei. 

Trudging up a 170m, 5-million year old sand dune must sound like a casual stroll. It was no easy feat. Image how difficult a brisk walk in soft, deep, flat sand is. Now apply an 45% angle and my unfit body began to feel the burn. The path had been trampled down over the years, making the climb easier on all of us, but it was still sand. Not even a quarter of the way up, my lungs were reminding me that I was once a heavy smoker.

It’s rightful name should be Deception Dune.. because I have never met a dune more deceiving. Every time that I confidently thought we were approaching the summit... I wasn’t. 

I don’t normally suffer from anything like a fear of heights or vertigo... but I think that Dune 45 installed a mild case in all of us. Just to let us know who was in charge. There were times that I would stop momentarily, to catch my breath or secure my footing... and it would take me more than a few seconds to fid my balance in order to get in a comfortable enough position to continue my climb.

Although it was just sand, in order to continue the journey, I had to force myself to look directly at the sand in front of me. Next step, always...

Don’t look left.. don’t look right.. follow the footsteps... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...

Speaking of footprints... the shoes, once again, took a red sand beating. It was not long before they were off and in the backpack for the remainder of the day.

Resting on the fine edge summit of the world’s most photographed dune, watching the sun come up in the Namib desert was a powerful, breathtaking moment. I felt that the only thing missing was Nessun Dormaplaying in the background. We all became one with the red and orange landscape.

They say that everyone that comes to Namibia must always return. The sun shines so brightly here that it shines right in to your heart... and I believe it.. Often people ask me what my favourite country is.... and I find myself fishtailing around the question, commenting about different counties I have enjoyed... what they have to offer... etc etc... Now... I have an answer. Namibia. 

We must have remained there, in awe, for about an hour, before Malinga announced that he was just going to run down the dune, instead of taking the path. The group os us sitting at the top together were intrigued by this suggestion... 

Can we follow?

Off Malinga went, running... or should I say plummeting down the dune, through the sand... and we followed directly behind him.

It was a colossal reward for having climbed that dune.

Adrenaline was running through my entire body with every single step. We literally ran the entire way down.

Me, Michelle, Eduardo, Pascale, Sandros, Roberto and Albero.

Abero and I reached the bottom at the same time... overcome with excitement, we both screamed out that was the best thing we had ever done. If it wasn’t such a long, burning journey to the top, I would have done it again.

What a rush..

Breakfast was toast and mystery meat. I decided to forego the beef & ostrich combo on toast - for the sake of everyone on the bus with me.

David allowed me to photograph his plate, but I think he was quite confused as to why I was laughing so much about it.

While we had been watching the sun come up on Dune 45, another Japanese lady reached the summit, donning many scarfs, a flowy D’Allards outfit, and an enormous camera. She had hired a personal guide to tour her around Western Aftrica for 3 weeks and our days activities was very similar to hers. I noticed that she had a a very wrinkled complexion, but had covered her entire face with a thick white cream. We were all commenting on how nice it was that Takaka made a friend. They hit it off immediately and sat there deep in conversation for quite awhile. The whaaaaaaats and the wowwwwwwwws were running rampant!

When we were all down and enjoying our first morning coffee, Takako turned to me and said, “I did not know same category you lady.”

What does that mean? 

I stared at her blankly.

You and lady. Same.”

Same? Rest assured that lady and myself were nothing “same”.

Same category.

I need more information in order to fully comprehend what is going on right now.

Finally it came to light that the lady and I were in the same age category.

She had told Takako that she was 47.

No. She wasn’t.


No. 57.

No... 47.

57. I’m 47. She’s not.

There was no way that this withered old Geisha and I were the same age.

Was she in a plan crash?Did she survive an entire year without water?

She has lived a life... you can see the journey...

I saw her twice more throughout the day and I would demand everyone’s attention immediately to compare our features. 

NOT 47.

Next stop was Sossusvlei and the petrified forest. Sand dune trucks were waiting at the entrance to take us in to this highly protected area.

I couldn't help but chuckle when the man, who appeared to be in charge of the dune trucks, motioned for us to be on our way. OFF GET!” He yelled at the driver. Off get? I’m assuming that was supposed to mean, “Get outta here!” I like it...

Beauty and once again, another movie set. The ground was once salt water... until the winds of sand cut off the water supply and eventually dried it all up. Dramatically dead trees scattered throughout the area, almost tragically invitingly in their own personal allure. They call it the petrified forest. 

I was sitting enjoying the scenery and taking a few pictures when I noticed the bikers from the day before walk by. I called to to them and made mention about how much admiration and respect I had for them. They thanked me, told me how hard yesterday had been on them, biking through the desert and then kept going.

As we loaded on to the bus, the bikers approached me to ask if our driver would be willing to give them back to the gate, as they had hitch-hiked their way here. We had to beg David to do it, as picking up strangers was strictly against all Nomad rules. He melted though when he discovered that their journey began in Switzerland! The guy has been on the road for 16 months. Sandros got his website, so I will have to have a look at it.  Claudia drove back in a separate vehicle with the Spanish family and I don’t think she liked being with the children very much because she spent the entire drive with her hands over her ears.

They were amused to no end.

Drive back to campground to dismantle tents. Funny.... it was 11AM and woudn’t have made an ounce of difference to our lives if it has been 12 or 1.

I wondered if British Humour and Whaaaaaaat? Realized how silly they sounded during debrief, but somehow I doubt it.

There is so much more to this day... and I will have to include it in the next blog. Internet is very bad and I have come to believe that I may be cursed when attempting to get online...

It’s me....

Internet around the remote emptiness of the deserts of Namibia can be found few and far between. Often we will find it at a place we have stopped for lunch- spend 30 minutes there and then move on to no wi-fi for 3 days. Apologies...

We stopped in a small town called Solitaire, right off the highway. As soon as I saw the sign, I knew that there was a special photo in my future... and I was right.

Solitaire is known for it’s amazing pies... and apparently they were delicious... but I didn’t indulge. It was one of those places with fabulous (and temporary) wi-fi, so it was a good  opportunity to get on line, albeit a short time. If the wi-fi hadn’t been working, there was the temptation of visiting the Solitaire Activity Centre. I envision a big room filled with locals... all doing their own thing. No team sports or activities in Solitaire. After our lunch stop there, we continued along another bumpy, dusty road, to yet, another remote place in the uninhabited desert. Just when you think that you can’t get more in to the desert, there you are... in a more isolated place of the world, with the scorching & unbearable heat beating down on us. Boesman’s Camp. Lucky us... there was a tiny little pool to cool off... abut half the size of my living room. Smaller, actually. The slide leading in to the pool is a pending lawsuit. Metal, broken, boiling hot, dangerous...  I met Takaka walking down to the pool and made sure that I warned her how big it was. “Enormous,” I said.  Whaaaaaaaaat?” We have all now adopted this saying for whenever anything happens... anything at all. I fear it may be a time before we are able to drop this bad habit. **Important announcement** We have all come to know the two Korean boys, Park and Yu,  as... Wait for it... Wait for it... Park You! And it never gets old.

Next to the pond/pool is a cage built in to the corner of the courtyard and in it, about 30 turtles. When I inquired as to why they were in captivity, I was told that they have been set free in to the wild on more than one occasion, but they have always come back. I am not sure that I believe that story... but perhaps it makes me feel better to try to trust and understand. After set up, we had an activity of our own - excluding Claudia - shame... Pablo and the rest of us in the shadow We were accompanying Franz in to the desert for a Desert Sunset Safari drive. 

Franz was taught  by his grandfather how to trek in the desert, and he was nothing short of amazing at his job. I made the comment about how incredible it would be to be so good at your job, that when you spoke about it, people stopped in their tracks to listen to you speak. That is exactly what happened.

We were mesmerized at every word. Franz was a charismatic busman who spoke in a melodious tone with the occasional Khoekhoe language clicking thrownin. Khoekhoe was once the national language of Namibia and it is very complex because the clicking sounds are made at the same time as the consonant sounds. 

As he spoke, his entire body mimicked everything he said. He would act out drunk, dancing, dead, falling over, hitting, stopping, shooting, being shot, climbing... etc etc... and when he was out of actions, his arm would rise up rapidly and then whip right down again with a few snaps of his finger.  Franz Considering none of us were particularly looking forward to this activity, we came out of it raving about Franz and everything he had said and shown us in the desert.

He could identify different insect specials, all animals tracks, spider traps & webs, all types of feces, nests, hiding spots, snake movements... Franz explained the history of Namibia, the history of his language and how the Namib desert came to be. There wasn’t anything he didn’t know about the strong winds, the the heat, the safest place to remain cool, how to find water and how to avoid being bitten by a snake. Takako in the Sand Truck, as the sun is going down. He knew exactly what every animal and plant needed to survive and how long a human could be in the heat for without water.

Back at camp, some of the crew were trying to imitate his movements while the kids were desperate to perfect the art of locating spider traps in the desert. When the sun was down completely, we wandered up to the top of the camp to watch the stars. Namibia is one of the top destinations in the world for stargazing. The moon, the stars, Venus, the Milky Way, Orion’s Belt.. absolutely pristine. I had downloaded Star Walk 2 on to my phone and became obsessed with making my way around the sky. Franz had told us that the zebras visit the camp each and every night to drink water and often drain the pool. We all made our way down to the stone wall to watch this miracle happen.. and we were not disappointed. I was unable to take photos, as it was very dark, we were in hiding and had we been seen, it would have scared them off. My photos definitely would not have done the phenomenon justice anyway. A herd of 5 mountain zebras slowly made their way to their evening drinking hole and took advantage of the available water. The evening ritual consisted of 4 of the zebras fighting, braying & running in to each other, while one drank. They were aware that they were being watched, as they kept lifting their heads in our direction and watching. As if something would spook them, they would then all run off in to the darkness... and then slowly make their way back again for another one to quench their desert thirst. Eventually, one by one, we all got up and made our way back to our tents for the evening. Life in the desert is tiring... 

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