When all is said and done, what can a few hundred words and some nice photos do to adequately convey an experience, a feeling, a spirit? Well… I have 600 words and a deadline so… The world doesn’t seem to be as big as it used to, maybe that’s just time, maybe it’s that technologies have brought the far corners of the world to us in stunning 4k at the press of a button, but every once in a while I am lucky enough to be reminded of the overwhelming vastness that lies just beyond.
© Mikkel Beiter
In Namibia the world never feels small
Even typing this I can look out of a window towards a horizon obscured by mountains rising and falling. Driving west from Windhoek to The Delight Swakopmund, watching hills give way to desert, like an in-person, panoramic time-lapse, begs the question; are there words big enough for this? ‘Solitude’ came to mind once when we stopped to take in the view, but that doesn’t do it. Struck by the other-worldliness of the landscape near Karasburg I recalled accounts of astronauts’ first view of the earth from orbit, seeing the whole world beneath their feet and being overcome by the cosmic scale of our home.
© Mikkel Beiter
The big and small
Scale can be deceptive, especially once we stray from out familiar reference points, but what is unmistakable is contrast; however tall a given hill maybe be, there is always one beyond that dwarfs it and one beyond that, only the haze over the furthest mountains gives clue to the distances that lie between you. On the coast the surf cuts a clean line between the dunes and the Atlantic separating two worlds. After seasonal rains the land turns green, and Etosha National Park becomes an endless grassland teaming with life.
Among the least densely populated places on earth, life in Namibia exists in balance, and perseverance is key, come drought or flood, weather that be a literal drought or a clumsy metaphor for a global pandemic that all but shut down the tourism industry that so much of the country relies on. I had expected to find everyone in the same state of pandemic induced doomsaying that I was in, but found Namibia’s signature hospitality on full display.
© Anna Heupel
In the worst of times Namibia endures, with care, a smile and some much-needed laughter, good company and a view. I should make special note of the wonderful guide at Etosha who, after hearing that my mother (an avid bird-watcher) had never seen the incredibly rare Blue Crane in 20 years in the country, made it his personal mission to rectify this and, to his credit, did just that. In the worst of times Namibia endures, and after 3 long years, Namibia is ready to again thrive.
I am grateful that I got Namibia all to myself for a while, at a time when we all had so little to be grateful for. Windswept vistas, yawning canyons and open roads played their part. Mostly I am grateful for the small moments of personal connection, conversations and warm smiles, for seclusion, surrounded by friends.
Author: Conrad Hegerty