Back to dust: a story through wild Namibia
You take the turn, off the tar road into a dry riverbed. You look at your phone and see that you’ve lost connection, there won’t be anyone to reach now when anything goes wrong. We are on our own. That first day we drove for hours and hours into the bush. When dusk sets, we set up camp near a small river. It’s new year’s eve, but tonight we won’t be partying and watching fireworks. We’re sitting around a campfire, making stew and sleeping on our camping beds in the open air. Nobody dares to admit it, but after spotting our first wild elephants and lion tracks everyone is sleeping with one eye open. At dawn the burning sun wakes us and we are on our way. We navigate by using an old 4x4 track map, with additional tracks pencil-drawn onto it. It seems that getting lost is part of driving through an endless no man’s land, but after a whole day of not finding a landmark we start to get nervous. The massive amount of wildlife we encounter on our way keeps our mind from thinking about our limited amount of water and gas. We haven’t showered in days. Our hair has dreads, our skin is full of dust. We didn’t see a living soul for days. Venturing through these empty, overwhelming landscapes day after day has emptied our minds. Stress from work and life does no longer occupy our body. A day consists out of the basic necessities. We gather wood, drive small passes, set up camp, check the area for wildlife, eat and make a fire. Going back to society starts to feel more and more like a burden none of us is looking forward to. On our last night in the bush we fall asleep moments after the sun sets. The night is full of new sounds, but we are so exhausted that none of us takes the effort to stand up. When waking up we notice the landscape around us has changed, branches are broken and the sand has been turned over. The breeding herd of elephants we passed earlier has walked by our camp just meters away, leaving us in peace. The landscape we perceive as dangerous has embraced our presence. A few hours later my phone starts to ring and vibrate. I guess it’s time to go home.
Text by Nick Van Tiem
All images © Nick Van Tiem