Journey with Elephants
We didn't search for elephants on the third day of patrol week. Our fearless leader had received word of some elephant damage to a log fence and that a lion was threatening some farmer's cows. We set off to access the damage, see if it could be repaired, and possibly save that lion's life. It was an exciting prospect, so we set off like an elephant SWAT team on a mission. Heading towards the Burnt Mountain, we offered a woman and her child standing by the roadside a ride to the village store down the road, then continued our journey. The roads were good for a long stretch in dry desert landscape and sparse vegetation.
We passed 2 giraffes (my first!) standing like sentinels, guarding passage into the hinterland. Their bodies stood frozen at attention, with their heads high above the trees, and they kept a keen eye on us, but let us pass without rebuke. Our journey took us past tourist lodges, a small air strip with planes a-waiting, and into the dry AbaHuab riverbed. Few animals were out in the mid-day heat, save a heard of springbok showing off their pronking. We drove on for miles in the dry Huab before turning off onto a less traveled rocky road, meandering between mountain passes and expansive views of beautiful rock formations, we drove slowly for hours across the rocky terrain. The sands of Namib stirred to life in a whirling sandstorm camouflaging its wildlife and partially obscuring the mountains. And still we drove on. As the winds and sands quieted, the geology of the landscape changed from granite to sandstone, basalt and dark red volcanic rock. Massive sheets were torn away from cliff faces and huge fallen chunks of stone shorn off by the elements arranged themselves randomly on the desert floor. These too we drove past.
As we rounded a bend of massive boulders a lone Oryx showed himself in the distant open desert plains.Stoic and grand, he stood, blessing us with his solitary presence. Game reserves make it easy to view abundant wildlife, but it's that lonesome creature eking out his existence in this harsh, desolate environment that truly inspires the imagination. A few minutes later, far in the distance, three mountain zebra stepped onto the stage. When at last we reached what we believed was our intended destination, it appeared to have been long abandoned. The spring and water well had dried up, and we found little evidence of the story or the farm, save several large paw prints left behind by lions! We camped that night under that massive cliff-face we'd driven past, the moon trying for all its worth to mimic the sun, sending beams of light across the clear desert skies.
What is it that draws us to seek out these wild and remote places? Perhaps it to experience a unique and raw reality,disparate from the fiction of modern civilization, where the energy of the earth is strong and the stones have stories of their own. Maybe it is because in such places truth can be found, unencumbered by responsibility and possession. The experience lingers like a stark and beautiful memory, a wildness painted elaborately on a grand landscape, whose beauty transcends description. Today we drove to such a place, exploring the fringes of the middle of nowhere, its boundaries and circumferences, then continuing into its depths, they very heart and soul of Namibia."