Meeting Namibia’s indigenous hunter-gatherer tribe, the San, was an enormous privilege. They’ve walked these plains for tens of thousands of years, and make up one of the 14 remaining ancestral lines from which all humans descended. We saw them make fire by hand, poison their arrows with local plant roots, and engage in the art of “persistence hunting” — an ancient technique in which an animal is pursued for days on end until it finally collapses from heat and exhaustion.
Through the valley, a broad wind howled, bringing with it sand and dust. The car knelt in the dried-up riverbed, where one of its tires had blown itself to pieces. We rushed in the storm to drag out a spare, with t-shirts wrapped around our heads to keep out the dust. Inside the car, with the doors clicked shut, we watched the storm rage like a phantom. Then the dust meets the sea. An oil rig, red and white, sat in the bay like a floating castle. Dolphins slipped by with dripping fins, and tired old boats napped on the swell. The sea was a brilliant emerald green and a salty breeze tugged at our sleeves. We kicked off oven-baked shoes and presented our toes to the Atlantic, whose cool waters rose to greet them.
“Time to see what this car’s made of” — we turned off the beach and into the dunes: endless mountains of sand, shaped and reshaped by an impetuous wind. Some were incredibly steep, but all stood solemnly, blazing white, relieved sporadically by dabs of green. There were no animals in sight, except for the hermetically sealed humans thrashing about behind steel and glass. We laughed hysterically, gripping our seats, while the wheels spun and kicked up sand and our poor motor car choked on dust.
We’d driven through a land of extraordinary contrast: one of fearless animals, lush savannah, and blazing deserts — and we’d met the incredible people that call Namibia home.
Our road trip had come to an end, and we were catching a flight back to the capital and then on to Berlin. Sitting on the plane, watching its shadow race across the landscape, we thought about our life-changing journey and how the beauty we’d witnessed would stick with us forever.
This story was originally published by our friends at FreundeVonFreunden.
Read it from a different angle here.
Words. Jack Mahoney
Photography. Daniel Müller