Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
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The Namib
"But mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the noonday sun.
        - Noel Coward

    Astute readers will recall that the above quote has been previously used on Dispatch from the Razor's Edge. However, it turns out that it really, really bears repeating – the moment one sets foot in the Namib Desert. But, actually, hold that thought: in point of fact, today's edition has an official opening line – and that wasn't it. Here it is:

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

"Mark and I were short a tent, when the jackals came last night."

That was it. Specifically, we were performing our normal happy maneuver of being good camp/tour citizens by helping hump luggage off the top of the truck, unload communal gear, etc. Most nights, there seems a bit of a race to get personal bags gathered together, tents issued – and tent spots staked out. I was personally getting slightly unkeen on playing that game, and so my exact, particular thought on this night was, "Jeesh, what's the big hurry? It's not like we're not going to get a tent." Well, precisely what happened was that . . . we didn't get a tent: Someone failed to bring one back the night before, it turned out; and the group was now officially one shy. Last to the party, Mark and I stood around holding our equipment.

We did have one other person (Deb) who bunked alone (an odd number, 23, on the tour). After a quick negotiation, Deb took me in – while Mark volunteered to sleep on the roof of the truck. (Which was preferable to the open ground, in a camp reputedly home to both scorpions – and jackals. Paul: "Keep your shoes in your tent if you want to still own them tomorrow.") And, oh did the jackals ever come, before we again saw the sun.

I awoke shortly after 2AM – needful of the bathroom – to the jangly tones of empty cans and other trash being dragged through the clearing – a few short yards away from where I lay. Trembling slightly (fear? eager anticipation?) I gathered up my mini-maglite – and weapons. By the time I'd exeunted, Doug had already cleared the field of opposition (basically by showing up, in truth). Where I was scared, he was merely pissed off at all the racket. Nonetheless, my personal SpookyMeter was pegged: 15 feet from my tent flap were big piles of liberated trash – and the noise of them being liberated was still echoing in the air, no more than 20 seconds stale. The total absence of the perpetrators of this scene was creepy, Hitchcockian. I kept shining my light into the adjacent bushes – and was, at one point, "rewarded" with a slanted, yellow pair of flashing eyes. Yowza! Doug and I put the trashcan inside the truck, and I hit the head.

At which point, I also was no longer tired – and we were slated to get up at 4AM, to catch our sunrise from the dunes. (One nice thing – Paul couldn't conceivably get us up earlier than that, on subsequent days. The depths had been plumbed.) So, I snuck in my morning calisthenics on the little patio of the pub. I also spent some quality time with the southern Hemisphere's own personl sky.

Have I mentioned the sky down here? First of all, it's brilliant – needless to point out, diffusive urban light is pretty thin on the ground in Namibia. For that reason, the stellar dome extends all the way down to the horizon – something you don't see much of back in the World. Secondly, we get the Southern Cross out of the deal; right now, it lays right on the tops of the dun hills. Most disconcertingly: freaking Orion is upside down. I'm still trying to get my head around this.

Okay, cut to 4-freaking-AM. Here's what we got for our sleepless dementia:

Back on level ground, Paul and Jo have graciously (as ever) cooked up a good, Irish breakfast for us: ham, beans, bread – and the largest vat of eggs anyone has ever seen. Laughing and chatting, we fill our bellies in this stellar scene. Then – after pausing to slather sun goop all over our sandy, sweaty bodies – we pile into the back of a rollicking pickup truck, which takes us to the beginning of a guided walking tour of the desert.

A few minutes into it, and a very pretty oryx wanders right into our path. We wonder how it survives in such a completely parched place. We're led down into a basin, a graveyard of dead acacia trees. (They normally survive in the desert by sending roots down as much as 40 or 50 meters, for access to groundwater during those ten-year rainless stretches; but even that didn't help them here.) The sun is completely pummelling us, and by the end we're turning into cranky campers:

Aaron: We paid good money for this?
Mark: This is why it's not called Nomad Pleasure Tours.

    About .0005 seconds after checking into our new camp site, I take the Shower of a Lifetime. It's like I've been basted in my own juices for two days, then rolled in sand for a third. After that and a shave, I'm a whole new man – and join the others beside the pool, for some happy and relaxed dispatching. After that, and another happy night around the campfire, there's only a short drive between us and (relative) civilization – the seaside German town of Swakopmund – where I sit now in an open air cafe with Mark, typing this up. Thusly have we survived the first week of our adventure. Here we recharge for a day and half, do some laundry – and haunt the local cybercafe. And daydream back the images we took in through the truck windows, of the Namibian desert-scape rolling grandly by. Talk to you all again in 10 days – in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.


  africa     camping     pitely     wildlife     danger  
about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

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ARISEN : Odyseey, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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