Above us, a magnified moon was equally observant of the day’s dwindling sunlight. The ferocity of the earth’s exposed hues in this light accentuated wildlife, rock, sand, and water – a rebellion of thick, dark shadow on a desert palette.
That night, breaking an orchestra of campfire crackles in desert silence, we heard antelope alarm whistles and snorts and, later, the calls of lions echoing against every structure like cymbals. We had looked around with heads full of questions when we were told that lions roamed the area. Our earlier feelings of disbelief gave way to acceptance of this everyday miracle that was purely auditory in the darkness. It was an unfolding feeling as the days passed.
The next morning, we wanted to explore the Ombondi River along the Khowarib Schluct – a seasonal sand river that was used as a route by more adventurous overlanders. With tourism still experiencing a COVID quietness at the time of our trip, we were warned that it was a bad idea. If something happened, no-one would be driving along there for weeks. Heat, water, and fuel were all things to consider limited if we were to be stranded. “When do we leave?”
The only way to have a holiday is to have a no phone rule – and this meant no maps. We drove along hardly-discernible sand tracks, past occasional huts and livestock corrals. Like the scenery, this was human existence pared down to its most rudimentary form. I thought of the lion roars from the night before – enormous against the size of the mud huts and as a threat to the precious livestock these people tended.