In the desert heat, I felt a rush of gooseflesh and an overflow of tears – a physical understanding of dreams becoming real. But there’s more. The air was filled with floating grass seeds – white, whispy, and silent like snowfall. Snow in the desert and elephants in the snow – everything about this experience felt otherworldly, supernatural.
Rather than break, strip, and discard branches, there was a delicacy to this elephant’s actions – a lace-like precision from the largest animal on earth. The leaves were removed, but the branches remained intact – an understanding of and investment in tomorrow.
Desert elephants are anatomically and socially different to other elephants. Their feet are larger to help them walk – and even slide – great distances in desert sand. Their body mass also tends to be lower. They also live in smaller groups, giving these great creatures less of an impact wherever they go. Solitary, different, and desert-loving – sounds familiar.
As we made our way along the road, we looked back on the previous days with renewed bravery. We had skipped a large section of the Ombondi River and Khowarib Schlucht because we didn’t have a map (phone-free holidays are a must – and the details of our first attempt appear in earlier stories), but the gap in our travel plans was glaring. There was only one thing to be done: download a map and try again – from the other side this time.
After toing and froing to find the trailhead, we drove into what can only be described as monumental scenery. The sand track and Arab desert oasis surroundings became dry riverbed (a 4x4 driver’s test track in what is aptly called ‘powder dust’) and we were soon dwarfed by Ana trees and rockfaces.