In the silence of this desert landscape, the rise and fall of the dunes are the pulse of the Earth’s life story. As the world has changed around it – as forests grew and fell, as watercourses developed and changed, as humankind evolved – this desert land has remained stable.
Desert literature often echoes a universal trope: to move is to live and the migratory stand a higher chance of survival. From our comfortable campsite at Namib Rand Family Hideout, the yard arm for the day was the shift of shadow on red sand. Markings in the sand told vivid stories of insects and rodents, grass circles in the wind, the bloom-like lairs of buck spoor spiders.
Every member of our travel party looked to the distance and planned to move. That dune can’t be that far away! I set out at first light with my camera and a bottle of water, casting my tracks alongside the dots and dashes of campsite regulars and hyena tracks. I soon realised that what appears to be flat land is actually deceptively undulating.
In the dips, I stumbled upon herds of oryx that ran like bandits into the distance. Bat-eared foxes tumbled over the ground in an act of almost comical escape. As midday hit, it became clear that my distant dune marker wouldn’t be reached in a day – a practical lesson on the true meaning of the Namib’s ‘open spaces’. I turned and followed my tracks back to camp – barely visible.