The bakkie went over a large pothole and I was jolted awake, the shock making me inhale deeply and sharply. The air was hot. My throat and eyes stung from all the dust. The unbending road ran like a dagger through the heart of the desert. There was nothing else. Just us, the road, the desert, the sky and the burning sun, and the great weight of my hangover forcing itself in on my shriveled, raisin-like brain and lungs. I wondered for a second if we were heading towards the end of the world.
It had all been a terrible accident really. I knew almost nothing about Namibia except that there were a lot of sand dunes, and without a few too many drinks to lubricate the imagination and fire the yearning for adventure, it probably never would have happened. The truth is though, I could probably say the same about a lot of my trips over the years, especially the most interesting ones.
It had all started in what might loosely be called the ‘town’ of Springbok, a little way back across the border. I was there on a job and had confessed my ignorance of Namibia to a local Afrikaans prospector’s son named Rico, who I had got talking to at the local bar. His head was similar in size and shininess to a watermelon, yet still looked disproportionately small for his enormous frame.
Now there I was in the back of his battered old vehicle hurtling northward away from the South African border like a bat out of hell, still not entirely sure where I was headed or why. And good old Watermelon Head was at the helm up in front of me, his equally large wife bumping along in the seat next to him and occasionally barking what I could only imagine were strong Afrikaans expletives at her husband. But still he went bravely on, potholes and abuse or no, taking me ever deeper into the burning heart of the unknown.