I start to get down the ladder from our bedroom, my feet are on the narrow aluminum steps and when I leave the last one, my feet are in the soft sand. It feels nice and smooth between my toes. The sun is already up and warms up everything around me. The trees in the riverbed hang very low and almost give off a sad look. It has probably been a while since it last rained here, I think to myself. Our mornings consist of the same ritual: breakfast, coffee, packing. We try to do that last thing quickly, since it saves us valuable time if everything is done in an efficient way. Even though we do this every day, we have to pay attention. If we forget to tighten something, if something is loose or lies somewhere where it can break, than it will definitely happen. The road and terrain are unforgiving here. Everything has its own spot, which helps a lot when you need to find something quickly, but it also prevents us from leaving something behind.
Today, we are lucky, we’re driving away and while we do this we hear a strange sound like something drops down from the roof. We don’t stop, but we are both mentally checking lists to see if we can figure out what is was. While I’m concentrating on the soft sandy road I can hear Helga’s brain work as hard as the motor of the car. Don’t get the impression that driving a technical route is a quiet affair. Sometimes it sounds like we’re driving in a can full of stones or nails and are rolling down the mountain. Everything squeaks and groans. I even think that riding a motorcycle might even be quieter sometimes. The thick helmet and possible earplugs keep the ears from all the noise while the chassis of a half filled car sounds like a resonance box.
Suddenly I can see her face go white when she realizes what just made the sound of something dropping: “my phone!” she yells. She jumps out of the still moving car and starts to run back through the soft sand looking for her phone that fell of the roof. First, I wait patiently, then I start to follow her. I try to follow her footsteps, but the distance between them is so large, I’m having trouble doing so. The moment I reach the top of the hill I see her coming my way with a large smile on her face. Her purple shirt has some dark patches and the drops of sweat trickle down her cheeks like tears. But, most importantly, she is holding her phone in her hand like a trophy. A needle in a haystack.
Around midday we meet a group of people from the UK. They shipped their own vehicles for a 6 week round trip through South Africa and Namibia. We exchange stories while the more technically inclined men of the party fix a problem on one of the Landrovers. We drive in the same direction as they do and in a parade of cars we navigate the narrow track until we part ways.
At the end of the day we find a hidden campspot, but we also are clearly back in civilization. The last 50km before the campsite we drive through small villages. Small huts made out of branches with clay roofs. We see a lot of people in traditional clothes, or rather, lacking clothes, walking towards the road to see where the noise comes from.
I once read that humans are the loudest creatures on earth. It is hard to imagine when you hear an elephant at night tearing down a tree next to your tent. But this night we hear people all around our campsite: adults, children, music. Familiar on one side, but we also feel intruders from another planet since our cultures are so far apart.