This serves two people. As the name implies, better cooking will be achieved in summer. Gather all ingredients over the course of a couple of weeks. If you are missing a few, don’t sweat it. You will sweat later. Mix in well. Watch out, sand gets everywhere. Consume while in the oven. Keep cameras handy. This is, after all, the oldest recipe in the world.
The idea was probably born in my heart decades ago, when I stood in my Montreal apartment examining a map of Australia and making hopeful plans towards a desert-like area in the center that seemed about as remote as the moon. I did not make it there but scored a much better trip through Southeast Asia, arriving by sea from French Caledonia and barely ricocheting off Cairns before taking on Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Japan.
Much later, having blown a fuse while living on Little Cayman and decided once again that forward escape was the queen of all strategies, I set out for Utah and Arizona with a new camera and my paraglider, a memorable solo trip that will forever remind me of the color red and my love of photography coming to its apogee.
Then last year – on my airborne way to the lovely place I am writing this from on a late afternoon cooled off by rare showers, Table Mountain having disappeared above us in a shroud of clouds and while chickens roast in the oven and Sauvignon Blanc chills in the fridge – I overflew the Sahara Desert and, in awe, instinctively knew that my love affair with reds and sand was only in its infancy.
But it was Marie who initially suggested the Namib trip. She must have gotten a hint from my many involuntary references to the stunning pictures I kept finding on the web of perfect sand dunes calling me, luring me to them. Since then, she will have had ample time to measure the depth of the trouble she got herself into.
The Namib Desert, said to be the oldest on Earth – and I wonder how they decide such facts without a birth certificate – lies on the desolate southwestern coast of Namibia, South Africa’s northern neighbor on the Atlantic side. At about the same latitude inland but out of reach on our trip, is the Kalahari, straddling Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. Further still to the east are the famous Kruger Park and Mozambique, and then the Indian Ocean.
A desert, by definition, is a hot place. A desert in summertime, hence, is a bloody hot place. The vacation calendar, however, rules our weather preferences and not the other way around. Our only window was January. We took it. We are now two weeks from departure and have received an impressive array of recommendations, opinions, advice, suggestions and warnings from a rather diverse crowd. From the horrible jumping spiders to one’s feet cracking open in the 40°C-plus heat, via 4×4 dune-edge crashes and triple tire flats, we have heard it all. With a grain of salt.
Our various maps are out, Google is roaring, emails and phone calls are flying across the border. We have acquired a hyena-repelling tent for the price of a small yacht. It sleeps four and features side windows to see the desert monsters approach. A semi-automatic setup system requires little more than a couple of moves to erect the tent, in which we can actually stand tall. The valiant 4×4 V8 Landcruiser has once again been kindly placed at our disposal, and a portable fridge should soon complement it. Four bottles of Prosecco were offered to us in order to keep our minds hydrated at night. The bodies will have to use water. Lots of it.
Based on our current information, we are hoping to do the outbound trip in three days. That intentional rush will lead us to the core and from then on, we can adjust. From Cape Town to the Namibian border, a full day of driving on a large paved road, some seven hundred kilometers. Then another easy day will take us past the Ai-Ais Park to Aus where we will sleep again. The third day should be memorable as we follow some of the most scenic roads in Southern Africa – or so they say. All dirt, some five hundred kilometers of it, in full heat. Yay.
We’ll have then arrived in Sesriem, gate to the Sossusvlei sand dune area, major photographic spot and highlight of our trip. After that, it’s all up in the air. Fifteen days in total of pure bliss in searing heat. Stay tuned. Lots more to come at a later date. Now has someone seen my suntan lotion?
Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone! :-)