CYMOT Ultimate Adventure – Vulture ringing in the desertAugust 31, 2016
Sipping sunsetsSeptember 1, 2016
Text and Photographs Birgit Bekker
M y ultimate adventure is getting off the couch and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and challenge myself to do something quite frightening; but this doesn’t always have to involve dizzying heights or facing fierce animals. When the call of adventure beckons, it can be very much an inner journey of personal self-discovery as we face our fears (real or imagined) and test ourselves not just physically, but also emotionally.
My life in the past six months has been tumultuous, as I ended a two decade long relationship, whilst facing the end of my 30’s. I had to deal with my own insecurities about dealing with an uncertain future and massive changes in my life.
So I decided that nature is the purest remedy for my soul and escaped for the weekend on a camping trip. I grew up spending most family holidays on camping trips, taught by my industrious dad how to prepare for camp-outs; how to pitch a tent without an instruction manual; that getting lost is sometimes a good thing, and to accept that despite meticulous planning, some things will go wrong, and that’s OK.
This time I wanted to dare a camping trip alone, without the usual company of friends and family; a first even for me. Added to this, it had been years since I actually did some rough camping.
“GASP, YOU DO NOT CAMP ALONE, ESPECIALLY AS A WOMAN, IN AFRICA!” I heard the exclamations of disbelief repeatedly and was called foolish and reckless.
I needed to find the quiet space to reflect and contemplate, and that meant getting away from the safety net of familiar places and well meaning companions. My dad was wonderfully supportive of my plans and gave me lots of advice (and pepper spray, just in case.)
Of course I didn’t put myself in undue risk and did research my destination carefully – mostly to reassure those close to me that I haven’t completely lost my mind.
I wanted wild and secluded; away from the public camps that are inundated with rowdy campers in their convoy of 4×4’s. I therefore selected Erongo Plateau Camp, which had only 3 camp sites with hot showers and flush loos, but no electricity, and best of all, no cellphone connectivity (now that is really throwing yourself out of your comfort zone). It was the reclusive site I craved, but on a farm where I felt reasonably safe.
I geared up and packed a cool box full of beers, single malt whiskey and lots of meat to prepare a mean braai (I am Namibian, after all), took along my dog “Quagmire”, and off we went as we heeded the Call of Adventure.
The farm owners assured me that I could reach the site quite easily with my Volvo S40, but the last few kilometres had some precarious moments, as I tried to navigate around protruding sharp rocks eager to rip into my undercarriage and spin up steep inclines on very loose and slippery gravel up the mountain. Maybe that added to the adventure, that this road was like crossing the threshold into the impending wilderness.
I arrived to discover I had the camp all to myself, overlooking the Erongo valley; it was pure bliss.
Do you know how deafening silence can be? Noise surrounds us in our every day life – T.V, traffic, neighbourhood dogs and the hum of so many appliances, that it is overwhelming when you find yourself surrounded by the orchestra of bird songs, of the wind rustling through the trees and the sound of your own breath. A symphony of joy.
I went on a short hike; nothing too strenuous out of consideration for my little dog, but it was still a challenging walk that involved scrambling over boulders and lifting the dog over my shoulders to reach the next outcrop. It was so refreshing going out into nature, alone and then return to camp exhausted, but invigorated. No adventure, even of inner personal discovery, is complete without you exerting yourself physically in some way.
At night a full moon lit up the surrounding veld in mysterious shadows, but instead of finding them creepy, I relished the silver light and found my way around easily without the help of torches. There was nothing to fear in the dark that night.
Beer in hand, the company of your dog, and a glowing fire, I felt at peace with my life that night, and with the choices I made, and excited about what my future holds for me. I slept deeply that night, a satisfied tiredness that you rarely find in your real life.
I returned home unscathed and recharged with a new perspective on my life; a weekend that reconfirmed my belief that adventure doesn’t need to involve jumping out of an aircraft; but that sometimes we can get the same life reaffirming rush when we realize that some of the scariest adventure can often be facing yourself, alone in the wildness.