Text & Photographs – Lee Tindall
the Summer 2022/23 issue
Very recently we had the privilege of taking part in the central Namib Bioblitz – an international affair, started in Australia, which reached the Central Namib through Gobabeb. This was a triple treat in terms of things we love – meeting like-minded people and reaching out to conservationists and scientists, exploring and being outdoors, and of course there was some camping to be done.
We set off to Gobabeb armed with a guidebook (yes, just the one for some reason), an app to register sightings, some snacks and an abundance of enthusiasm.
We met with the folks at Gobabeb, had some great conversations and were then dispatched – with a permit for the National Park – to go forth and log all the things. The researchers had a clear plan of where our enthusiasm could be best used. Much to my surprise and delight, we were sent to the Ganab area for a night. This is significant because it is the duty station my parents were based at in the late 1980s, and where for a brief time I lived as a baby. A place where my father’s love of the South was nurtured, a place my parents explored and grew in.
I told the kids and explained to them the significance of this place to my life and my history. I was so excited to return, to see it and know some of it. I cannot find the word for “that feeling when you return to a place of familial significance, a place your heart remembers but you have no living memory of”.
Upon arrival, we followed some signs, got a little lost and the peanut gallery – a.k.a. the kids – had a lot to say about the fact I had lived here and did not know my way around. After some comparing of maps (we had a couple and they were both pretty unclear as to where exactly we were heading) and some driving up one road, down another and then discovering yet another, we found it: the duty station headquarters for Ganab. There was more than we had expected – a small settlement of houses divided by a large rock, an office and a government-issued green grader.
Our campsite was slightly tucked away, around a corner with some glorious rocks, wonderful scenery and great plants to log. Choosing whether or not to set up a tent versus sleeping under the stars was a debate that we eventually settled.
The kids and Murray set up pitfall traps and baited some Sherman traps to see what we might discover and the anticipation of what may make its way into them was simply enormous. An undiscovered beetle? A black hairy thick-tailed scorpion? Some red grains of sand kicked up by a breeze?
Once night fell, we went for a short scorpion walk with our UV torches (a little different to the UV lights in the clubs from my youth – a fantastic trade, though). The UV lights make the scorpions glow yellow, if you can find them. On this particular night we did not find any glowing scorpions or shining eyes.
The weather on this trip surprised us and caught us unawares – the days were mild and the evenings were much colder than expected. The kids were prepared with long pants, long sleeves and socks to go under their sandals, but the adults were woefully underdressed – a reminder that the desert cools down at night no matter what we think should happen. The next morning, we spent some time packing up and then ventured into the little outcrop nearby. Enormous quiver trees and euphorbias stand tall against the elements, some thriving despite the harsh surroundings with others simply decaying.
While we had a destination of sorts for this trip, with a vague plan, it reminded me of the fact that so much is about the journey, about where we are and how we see it. There was a magic in those hills and rocks, an awe of the test of time and a calm in my little family’s togetherness where part of my bigger family would have ventured many years before.