Living Wild In the land of sand and freedom

Sew Good One Stitch at a Time
April 5, 2020
The first German surrender of World War I was signed under a tree in Namibia
April 5, 2020
Text Lee Tindall

‘’How does one end up here?” asks the cyclist parked under the tree outside our house. ‘Here’ is our house in the middle of a gravel plain, surrounded by towering mountains, small boulder strewn koppies and not much else. This is not an uncommon question, and you would think that by now we would have a quick answer. There’s the short, medium and long answer. The long answer requires a dive into both my and my husband’s childhoods, and the short answer is simply, “we’ve done life a little differently than is conventional and that yields slightly different results”.

But at this moment, here in the cool shade of an ancient palm tree, the medium answer seems appropriate. After being in tourism in South Africa for the better part of our young adult lives, and now seven months pregnant, we felt it best to use that time and just married to move countries and start new jobs. This is pretty much how we do life: when our plates are fullest we simply add more, it makes for an interesting combination of high stress, hysterical laughter and pretty unimaginably awesome adventures. We stuck to what we knew – tourism – and entered the Namibian tourism industry with all the enthusiasm and energy imaginable. After some time in the central part of Namibia, we were offered a position to manage a small, reasonably quiet lodge in the south. Without having seen the lodge, or the area, we, in our usual ‘what’s the worst that can happen’ style jumped at the opportunity. Our earthly possessions, one child and a dog fitted in with two bakkie loads of stuff. This move would mean more time for our son, then almost two, and a chance to put our stamp on the lodge and run with a product.

After our daughter was born, fiercely, dramatically and on her own terms, we chose to make a career switch to conservation. This meant another move. Our earthly possessions, the number of pets and number of children had all grown along with our need to do more for the planet, more for ourselves and more for the generation of humans, of which we now had two to keep alive, raise and enjoy. A leap of faith. What felt like a million boxes and trailer loads later we arrived. Then yet another move, more trailer loads, the dog, cat and now the added bonus of goldfish and we reached Keerweder, the Warden’s Base of NamibRand Nature Reserve. We had arrived! Our hearts were light, our eyes twinkled and my soul rejoiced as I unpacked boxes, settled children and created a home and space in which our free-range kids would roam, while learning to love the little things and find joy in themselves.

In this medium-length story many adventures, much growth and a lot of life are skipped. The parts in which our own resilience is tested, the time when our darling daughter’s birth came suddenly and my husband drove over 300 km to get us to Mariental, where she was safely delivered despite the odds being stacked against her, the bit where our then 18 month old son spent an entire day on the back of a bakkie on a giraffe capture mission, and didn’t skip a beat, or even the time when he and I sat on, not at, the kitchen table the day before my daughter’s birth and watched a snake make itself comfortable under the fridge – we took this as an opportunity to read up about snakes and look at the patterns on it. Some of these stories, the moments and the grit they come with, create foundations so strong they are unshakeable and cemented with the peace that this life allows us.

Here, under the palm tree, this moment takes me back to the very first time we opened the car doors in the south, that moment when a wall of dry air hit me so hard I felt winded, and the view extended so far I wondered if I’d see the curve of the earth. That moment where our son’s first instinct was to run, to feel the sand with his hands and to run his little fingers along the tips of the grass that reached his chest – a legacy of above average rainfall Namibia experienced in 2011.

In the year 2012 we had our very first taste of the Namib and it has since taken root in our hearts. The desert, and all it holds, has raised us all, it has guided my husband and I and led us to where we are now, it has allowed my children a freedom to explore, to experience and to roam. After many questions and much judgement for choosing a life less conventional, a life perhaps more risky than most, I still don’t have all the answers, I cannot say for sure if this is the best way, but I can unwaveringly say: it is the best way for us. It allows us to steep ourselves in peace, to watch our children race back from a bike ride to beat the setting sun, to hear them identify birds, scorpions and wildlife and roll the Latin names around their mouths. and to know that their childhood is unburdened by conventional worries and concerns. It also gives me the gems I hope to fill this series with.

I have wondered about sharing our journey, whether our adventures are worthy of being read by others. In sharing our journey and more adventures, I hope to give people a moment of peace, a moment of feeling the freedom and the liberation of a life lived differently. A life of wonder, curiosity, carefully caught and released scorpions, sunsets and conversations about conservation as the sun sets.

Lee Tindall was born in Namibia. With her parents, who were employed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, she lived in some of the remotest, most beautiful protected parts of the country. It was there where her love and enthusiasm for nature developed, a passion that she keeps kindled to this day.

In April 2016 Lee and her husband Murray – along with their two small children, beloved golden retriever Rocco, ferocious cat Yzer and several goldfish originally named Goldie 1, Goldie 2 and Fred – moved to the NamibRand Nature Reserve, where Lee is the Research and Environment Warden, based at Keerweder. Her duties include staff management, assistance with natural resource management and monitoring, research projects, liaison with visiting scientists and film crews, environmental awareness raising and outreach. She is also the coordinator and secretary for the Greater Sossusvlei Namib Landscape, a not for gain association focused on large landscape conservation and upliftment.

Follow her new series ‘Living Wild’ in the upcoming issues of Travel News Namibia.

This article was first published in the Autumn 2020 issue of Travel News Namibia.

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