The resonating sounds of silence


Sandy Wood finds peace within the Namib desert

It is early July. I am snuggled up in bed, cup of tea in hand, watching the sun rise over the cold hills of the Namib Rand Nature Reserve in Namibia. The interplay of colours shifts, changing by the minute. I reach for my camera, but, realising I cannot do the scene justice, I lay it down and try to imprint the images on my memory instead.

A distant, repeated, booming sound drifts in on the still morning air and I wonder whether ground hornbills occur in the desert. I am told later that it is the call of a male ostrich, probably a part of the courtship ritual.

I am at the Wolwedans Boulders Camp. The beauty of the landscape here would be hard to exaggerate. Plains merge into distant mountains. Piles of boulders, carelessly thrown together in picturesque kopjes, punctuate the vast empty vistas. The occasional hardy desert tree stands alone, bearing the ragged nest of a sociable weaver colony. Rare winter rain has encouraged the germination of grass, almost unnoticeable underfoot but at a distance adding a soft green haze to the orange, blue and purple hues of the waking desert.

As the sun climbs above the hills the landscape flattens in a cloudless sky, I decide to be lazy, and have a leisurely breakfast, then spend the morning reading on my private deck.

Winter days are short here and by mid-afternoon the shadows begin to lengthen, the pastel hues return and the air becomes pleasantly cool. I walk out of the camp and watch a black eagle perched on a high boulder in the evening light, impervious to chattering starlings.

The sun dips below the horizon and Venus appears, followed by the Southern Cross. Finally, as darkness sets in, the plains turn ghostly, pale and silent, lit by a billion stars. It is impossible not to look up into the vaulted sky and wonder whether we are alone.

It’s a bit of a trek to get to Boulders Camp, but it is worth it. It is small, beautifully furnished, and impeccably run by a team of smiling, attentive staff. Nothing is too much trouble. If you want to be active, you can ride bikes or horses, walk, track with Bushman, take a game drive, jog or go birding. If you prefer to be more sedentary, a massage on the rocks overlooking the camp may appeal to you, or you can lounge in your pool or on your private deck and let the day unfold.  You can eat great food, drink good wine and chat with the few other guests. Or you can simply enjoy your own company. Time is your own here; Boulders Camp is perfect balm for the soul.

Sandy Wood owns the tour operator Pulse Africa. As someone who visits loads of lodges each year, she found the Namib Rand particularly restful.