Dali in the Kalahari

I wonder if Dali ever saw the Kalahari?

The line runs through my head like song. The sun is setting in Namibia’s red desert and the catchy chorus repeats between the vivid sand and starry sky as a Kalahari Anib Lodge safari vehicle lumbers through the cooling night rapidly dissolving the surreal scenes that inspire the inquiry.

I’d Google it if I had any cellphone service, but we simply have the stars. Lights as bright as Salvador himself that pierce the dark, illuminate the atmosphere and blink above as the Southern Cross.

Adrienne Pitts, a photographer, jokes that she doesn’t want to see it.

Ndumba Wensislaus, Kalahari Anib’s head guide, hollers at her excitedly because the constellation is a feature of her country’s flag, but the New Zealander can do without the home sick already bubbling in sips of local beer she says tastes like the Steinlager back in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

The Gondwana Kalahari Park seems endless.

We’ve travelled 30km north-east from Mariental, almost three hours south from Windhoek, and whooped with glee at the sight of the land turned red and the miracle of the animals we can see out of our rooms’ large windows or from the beckoning swing chairs overlooking a large expanse of the colour-changing savannah, a splash of fodder mitigating the effects of drought and the setting sun.

We hardly need a safari.

Ostriches, marabou storks, oryx, wildebeest and a veritable flock of birds make a neighbourhood of the lodge. And there’s some strange though fleeting guilt about the fact that the delicious oryx on our lunch plates may be kin of the animal lazily grazing a few metres from our outdoor dining table.

Beyond a pool reflecting an umbrella redder than the sand made magic by high levels of iron oxide, the sun sets on our first day at Kalahari Anib Lodge.

Foregoing the charm of the atmospheric bar accented with red sand, a popping fire, cracked egg light installations and teasing fine wines and cocktails, we retire beneath the mosquito nets that render our beds royal as we fall asleep to the sweet sound of the dwindling August wind and then nothing at all.

At sunrise, the e-bikes charging near the dining hall are our desert stallions and the subject of a travel feature Pitts and I are producing for Condor’s in-flight magazine. I’m on the writing, Pitts is on the photography and we’re intrepid women out cycling in the savannah feeling giddy, free and blessed to be.

The sun rises slow and Adrienne seems to glow amidst the photographic magic hour.

One in the morning and another at sunset when zebra scatter, Max the giraffe lingers long enough for a photograph and springbok leap and bound into the darkening surrounds.

It’s not a game drive but it’s close. Minus the Kalahari Bar that usually comes with the pleasure of gin, wine, beer and biltong somewhat sprung from thin air and laid out on a folding table ever in the wild.

We’re in a 60-million-year-old piece of heaven stretching across Namibia, Botswana and parts of South Africa and we know it.

We’re amidst an ostensibly eternal unfolding of low red dunes, a flourish of green acacia and shepherd trees, yellow grass and an army of three thorn bushes contrasted against a landscape in which the silence, broken occasionally by birds, seems a living, breathing, healing thing and we sigh.

The kind of sigh that bolsters us against the struggle of life, time and the city as the light trickles, the lodge fires leap and I wonder if Dali ever saw the Kalahari.

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