Conde Nast Traveller India

NAMIBIA UP CLOSE

In the dry riverbed of the Aba-Huab, the tracker stopped and peered at the ground. I hovered at his shoulder, wondering what we were looking at. “Look,” he said. I looked. I saw nothing. With a stick, he outlined the slightest indent, barely more than a shadow. “About four hours ago.Two rhinos.” Across the riverbed, the other rangers had fanned out among the scrub like a police team searching for a missing body, combing the ground for clues.

Some might see animal tracking as the trainspotting of Africa—an arcane pursuit largely conducted by men dressed like Boy Scouts, in shorts and knee socks. But frankly, anyone can sip sundowners and peer at zebras through binoculars. Put in a couple of hours of tracking, however, poking the poop, checking the scent marks, scanning the dry riverbed, and you’re no longer a spectator. You’re a participant.

Namibia was starting to bring out my inner Scout. I wanted to read the runes, the hieroglyphics imprinted on the African earth. Every track, every broken twig, every pile of dung was a story, a narrative. I wanted to understand them.

In Nama, the local language, Namib means ‘vast space of nothingness’. The vast and spacious bit is right. At the end of Creation, God seems to have gathered up all the offcuts, leftovers, the bits that didn’t fit, the wacky design ideas that were too bizarre for anywhere else, and dumped them here where few people would notice. Namibia is the size of France and Britain combined,

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