By Mary Jones
In the local Nàmá language, Namib means ‘an area where there is nothing’, a vast sandy expanse where the wild horses of the Namib roam free.
Riding across the desert plains on horseback is something that stayed with me long after I shook the sand out of my boots. With its sun-baked dunes rolling endlessly into the sea, the Namib is the oldest desert in the world, stretching all the way along Namibia’s desolate Atlantic coast.
Desert trails get you out of a safari vehicle and into a saddle. You get more closely connected to the desert. Wild animals are not startled by your presence. The sense of freedom is immense.
A grassy trail led away from the stables at Desert Homestead and into a grassy valley enclosed by the rugged Naukluft mountains. The horseshoe of towering, star-shaped dunes at Sossusvlei rose up in the distance.
We passed by herds of grazing zebra, oryx and springbok who barely turned their heads. The orange-tinged dunes stood out in sharp contrast against a cloudless blue sky. The desert wind whipped my hair around my face. The horse tossed its head. We set off across the savannah, through dry riverbeds and, finally, up a rocky mountain path to the campsite.
Stiff and saddle sore by the end of the day, and looking forward to a hot bucket shower and a hearty meal, I slid off my horse.
Sunset bathed the Tsauchab valley in a soft glow and the first star of the evening hung over the dunes. We ate dinner with our feet in the sand around a crackling, open fire that cast dancing shadows from a camelthorn tree.
When darkness fell, the Milky Way covered the night sky, casting a blanket of desert stars above my head. Putting aside my fear of snakes and scorpions, I pulled out my camp bed from the safari tent. My eyes closed to the haunting call of a distant brown hyena.
Despite its emptiness, the desert scenery of the Namib has a stark beauty that instantly captivates your imagination. Lying along the dramatic coastline of the driest country south of the Sahara, the dune sea creates a sense of space and solitude that is unlike any other trail ride I’ve ever been on.
The Desert Experience with Desert Homestead Lodge and Horsetrails (www.deserthomesteadlodge.com)