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  • Who knows if there is a spirit in landscape, but landscape for sure speaks to the spirit in me.

    From my African diary, 2007:

    We are back at Namibia’s border crossing. Just as when we entered South Africa, to leave it we must enter immigration and customs through four doors, one after the other. It is an odd arrangement because once inside we see that each of the doors leads to the same space and, odder still, the same woman attends us at each entrance. She seems to be the only employee. She hardly looks at us -- no smiles, no chat, no nothing. Then, we drive a hundred meters to the Namibian side. It is such a short distance; we do not put on our seat belts. There’s not another car in sight. Immediately, a huge black official with a grim face stops us. “You do not have your seat belts on. The fine is three hundred rand.” My husband stays calm and reasons about the distance and absence of other vehicles. “We always wear our seat belts on the road,” he concludes. Finally, the official lets us go without charge, the fifty dollar trap escaped. But his face is a grimace suggesting he would love to eat us for lunch.

    The man who stamps our papers is as grim as the seat belt inspector. When we return to our car the first official waits there. First a traffic policeman, he is now a customs official. He says he needs to see what we are bringing into the country. My husband takes a deep breathe. I know he is concerned about our extensive camera equipment. He opens the trunk and the official asks,”Where are you headed?”

    “Swakopmund,” we respond.

    A miracle occurs. The official’s angry face transforms in a second. His eyes open wide and he breaks into a big laugh. “I love Swakopmund!” he exclaims. “My cousin has a store there.” I know the store, and that makes him even happier. He is no longer interested in the contents of our boot. “I would love to travel with you to Swakopmund,” he exudes and wishes us a safe journey, waving us good-bye as if we were old friends.

    Immediately past the border post, the landscape becomes softer and wider. Prairies covered in yellow and gold stretch to hilltops. Blue and red rock-strewn mountains seem to float on the grass.

    “It feels good to be back in Namibia,” I moan. My husband agrees.

    After several hours we pass Pinah Rosh. Recently a German archeologist discovered cave paintings here which are supposed to be twenty-seven thousand years old. They are painted on small boulder ‘boards’ which could be carried by their nomadic artists.

    Then we reach Aus. Aus is a small settlement with a gas station at its center. I was sure that the name Aus came from the German aus which means ‘over’, ‘gone’ or ‘end’, as this wee Namibian village certainly seems to be at the end of the world. But the man who fills our tank explains that this aus is an indigenous Nama word meaning ‘serpent’s well’. He does not know, though, where the well might be. Yes, there are a lot of snakes, but they are shy and seldom seen.

    We check in at the hotel. The woman who hands us our room key says,”Keep driving seven kilometers on this dirt road. Your chalet will be on the right.”

    The structure, when we find it, is built right up against a massive granite boulder. I can sense vibrations of its age and power and feel the size of a small cockroach beside it. All afternoon we sit on our terrace looking at the blue and reddish rocks scattered on top of the endless grass plain. I feel something give way inside me. Things which I cannot name but which I know I have carried for much too long, fall off me.

    Then comes a moonless night. Silence except for the geckos chirping. We photograph the massive night sky. In the images I see the Milky Way as never before.

    Photography by KIKI

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