I don’t drive, and I really like that I don’t drive. It goes against the social norms but it works well for me. I like not having the expense of a car, I like not relying on a car, I like that I don’t fall into the cycle of laziness that people who do drive tend to succumb to.
It means I walk most places I go to. Five mile trip each way to see a friend? Walk it. A trip to the DIY store or supermarket needed? Walk it. Or I can jump on a train if the weather is awful. Either way, I’m more comfortable not being behind a wheel.
In late 2017 I signed up for a challenge. It was charity focussed, aiming to raise a good amount of money for a local charity which supports children, and I was drawn in by the physical challenge element of what lay ahead. It was a 140km trek across the Namib; the world’s oldest desert. This would involve a lot of walking – aiming to cover a decent distance each day over six days, it would be under the desert sun in the middle of nowhere, and would involve camping each night. Awesome.
Having never done anything like it before it was a bit of a challenge to figure out the best kind of training. In the end, I settled for getting the miles in each day to make sure the distance part of it was as straightforward as possible, so that I could focus on coping with the desert heat and not having a shower for nearly a week. To help with that, I built in a four mile each-way walk to work every day and put in an extra few miles in the evenings. And then to push myself that bit further, I took a bit of time off work during a beautiful summer to walk along much of the North Coast of Scotland. Doing 15-20 miles in a day is easy. Getting up to do it again the next day, and the next, and the next, that was what I needed to test myself on.
Fast forward a few months and I was at London Heathrow Terminal 3 meeting a few others who were on the trek. Ahead of us was an overnight flight to Johannesburg followed by a short hop to Windhoek.
The overnight flight was painless. I had some broken sleep then watched a stunning sunrise for an hour or so. The coffee and breakfast in Johannesburg airport was wonderful but unfortunately a flight delay followed. The airline sent an incredibly happy little guy out to tell us there was an “indefinite delay”, and I’m certain this was a tactic to prevent anyone getting too angry.
It ended up lasting a couple of hours but that delay to Windhoek proved fairly costly. Well, costly in some ways, and beneficial in others. See, the other half of our group flew a different route, had already landed in Namibia and were well on their way to the camp for the night. They were way ahead, and would be enjoying(?) spending night one in a tent. We ended up landing at Windhoek too late to take the five hour bus ride to camp (the drivers won’t travel the dirt roads in the dark due to the risk of hitting wildlife) so we had to find accommodation en route.
The start of the drive from Windhoek was outstanding. At the roadside were wild boars, springbok, some giraffe. Just hanging around, right there. Later on a few monkeys were blocking the road ahead until the bus got a bit nearer.
We continued north, took a side road as the sun went down and continued for an hour in the dark. Omaruru, a little city of just 14,000 people, ended up being our home for the night, and we settled into the roadside motel.
There was weariness amongst the group at first but with the welcome shower, surprisingly good food, and supply of cold beer, we settled in fairly quickly. Knowing that the other half of the group were in tents while we had hot showers and comfy beds, it was somewhat satisfying.
Day 1 certainly didn’t go as planned. We were still three hours away from the start of the trek, which meant an early start the next day, a long drive and some miles to catch up. But we were here. The chaotic nature of the day brought everyone together. Ahead of us: many, many miles of desert and a lot of walking.