We drive through the Mopani scrub. Kudu and Rhinoceros browse on the Koedoebos. The scene framed by the multiple trunks of the African Moringa which emerge from its swollen base. The truck skirts out onto the Etosha pan, a Bantu word meaning great white place. A fitting description for a 1000 million year old salt mineral pan stretching the Kalahari Basin.
Originally this was a lake fed by the Kunene river but the river changed course and thousands of years ago the lake dried up. The San people believe in a legend that a village was invaded and everyone except for one woman was murdered. She was so upset that she cried and her tears formed a huge lake. When her tears dried the great white pan remained.
In the far distance on a clear day you can make out the outline of the savannah bushland bordering the pan, but today the white earth collides with the grey sky and the dust and heat is belied by the oncoming rain.
The warm rains of the storm lightly lashing the sides of the truck as Rod reaches over and grabs my Discman, fumbling with it for a moment. A couple of false starts. Then he smiles and turns it up as high as our speakers would go. We wind down the windows the rain cooling the mugginess of the day and breathing a freshness through the cabin. We pull up in the middle of the basin. Toto’s Africa now streaming out into the air.
“We getting out?” I ask.
As was customary with Rod he surprised me continually by making profound statements that contradict his looks and sit juxtaposed with his usual conversation and overall demeanor.
“Robbo, in life you can’t wait for the rain to stop, sometimes you must learn to dance in it” and with that, he was out of the cabin, arms stretched to either side, like Andy Dufrane from Shawshank Redemption allowing the rains of Africa to wash over him, touching him both outside and within.
I leap from the cabin also, calling to the passengers to join us, hitting repeat on Toto and bounding past Rod into the rain along the salt encrusted earth. The music blares from the truck’s cabin “It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you, that’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do, I bless the rains down in Africa, gonna take some time to do the things we never have”
We all stand out on the white pan singing Africa at the top of our lungs, passengers moving past their initial confusion embrace the moment. The cooling breeze against the rain falling on our faces, soaking through our clothes as we spin around and laugh and dance in the storm.
As if by some evolutionary leap, we are able to feel our surroundings, the soul of the African wild embracing us. Here we connect, in this instant, opening the page of our travel adventure to a moment of truth. To a moment of understanding of the true meaning of journey and exploration. We embrace each other, miles away from the chattering of keyboards and the demands of business meetings. Each of us living, really living. Experiencing Africa in the way you would in the movies, like you would in your dreams.
We return to the truck, our spirits wide awake, each of us knowing we were all a part of something that enriched each of our souls and left us with a feeling that will stay with us long after this moment has passed.