July 23, 2007. Windhoek, Namibia.
After two long flights and a layover in South Africa, we arrived in Windhoek, Namibia feeling a bit whacked from the air travel and looking down the barrel of a five-hour drive. For all of us, Windhoek was a bit of a surreal experience at first. Perhaps it was the contrast to the hot, muggy and lush landscape of Ghana that took us off guard. Windhoek was dry and clear. We were surrounded by a vast expanse of desert and comforted by a cool breeze. The hustle and crowds of Ghana were gone, now replaced by a profound sense of isolation. "Where are we?" Chad, our assistant cameraman, asked in disbelief.
I think we were all experiencing a sense of being lost and trying to come to terms with this new location, which quite frankly didn't match up to any of our expectations. Mark Knobil, our Director of Photography, and Chris Strollo, our Soundman, (who have both worked extensively in Africa before) seemed a bit confused. For me, I think it was sensory deprivation. There was a single black road, beige sand (like some sort of lunar landscape) and blue sky. The only vestige of our Ghana experience was the baboons. There they were, seemingly larger, sitting on the side of the road like sentinels. It was strange seeing baboons out in the open among desert scrub brush. The baboons looked like dusty old books, sitting in lines along the side of the road.
As we drove into the night, our new colleague and driver ,AJ, answered periodic questions about the land, the people and the wildlife. The baboons in Namibia aren't a big problem though their numbers are growing. The giraffes we were seeing were part of game parks, a burgeoning new business. Hunting parks too were big. If you wanted to shoot a lion that could be arranged for 10K US, an elephant 25K and so on.
Late in the evening we finished crossing the desert and arrived in Swakopmund, which sits on the desert's edge of the coast. The town was eerily quiet, and the extremely wide streets, which were first built to accommodate ox carts, were devoid of any life. A thick blanket of fog covered the entire town, and it was very cold thousands of miles from Ghana, and even further from home.