I watch my step as I enter, careful not to step in the rubble and debris that have tumbled down from the walls and ceilings of this derelict building over time. The bare sandals I’ve chosen to wear on this hot day in late September are not the best footwear for this kind of exhibit. But never mind my feet for now, the space all around me exudes passion, sadness, poetry. It is beautiful in the grittiest, ugliest way—decay covered by layers of quirky and vivid street art. It’s something of a dream gallery; not bound by expertise or pretense, it’s all heart.
When I heard that 80 local street artists would be taking over a three-story abandoned factory in Berkeley for a temporary exhibit called Special Delivery, there was never any doubt that I was going to go. It was open to the public on weekends for four weeks in September, and I made it on the very last day.
Someday, the art-loving building director who hosted this exhibit with Endless Canvas will oversee the transformation of this site into an office building. But for four weeks, it was a grungy artistic wonderland open to the public; a living but ephemeral museum of underground culture that will only last in photographs:
Namibia is not a place to take a vacation. It’s a place to delve into beauty, undoubtedly—an alien beauty arising from dust and sand. It’s a place to have the boundaries of your mind expanded by nature’s lack of boundaries; by the great absence of anything or by the presence of something in the most unlikely location. It’s a place to enjoy the thrill of observing numerous species of wildlife in their intended habitats.
But it’s not a vacation. Namibia makes you work to discover its cache. You’ll have to take the longest, bumpiest, dustiest drives to get anywhere. You’ll have to trek across enormous peaks of sand while the sun shines on you with a vividity you’ve never known, and you’ll have to ration the last hot drops of water in your bottle. Namibia will laugh at your notions of wildlife waiting for you just outside your room. It’ll make you rise while it’s still dark to roam the savanna for the smallest glimpses of the kind of nature documentary scenes you were imagining before you arrived. And along your journey through Namibia, you may discover that it’s a country full of horrific secrets hidden deeper in its recesses than even the most elusive animals. Observing the country with open and honest eyes, you’ll see the lasting effects of apartheid and untold genocide.
You’ll see the natural world in all of its ruggedness and rawness. You’ll watch a cheetah devour an antelope it recently hunted for breakfast with the carcass before her and blood smeared all over her face. Gripped by the brutal honesty of this primal act of survival, your eyes will stay fixed on this sight. And in watching it comes a deep sense that you are not just observing the circle of life, but you are a part of it in a way you’ve never felt before, like you are summoning a wild and intrinsic part of yourself that lays dormant in the modern world.
The 2000+ miles you’ll travel in barren Namibia will leave you feeling like the speck on the Earth that you are. The large 4×4 and safari trucks that you’ll ride around the country in seem designed for conquering, but they only allow you to roll over the surface. The untamed landscape of Namibia is not to be conquered, it consumes. The sand, the emptiness, and the endless desert will swallow you up, pull you closer to the Earth, and embed the Earth more deeply in your soul.
We signed up for a sundowner excursion through the Kunene region because it was our last chance to search for elephants on this trip. We never saw any, but as we drove through the veld, ruggedly beautiful views were plentiful:
Our vehicle for the drive.
Namibia’s fairy circles, mysterious bare patches spread throughout the desert grasslands. Scientists have yet to figure out what causes these spots.
The bumpy road less traveled.
A whole family of ostriches.
A sheep stampede.
We came across this village far away from any official road access. Our guide explained that these huts are incredibly well suited to stand up to the elements. When a huge storm came through the area, these huts remained while the one modern building here was destroyed.
Columnar basalt is a common sight in the Twyfelfontein area. The cactus-like plant growing from the rocks is a poisonous plant called Euphorbia virosa or Gifboom, which means “poison tree” in Afrikaans.
Petrified wood is also common in this area.
We had a “sundowner” drink of pink champagne to celebrate the sunset before heading back to the lodge.