by Marijke Hillmann
Lüderitz Beach, Namibia – Christmas Day
Listening to a Christmas concert from the car radio on the isolated beach, I reflect on the bleak, overwhelming beauty of this sleepy little coastal town. It has taken a long time to reach our destination as the road between Aus and Lüderitz is incessantly plagued by sand storms, causing extensive damage to vehicles and travellers have to wait until the weather all-clear is given for the one-hour drive.
The boys dig trenches around their Dad who has fallen asleep; his book is perched askew on top of his sunglasses. Lazily opening one eye I remark that the radio station seems to have fallen away, yawn and turn around to let the sun do its work.
He sits up: “time to go in any case, the tide is coming in”. He jumps up, opens the door and switches the radio off and on again. Not a crackle. He turns the ignition key – to no avail. He curses. As yet unaware of the dire straits we are in I admonish him not to swear on Christmas Day. “Try telling my boss”, he shouts, “he gave me this car two weeks ago – this is the end of my career”.
The water is lapping at our feet and there is not a sound to be heard – the boys start running along the beach towards the town. They shout and wave their arms, my husband runs after them. I stop in my tracks; my heart is pounding as I watch the ocean slowly starting to savour the taste of its 4-wheel prey.
There is more shouting and eventually I hear the sound of an SUV working its way towards us through the sand. The driver bellows to connect the tow cable whilst he keeps his vehicle running. His wife and children are running alongside the car and plead with him to turn back. Doggedly the man continues amongst the ensuing chaos, the water now well above our ankles.
The engine roars and both vehicles are slowly moving away from the ocean. Hastily, we grab our possessions and run after the cars. Further along the beach we help to gather the picnic remnants of our Samaritan family, the smells of their fish curry mingling with the salty taste of the Atlantic Ocean spray.
Bedraggled and emotionally drained we reach the edge of town. Addresses are exchanged and the next day we gratefully share the bottle of whiskey we have managed to wheedle out of a local bar manager at a heavily inflated price tag.
The vehicle is fitted out with a new battery and over the next few years survives bush ventures, desert passes and city traffic chaos although it never sets eyes again on anything remotely resembling a beach.
Marijke writes a monthly story for us. She write our segment Stories in Africa, and her stories will some day become a novel. For now please enjoy them, we are honored to have her work on our site. You can find more of her work here.