I’m lying in bed, sweat pouring from my face. My stomach is at peace for the moment but I know that it will become restless once again and I will be perched over the toilet puking my guts out.
Two days ago, I drove seven hours from the north to get here to Swakopmund on the Namibian coast. I’ve been sick ever since.
This is my first trip to Africa.
This is my first trip alone.
Everything up until now has gone incredibly well.
I have been on an adventure beyond any stretch of my imagination or expectations.
I keep reminding myself of this as I continue to throw up.
I have only allowed myself three days in Swakopmund.
I have come to visit the giant sand dunes of the oldest desert in the world.
This is day two and at this rate my chances are looking pretty slim.
The chills and churning in my stomach consume me once again.
I am dehydrated, weak and dizzy.
I want to go home.
I have been gone a long time.
I want to cry.
I want a hug.
I want someone to fuss over me.
I feel like shit!
Maybe It’s stupidity.
Maybe I’m delirious.
Probably it’s just that I’m that stubborn, but no matter how bad I feel or how much I want to leave, I have to see the dunes.
I’ve come to far. I’m too close now.
I’ve figured out that I have about thirty minutes after throwing up, before the churning in my stomach will begin again, I timed it.
I’ll be ready next time.
Soon my head is once again dangling over the toilet bowl.
I walk zombie like out of the bathroom and fall on the bed.
Eventually I am able to inch my body to where I can reach the phone.
With a shaky voice and trembling hands, I call the front desk and arrange for a guide to take me out to the desert tomorrow afternoon.
I awake the next day blurry and groggy staring at the ceiling.
Okay, how bad do I feel? I wait.
Half an hour.
Should I move?
Twenty more minutes go by.
My stomach, although sore, seems to be more stable for the moment.
I take a giant leap of faith and sit up.
Fifteen minutes go by and no urge to “up-chuck”.
My legs hang rubbery and limp over the side of the bed.
I keep telling myself what will forever become my travel mantra, “baby steps”.
Eventually I am actually standing.
Swaying back and forth, I try to decide whether or not to take a step as I wait for the nausea to hit once again…it doesn’t.
I am excited at this revelation; too bad my body isn’t in-sync.
I try so hard to stand up that I twist myself into a knot and fall flat on my face.
My mind is willing, my body isn’t the least bit interested.
Slowly I make my way to the bathroom. Everything is spinning and very bright.
I have six hours to get ready. I will need them all.
I don’t really remember much over the next few hours.
I know I have been moving very slowly and, on several occasions, have found myself just standing in one spot not really sure why or for how long.
Somehow, I have managed to get dressed. I have a vague sense that I must have combed my hair and brushed my teeth at some point.
The phone rings. The time has come to summon forth all that is within me and make my way down the three flights of stairs to the lobby to meet my guide.
I hope I don’t have my clothes on inside out, “baby steps”.
I make it to the lobby.
A tall blond man in the cliché khaki shirt and shorts along with brown hiking boots that all guides in Africa seem to wear greets me with a thick South African accent and broad smile, which disappears upon his closer scrutiny.
Do I look that bad?
Just as quickly he announces, ”we are off to the dunes”!
We are riding in what must be the first Land Rover ever built, it has nothing even resembling shock absorbers.
I can feel even the tiniest pebble in the road.
A kind of Princess and the Pea goes mobile.
Every once in a while, the guide says something and then looks at me with a smile awaiting a reply.
I hope he won’t be too offended if I throw up on him.
After several hours, we turn off the main road and are surrounded by the desert.
Here in the midst of its vastness, I have totally forgotten about my stomach.
It is mid afternoon and the sun is shifting, the dunes sparkle and the breeze blows the sand which hovers just above the surface.
The Rover stops and we get out.
I don’t know how long we have walked or how far.
I have all the energy in the world right now.
It’s like there is a healing force emanating from the ancient sands below my feet radiating into my soul.
The desert transfixes me.
I stand and stare in amazement at its beauty.
It is so tranquil and peaceful here.
I feel so small and humble.
It is time to head back to the hotel.
The sun is slowly sinking and as I watch, the horizon is transformed into liquid fire dancing on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is an incredible sight.
I climb the stairs to my little room on the third floor.
I look around the place where only hours before I was sick and weak, and I feel more alive than I ever have before.