Into the Namib

Whose Feces Is It Anyway?
By David Morinelli

Sitting up, I unsheathed the upper half of my body from my sleeping bag. I had a dull ache in the back of my head and a mouthful of sand and as I recalled our episode from the night before I couldn't help but laugh. I took a brief surveillance of our surroundings. Somewhere in the middle of the Namib desert's towering sand dunes at dawn, I found myself on the floor of a cave set halfway up the terraced face of a granite outcropping.

How this escarpment had come to exist here in the middle of a vast ocean of red sand I had little idea, but I was quite sure that without it we'd have been denied even the two hours of restless sleep we did get.

The cave itself, extremely shallow, could never have fit a third person, and I wondered briefly what we would have done to escape the night's windstorm had Michael not turned back the day before.

I clambered on out of my bag and scratched my head, making a thousand grains of sand cascade down out of my hair, and found a comfortable perch to sit on and brush my teeth. From my spot I had a panoramic view of the desert and the route we had covered through the night. Not that I could actually make out our tracks—the wind had long since erased them—but I thought I could discern on the horizon the dune we had originally settled in on for the night. Lying still in our bags, absorbing the calm and occasionally trading stories, the storm had overwhelmed us. It had rolled in quickly, abruptly transforming quiet stargazing into late and arduous hiking searching for shelter.

As I brushed away I took a closer look at the ground around me and saw something that appeared familiar. I looked over at Sakki, my guide, who was just rising.

"Hey, Sakki," I asked, "this looks like mice droppings." I pointed to a small pile of feces, proud that my education from our sleeping site two nights before hadn't been in vain.

"Yes, I think so," came her reply. "How did you sleep?"

"Like a king," I lied, rolling my eyes back in my head. Then I pointed to some white splotches on the cave's floor. "What about this? Is it bird shit?"

"Yes, I think from owl," Sakki replied. "The wind died down, no?"

I didn't answer, I just threw more questions her way. "I didn't know you had owl here. They don't seem to be too good at keeping the mice away. What about these droppings?"

Sakki paused for a second before answering. "Those are from hyena," she said.

"Oh," I said and spit the toothpaste out.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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