This blue marble

– and yet it spins

Freezing in Africa

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ondekarembaPit stop between Windhoek city and airport, to re-stock and to pick up an additional passenger. At 1.7 km elevation we suspected the night would be cold, and the temperature dropped quickly after sunset. When we were ready for our tent beds at around 10 pm, the temperature had dropped to 12 degrees centigrade. I piled on woolly bottoms and top, PJ pants, trekking pants, two layers of fleece sweaters, a Nepalese down vest, hat, gloves, socks and woollen socks. And as a cherry on top I threw my hammam towel over my sleeping bag, as an extra blanket.

But we had no idea just HOW cold we would be. My tent mate was forced out in the cold in the middle of the night to get more layers from her luggage. I woke up at around 2 am and could not feel my toes. I tied my windbreaker around my feet, hoping it would help if only a millimeter. It was difficult to fall back asleep as my face was stone cold and burrowing into a short, hoodless summer sleeping bag was not easy. As I am not too tall I was able to compress myself inside the bag, pulling the drawstring tight above my head. Like a meatloaf ready for the oven, except that such heat was only to be dreamed of.

In the morning, just after sunrise, I hobbled to the outdoor bathroom in my flip-flops and stuck my feet into the hot water in the sink, one by one, until I could feel my toes tingle. Fortunately a kind soul had left a big fire in the water-heating fireplace behind the bathroom. I stuck my feet into warmer trekking boots and looked at my laundry drying in the car. Still wet, I assumed, and touched my shorts – which were frozen rock hard on the steering wheel. I have no idea just how cold it had been, but -3°C would not surprise me. Our cool box was significantly warmer than the air outside.

Namibia reminds me over and over again how easy it is to nearly freeze to death in Africa.

(Ondekaremba Game Farm, Windhoek, Namibia; July 2017)

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