The morning comes and Brian is excited about another day of exploring.
“Ok, guys, there’s this dune we have to climb- it’s about a 3km walk there and then we climb the dune. So it’s probably about an hour and a half there and an hour and a half back. What you reckon?”
I’m actually really tired. I’m sitting at the table with my cup of tea, wondering whether climbing a dune is worth it or not. I feel as though I had my fill with the Ghost Town of Luderitz, but apparently we haven’t had enough of sand yet.
I say so to Alex.
“Yeah I know what you mean,” she says. “But I feel like this is one of those things if we don’t do it, we’ll regret it.”
I nod and resign myself to finding more sand in areas hard to reach.
We head off in Maggie, wrapped up again looking like we’re prepared for an artic mission. I’ve packed three bottles of water in my bag, terrified of being without during the hike. Heat, thirst and an English girl doesn’t mix well at all.
We have trouble getting Maggie to shore, jumping out onto sand to then take another step onto sharp and slippery rocks.
“I have no idea what I’m stepping on,” I growl, holding a bag on my front and on my back, desperate to keep anything from the waves that splash over me suddenly, soaking my shorts and hoody. Brian is still in Maggie, attempting to find a safe anchorage. Brady is now on shore, waving around a machete as he directs his brother. The girls are laden with bags, attempting to guide each other’s footsteps safely to little avail.
I’m soaked by another wave, my foot slips and scrapes against a rock.
“Bloody hell!” I swear. “This is not going so well!”
Eventually, I make it to shore, the wind blowing hard and the sky still overcast. I shiver and stand with Karin as Brian and Brady head off to grab the lobster pots with Alex and Lisa walking to the other side to film.
Wriggling off my wet shorts, I stand in my underwear, waving around my garments around and around, hoping that I dry quickly.
I get to spend some time talking to Karin. She surprises me all the time. I remember a conversation we were having during a night watch that I won’t ever forget. We were talking about self-esteem and how I wanted to work on myself.
She nodded in understanding as I spoke, the sky a pit of blackness around us, stars blinking in unison as they listened into our private words.
“I sometimes have this voice in my head,” I say slowly, hesitantly at first. “It says that I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. Pretty enough. Funny enough. That why would people make an effort with me? Why would anyone sacrifice their time for me? Why would anyone think I’m worth their effort? That I’m worth a friendship?” I shift position to huddle lower under my blanket. “I have nightmares sometimes that I’m in a group of people and they all hate me. That they’re all laughing at me. And no matter what I do, I can’t change the way they see me.” I pause, actually hearing myself. “But I know that’s not true. I know I’m enough. I know my worth. But it’s just that voice of doubt that comes in when my barriers are down. When I feel sad.”
It was her perception of herself that made me happy.
“I’ve always liked myself,” she says bluntly. “I’ll have that voice that pushes me on. If I stuff something up, I’ll think pfft- typical Karin. I knew you could never do it. But I’ve always liked myself.”
What I loved about her simple sentence was that it carried such a strong energy. Karin knows exactly who she is. And she likes that person.
To me that’s incredible and something I inspire to.
It’s a strength I want to have. I want to work on another voice that tells the negative one to shut the hell up. To say I am good enough.
Because I am.
Hell, I’ve got a lot to work on, but luckily there’s plenty of time to do so whilst I’m with this crew.
I feel like every day, each crew member teaches me something more about how to be a better person. They inspire me. Motivate me.
They make me want to have conviction in my character.
Little did I know that one of my barriers was to be knocked down later that day.
Soon we’re all back together and I’m scrambling to pull on my shorts over my backside. I have body hang ups like most girls and I wish I didn’t. I wish I could just parade and jump around without a care. I wish I could not compare myself to other people, but I do.
This blog was always about honesty. It was always about sharing the Delos adventures. To share everything that goes on in our minds. I don’t have the ability as a writer to hold back from the reader. Because, you see, I’m writing this as though no one will ever read it. That gives me freedom to be as liberal as I want, at the cost of cringing and swearing in embarrassment when Brian reads it out loud to the crew before we publish. Because right now in the moment, I believe in myself that it will never be read out. That is the relationship of writer and reader. Nothing gets hidden.
Laying out and being honest about my fears is one of the scariest things for me to do.
I’m a proud creature. I don’t know why I associate being afraid or ashamed as a weakness. I’m working on it. Hell, am I working on it.
So here is my world, my mind and my heart whilst I am on this journey, and I’ll explain why this day would become so important to me.
I could list all the things I don’t like about my body.
My thighs are too big. My legs are too short. My nose is too round. My stomach isn’t flat enough. I’m not skinny enough. My hair isn’t pretty enough. I haven’t shaved in five days. I don’t like my breasts. My feet are gross. My voice is too low. My ears are too big, one pointed, the other round. When I look to the side I feel I look like a Goblin.
The list is terrible to write. And probably even worse to read.
I don’t want to be that person with body hang ups.
Because I know none of those are true. That is the terrible negative voice coming in, taking over and telling me I’m not good enough. That I’m not special. I’m looking forward to silencing those horrid little whispers. I need to.
And the only time I’ve felt even a slightly bit better was when I was slamming the gym five times a week and eating salads every day.
What a life, hey?
Whilst walking on the beach, we head towards the dunes, stopping for a short while to photograph a curious jackal. The dune didn’t take long to get to at all- definitely not the 1 and a half hour walk that Brian had originally said.
Endless spans of sand rise and stretch out to our right, our words useless to describe what we are seeing. The sentences we do manage to say are repeated by one person or other.
“This is crazy…”
“Can you imagine?”
“Just look at it!”
“This is incredible!”
We stare up at the mother of all dunes and swear.
Brian excitedly gets out the drone and Alex sets up the GoPro for our walk up. I watch both of them, listening about camera lenses and frame sizes and let it wash all over me.
Golds, yellows, creams and gentle pinks rise up in the distance, the sky a gentle blue as the horizon sits as a blurred pastel haze, the wind from around destroying the straight outline where sky meets land.
Soon it’s time to walk, the drone following us from behind. I’m quiet, astounded by the views entering my gaze.
My brain can’t handle the information. There’s no way for me to describe the endless span of sand so I don’t try. I gaze around numbly, eventually reaching the very top and looking over the edge of the dune.
Brian curses for me.
Below the sheer drop of sand lay a huge emerald pool. Separated from the sea until the evening, it waits, lines of salt drying on the sand in winding lines, dwindling away under the African sun. It shimmers, deep sapphire to emerald to then a bright peridot green. There may be a wealth of diamonds in this land, but this jewel was all the Delos Crew needed.
We relax, stretch out and nibble on snack bars, apples, homemade cookies and a bag of biltong. Brady and Lisa fool around and eventually find themselves jumping down the dune, getting sand into every little crevice.
I watch, grinning, contentedly munching an apple as they struggle back up the almost vertical slope.
“Ay!” gasps Lisa as she reaches the top. “The sand is so hot!”
I nod, raising my eyebrows as if to say, “Of course!” but laugh instead as she totters across to the rest of the group. Brady is still struggling up the top and shares Lisa’s sentiments when he eventually finishes the climb.
“Wow,” he says shaking his head. “That’s insane.”
He joins the group, sniffing out the scent of Billtong and we continue to relax, filming and taking photos to our heart’s content.
About half an hour later, I have no idea what stirred me to stand at the edge and gaze out. I don’t know why I wasn’t suspicious when Brady stepped next to me.
What a fool I was.
Hands grasped my upper arms and pushed forwards. Alarm hit me as I saw his grinning face and I twisted, grabbing hold of him as quick as I could. We stumbled one, two, three steps and twist again until I’m on my knees.
He’s laughing and I need my vengeance.
I grasp his trousers and pull.
We struggle in the sand once more, the vertical drop yawning beneath us, as my grip loosens and he gives me one last shove.
I stumble, balance lost and fall.
Then came the sand.
My body twisted and rolled down, down, down as gold was suddenly all I saw.
Gold and blue. Gold and blue. Gold and-
My arms spin around me as I made my body limp, scared I was going to twist and land on my head. But all I did was gain speed as I hurtled down the slope, the ground wrapping around me in a hot blanket.
I’m suddenly a child again, rolling down the green grassy hills of England, my friends and I laughing as we go faster, and faster and faster-
Except this time there is no stopping, and no green cool hills.
There is only sand.
A turn and suddenly my body is pointing vertically towards the bottom, face first towards the pool.
I take a moment, sand in my mouth, hair and eyes. The heat presses against the front of my body as I realise how far I’ve come down.
“Elizabeth!” I hear Alex shout. “Are you ok?!”
I take a moment, unable to talk. I don’t know if I’m laughing or panting.
I roll onto my back and look up at their tiny silhouettes against the sun, seeing Brady bent over laughing.
“I’ll kill him…” I splutter, sand and spit dancing from my lips.
I get to my feet to take two steps before my water bottle hurtles down.
“Get it!” Brian shouts.
Swearing, I twist and run after it, jumping and skidding further down the slope after the cursed plastic bottle. I grab it and look back up again.
The drone follows me as I climb up, the sand burning my knees and palms.
“I hate Brady!” I shout at it.
I eventually reach the top and smack Brady’s shoulder as he laughs.
“Please tell me you got that on the drone footage,” he says to Brian.
“Oh, I hope so too, brother,” Brian replies.
Only too glad to have contributed to the mirth of my family, the lack of my dignity was compensated by the fact that it was one epic fall.
“If I’m going to fall, I’m going to do it with style,” I sniff, grabbing some more biltong.
Nearly finishing pictures, Lisa the Austrian has a bright idea.
“Let’s do a naked photo.”
I laugh and agree, not for a moment thinking that we’ll do it.
“Yeah, I’m up for that!” Brady says, already pulling off his shorts.
I know then there’s a moment. I can act like I care. Or act like I don’t. Either way, I’m getting naked.
There wasn’t a moment in my mind where I doubted that I would get my kit off. Of course I was. I was with my family. These were my brothers and sisters. And for some reason I felt comfortable with them.
I knew I had to do this either way.
Now, I love being naked. Walking around the house and garden with no clothes feels like as good as a cup of tea.
But in front of people?
They’ll see my flaws, I thought. They’ll see everything. They’ll know you’re not attractive, the voice hissed. They’ll see everything. And they’ll know that you’re nothing special.
I think the reason why I took off my clothes despite these horrid thoughts was, despite being good looking or not, I had to resign myself to whatever anyone thought of me. And it wouldn’t matter. Or I would tell myself it didn’t.
Cursing myself, I was distracted by a sudden naked Karin, running around and jumping with a scarf billowing in the air.
She literally didn’t give a shit and I remembered her words.
“I’ve always liked myself.”
Alex and Lisa commenced on undressing, not caring in the least- and if they did, they showed no sign of it.
Be cool, Liz. Be fucking cool, my mind said, as it does every day.
Soon I was naked on top of a dune under the African sun with a naked Swedish girl jumping and dancing around me.
No one gave a shit at all.
Brady, only too happy to get starkers (I feel like he’s most happy without his kit) was there in the centre as we posed for the camera.
“Wait!” Brian shouts, suddenly pulling off his trousers, boxers and jumper.
He halts, suddenly trapped in his shirt, butt-naked for us all to see as he wriggles in the sand, forgetting to undo the buttons of his cuffs.
I cannot stop laughing all of a sudden. We all stand wrapped in small scarfs, tits out, dicks out, arms wrapped around each other as we stare at the sight of a naked Karin attempting to free her naked love, his naked backside wiggling in the sun.
“Allriiiiight!” he announces, once released from the clutches of evil man made clothing and comes to join us.
A relief spreads through me.
No one cares, I realise. No one is staring, judging or taking down notes of what Elizabeth Earle looks like.
“Just imagine,” Brady says with his wide grin, “if someone else walks up here and sees a load of naked people dancing about with scarfs.”
It makes me laugh all the more, imagining a couple walking their dog, freezing in their steps, mouths dropping as Deirdre and John stare at us in shock.
We run around, dance and traipse our scarfs in the air.
It is an incredible moment and my heart feels full all of a sudden.
I always want to seem to be strong. I always want to appear like I have good self-esteem. That I’m put together. That I’m someone with good energy. I want to seem whole.
Strong, strong, strong.
Please be strong.
But what I’ve learned on this journey so far most of all is that it’s ok to rely on others for help. It’s ok to lean on friends and improve yourself with their guidance- to heal yourself with their love. Because it’s been a hard road doing it solo so far.
We walk down the dunes, tired, hot and a little sunburnt in places.
Euphoria hits me.
“Yet another day with an amazing adventure,” I say to the group as we head back towards Maggie and Delos.
Everyone has a sleepy smile on their faces. Another day of bonding. Another day of family.
Another day on this journey of mine.