mobile malaria project

Day 1. Oxford to Walvis Bay

published on
Saturday 23 March 2019 | Distance travelled: 10,000km (2 flights)

We left Heathrow on the evening of Friday 22 March. Our 11 hour BA flight to Cape Town was uneventful, but as we landed at 8am local time, the sun was already shining over a misty Table Mountain. We spent a brief couple of hours at the airport before joining an Air Namibia flight to Walvis Bay Namibia.

Walvis Bay is the small port on the west coast of Africa and where our car is due to arrive at some point over the next week. Our flight was full, of tourists mainly, from Japan, Germany, South Africa, and the UK. We landed in what felt looked like the middle of the desert, orange sand dunes making way for the grey tarmac of the runway. As we climbed down the stairs on the ground we had finally arrived at the beginning of our journey.

What am I doing?

I spent a lot of the flight thinking about how long it had been since I'd last been away for so long. Fourteen years ago, in the summer after I finished my undergraduate degree I'd led a conservation research project in the highlands of Ethiopia for three months. We'd spent two of those months high in the Simien Mountains trying to find Ethiopian wolves, but since then my travels away from the UK, although relatively frequent, haven't lasted much more than three weeks. 

What's more, whilst once I would have been ecstatic about the prospect of going to new places and having new adventures, I realised that I am now more than a little apprehensive. It feels like those normal last minute nerves that always accompany change have been maginified. Sure, this trip is about work, and I'm anxious about the fact that there are still unknowns about the trip - like when the car is going to arrive and whether the science we're trialling is actually going to work - that I still don't have control over. But there's a large dose of realism involved in these feelings as well. There is a world of water under the bridge since those halcyon days in Ethiopia. I have responsibilities and a career, and more importantly have left a loving wife and growing family behind.

More than once on that flight did I ask myself: "What am I doing?". Deep down, I'm sure I know the answer, and I'm genuinely excited about the opportunity that has been given to me. But for the first few hours when you're 10,000 miles from home, without familiar comforts and the people that you spend most of your free waking hours with, it feels like a very long way.