Welcome to blog number 2 of 5 of my 'Stories from the sands' series. This one is truly a special one. It brings to life probably my favourite thing about the desert and my most cherished memory possibly of all time... So strap in and prepare for the cold, dark, empty silence of the desert sands.

We were spending a week working in base camp, located in one of the valleys of the Brandburg Mountain, carrying out chores like; organising the ration tent, digging long drops, scientific surveys and supporting the team up the mountain. It all began after a particularly long day carrying 20 litre jerry cans of water up the mountain to fill up a barrel reservoir for the other team, (a story in itself I might add). After the latest punishing trip up we sat down in middle of base camp for a very late dinner. The fire crackled as I handed round the boil in the bag ration packs. It’s orange and yellow flames flickered fiercely, greedily eating the dry wood we fed it from our stock pile. Eventually the sun began to set over the sands marked by the barking of the baboons high up in their home somewhere in the mountain and an orchestra of bird songs from their nests in the Acacia. The Brandburg Mountain is an incredible sight at dusk and dawn. The mountain glows red and orange like its ablaze with fire and with the declining sun, the wildlife of the sands begin to emerge from their shady refuges. The whole area becomes alive with sound, the eerie silence of the desert no more, as the mountain puts on its light show. However the incredible sight of a mountain glowing red is only the opening act for when the sun goes down; and the greatest light show on earth begins...

As the night goes on, the temperature in the desert drops, quickly plummeting to freezing. Our team huddled closer to the dying embers of the fire. It’s funny in a way, during the day you do everything possible to try and escape the scorching desert heat, yet at night you do all you can to try grab any warmth you can. Now you may be wondering why we’d put up with this icy torture. Well the answer is simple, the most beautiful thing on earth, or well the most beautiful thing you can see from earth. Words cannot describe how beautiful the heavens were; a billion silver lights, shining across the pitch black night sky; every so often the red flashes of satellites could be seen crossing through that immense spectacle of light. A white cloud of sparkling dust splits the heavens in half like a chasm in the sky made up of trillion upon trillions of minuscule silver dust particles. It looked like a rupture in the universe itself.

The moon was a glowing giant set within the darkness, combining its luminous glow with the dazzling silver light of the stars to fight of the eternal darkness of night.

We all lay on our backs gazing upwards. We waited patiently until we saw the blazing white light arc its way through the black sky, leaving a trail of silver in its wake. This was shortly followed by others replicating its beautiful performance. Soon enough an immense section of the sky then had silver streaks cascading across it. In all my life I never expect to see something as beautiful again. Even sat here typing, with a dark, cloudy starless sky outside the window, I can close my eyes and see that starry spectacle.

Its beauty brings tears to my eyes every time. 

Written by Jonny Fairclough 

Edited by Chris Riches 


Published by C&J Active