“Brave are simply those with the clearest vision of what is before them,
glory and danger alike, and notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” – Kate and Leopold
Austin and I were married on 7th December 2007, surrounded by four of our closest Namibian friends, Totti and Horst Fritze, Hanne, and Wayne.
Totti (whose birth name is Sylvia) and her husband Horst came to Namibia from Germany. They met Austin some eighteen years earlier when he first moved to Swakopmund and rented the cottage from them in which we lived. Totti is a whirlwind of colour and excitement, always dressed brightly and dashing from one place to another, extracting smiles from everyone around her with her wonderful sense of humour. Horst is a sweet, dependable, highly successful man and well respected in business. Horst’s construction company was responsible for the majority of major projects around Swakopmund, including a school that their children attended and which Totti ran as Principal. Totti’s and Horst’s generosity is boundless and they are like family to us.
Hanne also immigrated to Namibia from Germany and had known Austin for the past ten years. She is the quintessential good friend, a supportive person who is always there to listen and lend a hand in any way she can. Austin and I frequently enjoyed catching up with Hanne over a glass of wine and one of her home cooked pasta dinners. Hanne shared our interest in Namibian wildlife and the outdoors and appreciated of the joys and difficulties of travel.
Wayne is a free spirit if ever I’ve known one. Wayne was the first person Austin ever met in Swakopmund, and when I arrived in Namibia and for many months after, he was spending much of his time in the desert. He knew the desert elephant herds in the Ugab Riverbed very well and could identify different herds and individuals. It was not unusual for Austin and I to run into Wayne in the vicinity of Brandberg, where he would always have an exciting story to share of a recent close encounter with the elephants. Sometimes Wayne would vanish from Swakopmund for weeks at a time, only to run into us on a street corner one day and inform us of his latest adventure in the wild. He cares passionately about the fate of Namibia’s desert elephants and I wish there were more people who shared his sentiments.
The day of our wedding dawned sunny and warm. After a quick breakfast at our favourite cafe, we returned home and prepared in a state of heightened anticipation for the afternoon ahead. Austin dressed for our wedding in a suit, shirt and tie. He looked very handsome, and I found it difficult to take my eyes off him as he helped me fix the flower headpiece into my hair. After a reassuring hug, we climbed into the Mazda.
‘No second thoughts?’ I asked Austin as I squeezed his hand.
‘I love you more than ever,’ Austin said. ‘You’re my whole life.’
‘I love you, too,’ I replied, ‘more than anything in the world.’
With that, Austin started the engine and we pulled out of the driveway.
On arriving at the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court, our wedding guests informed us with perfectly straight faces that they had just notified the local media of our wedding, and also that we needed identification before the ceremony could begin.
‘Oh, no,’ Austin and I groaned simultaneously. We had studiously avoided any mention of our approaching marriage appearing in the local papers and we had both left our identification at home after providing it to the Clerk a month earlier. Just as our rapidly fraying nerves began to give way, our friends broke into smiles of pure delight and we realised we had been deliberately misled. Our relief was palpable and we laughed as we realised just how nervous we were. We were met a moment later by Judge Prinsloo, who was to perform our wedding ceremony, and our friends followed us to the courtroom. The room was filled with indigenous Africans who must have been awaiting another ceremony scheduled later in the afternoon, and so our wedding was attended by some twenty uninvited guests who thankfully sat quietly throughout the proceedings.
Judge Prinsloo led us in the most beautiful wedding vows I’d ever heard and our dune rings became our wedding rings as we exchanged them with smiles of pure happiness. After signing the marriage certificate, which was witnessed by our friends, we all left the Court and drove to the main beach, followed by the Namib Desert sand dunes, for photographs. Austin could not refrain from taking some of the photos himself, but the majority were taken by Totti, Horst, Hanne and Wayne in turn throughout the afternoon. Afterwards, our friends treated us to champagne and presented us with beautiful wedding gifts and cards.
Austin and I parted with our guests before sunset and arranged to meet them at Lighthouse Restaurant for dinner later that evening. On arriving home, we passed Johannes, the Ovambo gardener employed by Totti and Horst, who gestured excitedly to our wedding attire and declared confidently in Afrikaans, ‘Merry Christmas!’
Once we entered the house, I placed my bouquet in a vase and Austin and I sat on the lounge chair together.
‘We did it!’ Austin exclaimed. We both laughed and hugged each other; enjoying the first moment of relaxation we had all day. Austin and I opened wedding gifts and cards from my family, and Austin opened his presents from me, which he loved. My father, Glenn Wilcher, had very generously written off my debt for my initial flights to Namibia as a wedding gift to us, a gesture that Austin and I greatly appreciated.
At 8pm that night, our little wedding party sat down to dinner at the Lighthouse restaurant. We were presented with a gift of unlimited champagne by the restaurant manager and the evening was a wonderful culmination to a lovely day.
Two days later, we packed and left for our honeymoon in Etosha National Park.
To be continued in Chapter 24, when Austin treats me to the best honeymoon an adventurous bride could wish for!