Sunday 12 November 2017

It was so cold when we woke up. Well, woke up at 5am and couldn’t sleep again because it was so chilly. Kind of annoying, as we had a relative lie in today. Weren’t leaving until 8am.

The drive wasn’t too long today.

After half an hour we were already stopping in the tiny little area of Solitaire. Literally one bakery, one shop and a petrol station. Not sure where the people even live.

Here they are apparently famous for their apple pie. It was more like apple crumble. And sadly they had no vegan ones.

Around 9.30am, we arrived at the entrance of the Sossusvlei National Park. This is the area of the largest dunes. And my only knowledge of Namibia before I came was just the image of these dunes.

After paying the entrance fees, we were onto the paved (!) road driving through the large ephemeral pan surrounded by red sand dunes that reach up to 200m.

The desert is one of the oldest and driest ecosystems on earth. However, the landscape is constantly changing – wind alters the shape of the dunes and the colours shift with the changing light.

Some colours of the dunes are because of different materials in the sand. There are some pale patches – from chalk. And the very deep red colour is due to the high iron content. There are also black streaks where there is even more iron.

After 45km of driving, we arrived at dune 45.

I was disappointed that we weren’t doing this at sunrise. It was now 10.20am and starting to get very hot.

Dune 45 rises over 150m above the surrounding plains. This is the ‘famous’ dune that everyone climbs. We couldn’t work out what made it any different to the surrounding dunes. But apparently it is just an easier climb.

It started off hard. I had no intention of reaching the top. I was just going to go up a short way and look at the view.

I had read that barefoot was the best way to go up. But the sand was starting to get very hot in the sun. So we were all in trainers.

It was steep. Every step up, you slid halfway back down.

After a short while, I got into it. Stepping on already compact sand from the person in front of you made it so much easier.

Before I knew it, I was at the top of the first slope and onto a section which was flat. That was easy.

So I carried on.

And made it to the top.

It really wasn’t hard at all. I was expecting much worse. We were on the cool side of the dune so despite being around 11am and nearly in the midday sun, it really was a pleasant walk. I was surprised.

The view from the top (and all the way up and all the way down) was awesome. Surrounded by red dunes. So pretty.

Nothing else around. Only us. And a small gecko.

We sat at the top for a while, watching the world. Then made our way back down.

Coming down was fun. You could basically just run. And the sand stopped you from going too fast, or falling.

Once emptying half the dune out of our shoes, we drove the last 20km to the end of the road. Here it is not possible to go any further in the truck.

We had to hire the 4WD shuttle to go the last 4km (200 Namibian dollars). It was so bumpy. And so hot. It was now 12pm.

The next 2km was on foot. Across the hilly sand. Hard work.

We had to walk up a small dune. Then at the top, was the view of our destination – the dead vlei.

This clay pan is entirely surrounded by bright red dunes. Isolated from any source of water. There are dead trees inside, which are around 1,000 years old. There was a sign asking that you do not touch the trees.

It was really cool. We walked all around for a while. Before the walk back. Again, pretty with patches of chalk.

We caught the shuttle back to the car park (a sandy area designated for cars), past a few grazing oryx. And the guys had made lunch for us. Just tomato and cucumber roll for me. I still had some avocado left from the previous day.

Then back on the road. For the 65km drive back out of the park. We were all so exhausted that most of us fell asleep.

Just 4km out of the park gates is the Sesriem Canyon. This is a 1km-long, 30m-deep Canyon. It was carved by the Tsauchab River which over 15-million-years deposited sand and gravel.

I really couldn’t be bothered with any more walking. I wasn’t in a good mood. But I went anyway. It was a bit of a clamber down to the bottom. Then we walked through the walkways until you couldn’t go any further. Turned around and headed back out again. Not too exciting.

It took about half an hour. Then finally we headed to the campsite, which was only a few minutes away.

As soon as the tent was up, I was in the pool. It was so nice. My bad mood suddenly gone away.

The campsite was surrounded by mountains. It was really pretty.

We had more traditional African food for dinner. Engera – made from maize flour and water. Like overcooked rice, it is white, tastes of nothing and can be moulded into shapes. A few people were not fans of it. I didn’t think it was too bad. I also had sweet and sour vegetables (again!), salad and beetroot. So was really good.

I wanted to go to bed early. But after washing up from dinner, it was already 9.30pm.


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