Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Sand Dune Sea

After a bit of a luxurious lay in, the next day was effectively another travel day as we covered some ground back north along the edge of the Namib-Naukluft Desert towards our next destination, Sesriem, arriving at sunset. We set up camp and had a hearty meal, and got another early night, as tomorrow we would be up at 5:00am to head out into the desert to watch the sunrise from the top of a sand dune...!

Up and bleary eyed we set off in the dim pre-dawn light towards dune 45 in a place called Soussusvlei, (pronounced Sue-sue-fly). Dunes around here are not your common-or-garden variety you find in your usual seaside town, no, these puppies grow to between 150-350m tall, stretch for literally hundreds of kms and are comprised of a dark glowing red sand. This was another of the highlights of the tour that we had been waiting for and we were not disappointed. Arriving at Dune 45 with less than half an hour before sunrise, we were presented with a hike up the steep edge of the dune which was frankly the most energy sapping thing I have done in a long time. Fiona & I made the bold decision not to climb 150m to the top with a crowd of mainly strapping Germans or Scandinavian types, but we found our own little romantic spot about 100m up and perched there. Watching the sun rise over a sea of red dunes (while recovering from the lung-busting climb) was a real experience. The ever changing colours and contrasts, mixed with the moving shadows and shafts of light was breathtaking (or was that the climb..?). Five minutes after the sun had risen, Fiona and I were back down at the truck, tucking in to a cooked breakfast, kindly prepared by our Guides.

After breakfast (it was still only 7:45am) we set off on a 5km hike through the dunes towards the world-famous Dead Vlei, where the sand had cut off the flow of the intermittent river to a grove of Acacia trees some 500 years ago. This left the eerie sight of 50 or so dead trees in a white clay pan, surrounded by some of the biggest dunes in the whole area.

The hike was easy on the flat, and the climb up the dunes was tempered with the fun of running down the other side in an avalanche of sand. Our guide Elias was a wealth of information about everything living, dead or otherwise in this strangely isolated and beguiling place and made the time fly by. One last dune to climb and we were on the edge of the Dead Vlei, and presented a stunning vista of the stark and desolate beauty of this special place. We walked down into the vlei and stood amongst the silence of the dead trees, sweltering in the early morning sun, and looking in awe at the massive dunes surrounding us. We spent a good 45 mins there, exploring the area and taking many photo’s. For me, this was the best moment of the whole trip, standing with my arms outstretched to feel what little breeze there was, and just soaking in the atmosphere and ambience of this extreme place.

Slowly we made the gradual climb out of Dead Vlei and plodded across another stretch of parched clay and soft sand to pick up a 4x4 back to where we started our hike. Travelling back toward the campsite, now in the daylight we could see the huge, ever-moving dunes, flanking us on both sides, amazed that this formation of dunes had been around for thousands, maybe millions of years, stretched over a massive area accounting for almost 25% of the whole of Namibia. It had been a great day.

For the last night of the safari we camped at a place called ‘Agama’ in probably the best appointed campsite we had yet found, with fantastic circular facilities, a swimming pool, and bar with a sunset viewing platform built on top.... What else could a man want, and I thoroughly enjoyed sucking down a beer or two by the pool and then having another whilst watching the sun set on a fabulous day.

1 comment:

  1. Coooool.....
    I am glad you go to see Soussusvlei, my neighbour was there in the rain (flood) season when it was full of water. And you know what is the coolest thing - in Winter it snows on those dunes!!!
    Thank you so much for the great Blogs, makes me quite homesick.