Civilization is the Sesriem campsite, located on the Namib Naukluft National Park boundary. We had already worked out that if, like all keen photographers, we wanted to see these dunes at sunrise, we had to stay here. Access to the park gate is through the campsite. The park gate opens at 5 am the camp gate two hours later, so stay anywhere else and no sunrise! Of course for those not interested in getting up real early, there’s plenty of choice of accommodation, but they’re all quite a few kilometres from Sesriem let alone Sossusvlei.
Nothing wrong with Sesriem though. A huge big complex with huge wall lined sites. Each site was luxurious as campsites go with a water tap, a bin, a shady tree, a BBQ and a garden bench. Our site was right at the edge of the place almost in the desert, well actually it’s all in the desert, we just had a closer view. It has a pool, a bar and a shop. The former two came in real handy after our first look at the dunes.
In the extreme heat of the afternoon when really a siesta underneath a shady tree would have been better we drove down along the white dusty, sandy track. But it was worth it. We didn’t have time to go to Sossuvlei and get back before the park gates shut at Sunset, so we headed for dune 45. Dune 45 is the nearest high dune, which is 45 kilometres from the park gate. It stands almost on it’s own, rising from the flat pan around it, glowing red and brown in the bright sunlight which was rapidly being diffused by the sand laden wind.
Hiddenvlei, a sort of mini Sossuvlei but hidden by the many dunes behind dune 45 was a 2 kilometre walk away and the trip was notable for the thousands of pinpricks from the grains of sand that were now being propelled at us by the ever increasing gusts. Trying to take photographs was a challenge. Forget the tripod it was all I could do to stand still, let alone the hope the pathetic little thing that we had lugged with us would.
In some ways it was quite exhilarating, to be there virtually all alone amongst these sandy giants that shift shape in quite short periods of time. Apparently these dunes differ from the their more famous counterparts in the Kalahari and the Sahara in the fact that they are constantly being remodeled by the remorseless wind. Certainly we could see evidence of this before our very eyes as tiny particles of the colourful quartz sand spilled over the crest and down the leeward side. This side is called the slipface for obvious reasons and gives you the classic picture that Hollywood and others have served up as a backdrop for their countless desert blockbusters over the years.
By the time we got back it was dark and we ready to eat and smooth the sides of our parched throats with a couple of ales from the bar. We didn’t stay around long though. We had to be up at 3.30 am!
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