African shoestrings – Namibia Day Fifty nine – Namib desert

Sunup was at 6.30 am and we were first in line at the gate for the 4.45 opening except they actually didn’t open until five. It took one hour to get to within 4 kilometres of Sossusvlei. From here the road is only suitable for 4WD or feet. We only had the latter and it took us a good hour to trudge across the sometimes gravel but mostly sandy track. So after all that we missed the fucking sunrise over Sossusvlei!

But we there are plenty of other dunes on the way and the sunrise was still pretty good, as was the light as we got to Sossusvlei.
But it was more than just that.
Being out there with only the occasional Gemsbok for company (there was another couple, but they gave up after 20 minutes), surrounded by these spectacular shaped dunes changing colour before our very eyes was incredible.
Sossusvlei itself is without doubt the home of the most dramatic dunes. It has two as a backdrop one of which stands like a giant curly lock of hair, a semicircle with a tail supported by a mountain of red quartz sand grains.
This is the dune!
We spent an hour taking photographs, wondering around, eating our breakfast and just enjoying being the only privileged humans in what must be one of the world’s most special places.

That was until the buses arrive laden with camera carrying, overweight and loud tourists.
I have absolutely no objection to people seeing the world through a coach window, I believe they’re missing a lot a lot but I respect their choice. What I can’t understand is that insistence that some of them have to touch everything. In this instance they head straight for the dunes and walk along its finely sculptured ridge destroying the moment and changing its shape forever. Not massively of course because the dunes are constantly shifting their sands anyway and I suppose no damage is really being done. ……….But it’s the principle! Being on the dunes cannot be any better than just being there and seeing it untouched and undisturbed by the destructive feet of people who will climb down, get back into their bus and then ask “what’s next” as if it was something to tick off their list of ‘must-see’s in Namibia’.

We left them to it and walked to Deadvlei a kilometre away.
Deadvlei was equally as impressive but in a different way. A flat crusty white pan dotted with dead black trees of varying shapes and sizes against a backdrop of the sidewall of a huge dune. No finely sculptured sand shapes here just an impressive mountain range of dunes surrounding this eerie scene. And it was hot too! I set up the tripod and dripped sweat over the camera and the crunchy soil. Probably the first drop of fluid the pan had seen for who knows when.

We still had the 5 kilometre walk back in this heat. By now there was almost a continual stream of 4WD vehicles and buses following the track. Not one of them stopped to offer a lift!
Even the occupants of a Landcruiser that got bogged and I offered a hand, drove on past us once free. Back at the car we found out why! There’s a shuttle!! A small bus takes people back and forward to Sossusvlei for N$50(US$5) return or N$30(US$3) one way. No good for sunrise (it doesn’t start until 8) but would have been great for the return. If only we had known we thought, sweat stinging our eyes, our bodies crying out for liquid and legs weak from dragging them across the thick sand.

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Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia

Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia

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