Dead Vlei -Extraordinary Sand Dunes

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Flag of Namibia  ,
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Namibia is a bit like Australia - everywhere is a long way, away and there is not too much to see on the journey!

After a few more dramas and delays, we finally set off for Sesriem (the gateway to the biggest sand dunes in the world) about midday, in our little Avis hire car, with hired sleeping bags and pillows. On the way we stopped at a strange town called Rehoboth for lunch, where everything was barred, the service station was a bit like a bank tellers cage, where the money is put on the tray and slid through. Had to ask to buy a map even, as they were locked away. The town did have an interesting funeral parlour though - check out the photo.

It was a long drive of five hours on dirt roads to get to our destination. Quite isolated country, with only a few settlements of no consequence and then eventually we reached Sesriem, which consisted of a small camping grounds, shop and park office. We knew that the only reasonably priced accommodation close by was full, so we booked into the camping ground to sleep in our car. It was our plan to go through the gates to the National Park at opening time of 5.00am, so it was going to be a short night in the car anyway. They are upgrading the camp grounds and to our horror the charge for a campsite was $100US a night!

The wind was howling and the sand was blowing  (sand dunes are after all why we are here!) and the site we were allocated was about a half kilometre from the toilets and showers. We sat in the car for a bit, ate our picnic tea and read until it got dark, then showered and settled down to try and sleep in the small car.

Having read that sunrise is a "must do", we were first in line at the gate when it opened at 5.00am and drove the 60 kilometres in to Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. As we were driving about eight vehicles passed us. There doesn't seem to be much respect for road speed limit signs! As we had a two wheel drive we had to park the car about four km out and use the 4 wheel drive transport service. Despite this, we arrived at the Dead Vlei car park first, as the other speedsters opted for Sossusvlei. We then had about a hasty one km hike in over low sand dunes to get to a view point. Dead Vlei is awesome and lived up to all expectations. Have a look at our pics!

A Vlei is a dry lake pan and in the Sossusvlei National Park they are spectacular and take your breath away. There are 600 year old camelthorn trees and towering red sand dunes, contrasting with the white dried up clay of the vlei. We arrived at Dead Vlei before the sun had made its way over the dunes and watched the progress of the sun lighting up the trees, from the dune we had chosen as our vantage point. Later we walked across the vlei and marveled at the height of the dunes and the colours which changed every few minutes as the sun rose.

The real challenge came then to climb the main dune of Sossusvlei called "Big Daddy".This is over 300 metres in height!  The people climbing it looked like tiny ants and the task looked very daunting. Most people went up the spine of the sand hill and came down a shorter but steeper route. We thought we would try the steeper route for the ascent and it was crazily steep! The view and the feeling of achievement made it all worthwhile though. One other dune is a "must do" climb, Dune 45 on the road in, but we were all climbed out and just watched and photographed the younger, agile travellers climbing this one.

Back at Sesriem we decided to have a look at the Sesriem canyon, as it was quite close. This turned out to be quite spectacular, but is often overlooked in the rush to take in the colossal sand dunes of the area.

We then hit the dirt roads again, having a very late lunch at Solitaire (beautiful home made apple pie) and continued on for many hours to Swakopmund via Walvis Bay. Unfortunately on the way we had a stone fly up and break our windscreen and to our consternation we also lost a hub cap. Knowing there is always small print in the car hire contract, we expect that our option of nil excess will probably not apply and we will have to pay more.

Footnote: Dead Vlei features in the book Unforgettable Places to See before you die.
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