Namibia's red dunes

Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
Trip End Nov 30, 2011

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Where I stayed
Namib Naukluft Park Sesriem campsite

Flag of Namibia  ,
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It was only day five of our African adventure and Monday was yet another long travel day, with over 500km to cover from our camp at Fish River Canyon to Sesriem. There's not a lot to do on the truck on these long travel days, other than looking out the window at the passing scenery - it’s very much a case of entertaining one’s self as best as possible. Fortunately Kerry and I have the blog to keep at least one of us busy, but otherwise its books, cards, or perhaps some overdue sleep, to help pass the long days.

The greatest excitement for the day came from spotting a small herd of giraffe on a private reserve, near the road. Otherwise it was a long day in the truck watching the landscape passing by, with only a brief stop for a roadside lunch.

The landscapes of the Namib Desert are as beautiful as they are varied. It would be very easy to simply sit here and say that we were crossing the Namib Desert, but that doesn’t really convey the tremendous variety of scenery that we’ve been able to take in on these long travel days. I wouldn’t characterise the landscape between Fish River Canyon and Sesriem as a desert in the traditional sense of the word – it’s certainly not the dusty, sandy, barren nothingness that you and I would normally associate with the word. Instead it’s predominantly a broad African savannah, covered in an ocean of small tussock plants and populated only by the few wild animals that can survive the harsh climate of the Namib Desert. Also mixed into this wild landscape are a variety of other vistas – valleys and plains between small mountain ranges, rocky outcrops, and flat topped mountains. It certainly makes for some spectacular viewing from the truck at times. The amazing variations in landscapes within the matter of only a few hundred kilometers is astounding and mesmerising at the same time – I never would have thought that Namibia would be as wild and deserted as it has turned out to be.

The Namib Desert really is a desolate, vast, empty nothingness. Being able to drive for hour after hour, barely seeing any signs of civilisation, only leaves you to marvel at this vast expanse of desert isolation – no cars, no houses, no livestock, no nothing. This truly has to be one of Earth’s last great wildernesses.

After nearly ten hours of driving we arrived at our night’s camp at Sesriem, well after dark. But there was no time to rest. With an early start in the morning to head to see the sunrise over the sand dunes at Sossusvlei, dinner and setting up tents were the immediate priority. After dispensing with both though, including a couple of bags of marshmallows cooked over the open fire for dessert, everyone turned in to get some much needed sleep ahead of our early start in the morning.

Tuesday morning, alarms were going off before 5am. We had to be packed and on the truck ready to go before the park gates opened at 5.30am. We were one of the first vehicles to arrive at the base of Dune 45 – so named because it is 45km along the road from Sesriem to Sossusvlei. As the night slowly gave way to the ambient light of the pre-dawn, we charged up the early slopes of the dune. At one point I managed to hit the front of the long line of tourists snaking their way up the dune’s ridgeline, but leading the procession requires even more effort than following and I couldn’t sustain the effort required to lead everyone higher – it didn’t help that my shoes were filling more and more with every step of virgin sand that I took. The climb was breathtaking, in more than just one sense of the word.

Kerry and I were among the first group to make it to the top of the dune, in plenty of time for sunrise. The view from the top of the dune was amazing – sitting with an ampitheatre like stretch of dunes to one side, and the wide open expanse of the Sossusvlei pan below us. As the sun came up the whole landscape changed, from a dull brown colour to a rich spectacle of orange and red – simply stunning!

The landscapes on and around Dune 45 really are a photographer’s delight. It is such a beautiful and pristine setting. There is so much scope for incredible landscape photos, beautiful sunrise shots, and plenty of quirky and artistic type photos as well – just unlimited possibilities. If we didn’t have anywhere to go, we probably could have spent all morning there taking photos.

After an hour and a half to climb the dune, watch sunrise, and take all the photos that we wanted, it was time to head back down to the truck for a gratefully received on-location breakfast, and for a chance to reflect on the isolated beauty of the Sossusvlei pan and Namibia’s gorgeous red dunes – a unique and beautiful location.

Our next stop is a bush camp – quite likely in the middle of absolutely nowhere - as we continue to head north towards Swakopmund.

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Jane Brewer on

Sounds amazing. Can't wait to see photos of that view x

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