Rally Driving at Sossus Vlei

Trip Start Dec 10, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, April 10, 2009

10 April 2009 - Friday

Once we were awake, this time only once we were fully rested and not as a result of people already packing up at sparrow's fart, we loaded all our bedraggled belongings into the two bakkies and head out of the camp site towards Solitaire.

We waited for a while for Terence to catch up in his bakkie, as Tannie Daline wrote up some comments and thoughts from the trip. While waiting at the gate, Bernard investigated the little hut standing at the gate. Investigation revealed that there were once again swarms of wasps that were less than impressed with any sort of intrusion and let there thoughts be known by stinging him yet again on the leg. The How men not so lucky when it comes to these wasps.

A quick coffee and apple pie break later in Solitaire we were off to Tsams Ost (our half way hiking point) to collect the bakkie. I'd been informed that the apple pie in Solitaire is world famous and as a result they make abouy 35kg of the pie a day. Personally I didn't think there was anything particularly exceptional about the pie, though sure they could improve the apple pie experience with a bit of custard. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I now again had the freedom to exercise choice in what I could eat and at that point, and unfortunately custard wasn't part of the options available on the menu.

One thing I have come to realise in Namibia, is that when looking at a map of the country, when a town is shown, usually one would expect it to resemble something of a town. Not in this country however. Here, if someone opens shop then it's immediately eligible to be logged on the map, and logged it is. I thought I came from a small town but a copious number of towns in Namibia beat Hofmeyr by a long way in lack of stature.

Arriving in Tsams Ost we were again greeted by the Blue Wildebeest we saw on the hike. I can't believe how tame these animals are, but then again they have nothing to fear considering they're well protected within the national park.

After another reshuffling of people through the now 3 bakkies, we all head on through to Sesriem. Here Bernard, Peter and myself said goodbye to the rest of the group. While we also intended on heading through to Sossusvlei, we were going to camp at Sesriem and not travel any further for that day. So off they went while us three located our camp site and whiled the time away in the heat of the day by snoozing and taking advantage of the swimming pool. Very ironic having a swimming pool in the middle of the desert don't you think?

At about 3pm we headed off towards Sossusvlei in our 2x4 bakkie. Although most of the roads in Namibia are dirt roads, the 60km section between Sesriem and Sossusvlei is fully tarred. I assume this is as a result of the heavy traffic to Sossus. Although we didn't see any gemsbuck en route, we did see multitudinous springbuck and ostrich. The entire drive to Sossus one is sided by sand dunes, and as Namibia has had such an exceptional rainy season, the grass was standing knee high just about the whole length of the drive right up into these dunes. Not exactly what I had expected to see. Looked more like savannah plains one would expect in Kenya.

We arrived at the main parking area, 4km from the vlei, just after 4pm. The reason that the stop is there and not at the vlei itself is because the last section of the drive is extremely sandy and requires the vehicles to be 4x4 vehicles to avoid getting stuck along the way. What we intended on doing was catching one of the Uri trucks through the last section which I believe usually equates to about N$60 per person there and back.

On our arrival however, we were informed that the trucks do not run after 4pm. But, says this guy, he will do us a favour and take us through but it will cost us N$110 each to take us through to the vlei and back. A few moments of hestitation later, he offered to take us through for N$60 each and then we could walk the 4km back. Both of these offers sounded like too much of a rip off so we turned them down and told the man we'd be back the next day instead.

As he drove off Peter and Bernard already had started deflating our bakkie's wheels. We were going to undertake the risky 4km stretch in our 2x4 bakkie. I opted to sit in the back in the canopy (thinking it the safer option), Peter took to the wheel and Bernard slid in beside him as his co-driver. And we were off... If you've ever watched the Dakar or any of the car rally events then you can picture how this stretch went. There was no slowing down, and all I could see was Bernard pointing left, then right, then left again as he indicated to Peter in which direction he should be heading. I was using my only two hands to keep myself from being ejected through the canopy roof and from being moulded to the sides of the canopy. Despite not having a 4x4 vehicle we successfully completed this section of road without any dilemmas!!! I was elated. Understandably though, you can see why you need 4 wheel drive vehicles because if people do not know how to take on sandy roads, there could be quite a back up on this short section of track.

Our first stop was Sossusvlei itself. Despite all the recent rain, the vlei was devoid of water. Not that that dampened out spirits. We decided to climb up the nearest sand dune to view the vlei from above. One thing I did learn from this experience is that if a sand dune looks small, it's not, and if the sand dune looks big, it's enormous!! What I did miss on our expedition to Sossusvlei was the sun. I was so looking forward to taking contrasting photos just before sunset, but unfortunately the sun was blocked out by cloud cover. Probably the first cloud cover in weeks!!

After an hour at the main vlei, we rushed across to the Deadvlei. Not only did we have to be out of the camp site at 7pm, but our camp site also closed at that time. The hike to the Deadvlei from the point we parked our bakkie was said to be 1.1km, but I have no doubt that it was way further than that. As I arrived at the Deadvlei I saw that the sun was just about to peak out from under the clouds, just before it set behind the dunes. I rushed like a madman to make the best of the last fading light on the dead trees. Such an incredible place.

Although I had seen many photos of the place, none of Sossusvlei was how I expected it. I wish I could've had at least a week to walk around with my camera and take photos. Just because it's a desert, doesn't mean there's nothing but sand to be seen. The place is just teaming with life and photo opportunities!!

In a frantic rush, we raced back through the 4km of deep sand, pumped up the tyres, and broke the speed limit in order to make it out of the reserve and back to camp with 3 minutes to spare!!

Back at camp we took advantage of the warm showers, cooked up another exceptional meal of noodles and bully beef. It was the first time I tried bully beef and unfortunately can't sign myself up as its hugest fan. Although we've faithfully had tuna for the last 10 days, I still would've rather had another round of tuna than the bully beef. But beggars can't be choosers, so bully beef it was.

We went to sleep with the sound of geckos calling to one another thoughout the night. They sound like jovial, laughing, little witches, "ke ke ke ke"!!!
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