Published: August 8th 2007July 25th 2007
Old gas pump and car
After a night in Walvis Bay (which included a second walk up Dune 7, and the demise of my second camera of the trip) back to Solitaire, this time indulging in a piece of Africa's best apple strudle (it could very well be true!). Yet another sundowner in the car enroute to our destination. Decided to splurge for yet another night on one of the "luxury tents" at the Sossusvlei Desert Camp ($60/person), since everything in the area is obscenely expensive, but we wanted to avoid driving for hours in the morning to get to Sossusvlei.
Figured we'd do the cliche thing of getting up early to watch the sun rise over the dunes; up at 5am, breakfast, pack the car up, get to the gate, aaaaand... gate doesn't open until sunrise (plus it's a good 50kms to the dunes once through the gate). Perfect. The only thing better than getting up at 5am to do something is getting up at 5am for no reason at all.
The drive from the gate to the main parking lot is BEAUTIFUL. Starts out grassy with big, rugged mountains off in the back and before you know it you're surrounded by MASSIVE,
Near Sossusvlei turnoff
bright red sand dunes all around. "Dune 45" comes on the left which is 45km from Sesriem (where we slept) and 45 dunes away from Sossusvlei (where we were headed). In contrast to the dunes we saw on the Sahara up in Libya, the Namib dunes are much more red in colour (possibly because the desert is so much older?? Not sure...), and there's miraculously a lot more vegetation growing out of them (Libya was really nothing but sand).
From the parking lot it's another 5kms by 4x4 only to the vlei's ("vlei" is an Afrikaans word for (something along the lines of) a flat bit that holds water? ...there are 3 main vlei's: Sossusvlei, Deadvlei, and Hiddenvlei). Turned out to be around $15 each to get a ride for the 5kms and when I asked a few other people how they were getting out there, they looked at me like I was from outer space. Dinks. Yet another one of those inflated costs because tourists will pay it. So we walked... Was actually a fairly difficult walk as the sand is so soft and deep... but of course it was beautiful and very satisfying doing it on our
About halfway to parking lot
Sossusvlei doesn't really look like all that much from the ground... it's in fact a little difficult even knowing you're standing in it. The dunes around are beautifully tall, and after climbing one the view of the area is quite stunning. In fact, I'm not sure why they call "Dune 7" at Walvis Bay the 7th tallest (it's 96m tall, I believe)... these dunes are unquestionably taller.
Another 1.5 km walk, Deadvlei is far more impressive. Somewhat taking on the shape of a ginormous hockey rink plunked in the middle of the desert, it's sparsly filled with big, old dead trees seemingly evenly placed across it. There's no wind at all when standing in the vlei so it almost immediately gets hot. The vleis do in fact accumulate water from time to time when it rains every couple decades or so. Another climb up the dune for a look, decided to cut the corner through the bush to shorten the walk a little back to the road (gave us a nice idea of what it might feel like to be lost in the desert!)
Back to the car around 2pm after a looong day of sand, sun
Another one about halfway...
and walking (at least a good 15kms in total), it was time to get a move on if we were to make it to Maltahohe by nightfall.
Just as the sun was setting around 70kms before Maltahohe, came across 2 cars, with a good 6 or more people... and 3 flat tires. Uh oh. Got to town and went to the service station to send someone out, but as expected looked at us with a "what am I supposed to do?" look. So we went to the hotel, told the owner about the predicament, and he got on the horn to set things straight. Off to bed early after a long day, and a low tolerance for loud German music in the bar!! (sure do like that hotel though :)
About 70kms before hitting the paved road the next day (near Aus), our string of good luck would finally run out as well. Including the unpacking and repacking of the car however, we had the tire changed and were back up and moving again within 20 mins or less (a little nervous though with no back up). The tire would turn out to be garbage so we had
Jen on a dune
to splurge on a new one for the rental car upon arrival to Luderitz (I wonder what will happen with the newly cracked windshield when we return the car??)...
There are more photos below