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Published: November 13th 2009
After being briefed on the next three day's itinerary, we hopped back into the truck again. We arrived in the Namib desert right before sunset so we had just enough time to climb a few small dunes, play in the sand, and photograph the excellent scenery. It was so fun to slide down the dunes although it resulted in our shoes being impressively filled with sand. After play time, we headed to our campsite to set up our tents and make dinner. It was not long until we were all in bed. We would be waking up at 4 a.m. to go climb dune 45 and watch the sunrise.
It was awesome driving through the dunes in the wee light of the morning. Hiking the dune was hard work even for a fit 22 year old, so I was incredibly impressed by the older gentleman who was part of our tour who hiked up the dune with us. We got to the top of the tune in time to watch the sunrise and see one of the most incredible views I have ever seen. Dune 45 is hardly one of the tallest dunes in the Namib Desert but the way
that the ground has dried up around the dunes gave the illusion that we were looking down on Earth from space. It was fantastic. Once the sun had firmly planted itself in the sky, we made our way back down the dune and ate breakfast.
After breakfast, we went on a hike through the desert to reach Dead Vlei. It was unbelievably hot, especially considering it was still early morning. Since I didn't have a hat, I used my white long sleeve shirt as a make shift turban. We climbed up small sand dunes and walked, ran, slid down the other side. We walked through dry, flatter areas of the dessert and looked at the scarce vegetation. The shell of a rather large, prickly fruit with a beetle crawling inside of it caught my attention. I was really surprised to see something like this in the middle of a desert and spent some time wondering what kind of plant it had come from.
We were almost to Dead Vlei when I suddenly became very aware of the inner workings of my digestive tract. Apparently the tap water I had drunk the day before, against the advice I was
given, was not settling well in my stomach. Evidently the tour guide had not lied to us when he cautioned against drinking the water. I feigned a runny nose, got some tissues off of one of the ladies in our tour, and made a bees-line for the largest plant I could find that was an acceptable distance from the rest of the group. My large plant of choice just happened to be the same one that my mysterious dessert fruit grew on. How about that!
Finally we made it Dead Vlei. Although that was the culmination of our hike, it was not the end, we still had a pretty sizable distance to cover before we would reach the jeeps that would take us back to where we started.
Here is information on Dead Vlei taken from wikipedia: Dead Vlei is a white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia. Also written DeadVlei or Deadvlei, its name means "dead marsh" (from English dead, and Afrikaans vlei, a lake or marsh in a valley between the dunes).
Dead Vlei is surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the
world, the highest reaching 300-400 meters, which rest on a sandstone terrace. The clay pan was formed after rainfall, when the Tsauchab river flooded, creating temporary shallow pools where the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. When the climate changed, drought hit the area, and sand dunes encroached on the pan, which blocked the river from the area.
The trees died, as there no longer was enough water to survive. There are some species of plants remaining, such as salsola and clumps of !nara, adapted to surviving off of the morning mist and very rare rainfall. The remaining skeletons of the trees, which are believed to be about 900 years old, are now black because the intense sun has scorched them. Though not petrified, the wood does not decompose because it is so dry.
In the afternoon we headed back to camp to escape the afternoon heat. It was so incredibly miserably hot. After the afternoon had passed and the temperatures started to decline slightly, we drove to the Sesriem Canyon. We didn't spend too long there. Our tour guide gave us some history on the canyon, none of which I remember now.
night I awoke around what must have been 2 a.m. I was stricken with the same problem that had hit me in the middle of the dessert. The bathroom was not very far from our campsite but I was still slightly worried about running into an animal. However, it was a risk I was going to have to take. Before I could get out of my sleeping bag though, I could see a surprising amount of light in the sky through the screen window of the tent. Odd. When I finally made my way out of the tent I saw more stars than I had ever seen in my life. It was an incredible view of the milky way. Even with the fire of Hades burning fiercely in my stomach I was forced to stop and stand in awe. I had never been so happy to wake up in the middle of the night from an upset stomach!
The next morning it was time to head back to Windhoek. We spent a final night at the Cardboard Box and then caught the Intercape Bus back to Cape Town the next morning. The bus broke down en route. We spent
at least an hour sitting/sleeping on the side of the road waiting for them to either fix the bus or send us a new bus.
All in all it was a fantastic trip and the perfect end to my time in Africa. The company was excellent and I was very pleased with the tour. Our first guide especially was fantastic. I would highly, highly recommend visiting Namibia.
99% of the photo credit belongs to Heidi Pettersson.
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