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Published: December 25th 2009
Sunsrise over the Namib
On the way to Sossusvlei.
A LOT has happened in the last three days, so one day flows into the next and into the next. We are already the 26th here in Swakopmund, so a belated Merry Christmas to everyone, we miss you, but we have to admit that being the in the hot sweltering desert climbing massive red sand dunes and driving across moonscaped gravel roads makes you forget a little bit that it is Christmas! A quick recap on the relevant for Sossusvlei this AM. My favorite part of the trip so far.
After 1400 kilometers and 20 hours by bus, followed by 350 kilometers and 6 hours by car on gravel roads through the desert, we arrived at Sesriem yesterday, at the entrance to the Namib-Naukluft National Park. We signed up with the hotel for a 6AM guided tour of Sossusvlei. It is far cheaper to go on your own than on the tour but as it is 60 kilometers to the relevant area, and I am already burnt out on driving these roads, we decided to book the tour last night, despite my fierce desire to be an independent traveler. The Namibian gravel roads had won. So we set
At Dune 45
The most photographed dune, off to the left. Our organized tour did not permit climbing of it.
off, get past the park gate, and lo and behold . . . asphalt. Grrrr. Yet again, no information given by the staff at the hotel despite a clear set of questions from me. Asphalt? So instead now we are in wide open dune buggy truck, freezing with a couple of families little tykes in tow? Really? I was worked up for quite a bit until we got to the Dry Vlei. What an amazing place. Just look at the photos, you've seen it before, but I just can't get enough of the photos. THIS was worth all of the trouble.
Sossusvlei means "the place where water gathers" in the Nama tongue (Sossus) plus the Afrikaans word for a pan or field. Basically, this is the drainage basin for water coming from the east. The pan will flood in the rainy season (winter) and provide sustaining water to the plants. The Namib is the oldest extant desert and its red dunes are the tallest in the world, reaching over 300 meters from their base to their peak. Their red color comes from a number of elements including rust which came from the ancient Kalahari, down the Orange River and
Clay Pan at Sossuvlei
The clay sits at the bottom of the riverbed or water accumulation.
was washed ashore by the coastal current and then blown inland. Photos cannot fully capture the majesty but the wide angle lens comes as close as I can make it.
The Dead Vlei is a pan whose water supply has been cut off physically so that the trees that are within the clay pan have withered a died. In the one photographed, the craggy remains of the trees still exist as they are in a dune circus that protects them from the wind.
All of this was worth even the 400 kilometers we endured for the second half of today. 4 hours plus or minus says the Sossusvlei Lodge. Yeah right. More like 6 hours. You literally cannot take your eyes of the road for more than a second. The road condition will change from smooth to potholes with hot jagged dagger-like rocks in a heartbeat. But we have made it to Swakopmund.
Named so because it is at the mouth of the Swakop River. Very German looking town as it was part of the German South West African colony. Villa Margherita, our hotel is very nice, very gracious staff, very hospitable. The room is
The Dead Vlei
This pan has died thanks to the dune from which the photo was taken, it cut off the water supply.
very nice, well-decorated save a couple of chairs that could use some re-upholstering. We had dinner at Kouiki's that serves German-esque food. They were so busy on Christmas night (counterintuitive, yes) with local business (a few visitors) that they sat as at a larger table with another couple. One thing led to another, and we are invited to their house on the beach tomorrow night for an authentic Namibian Braai prepared by William himself. They also have a relatively new hotel they want my advice on, to which I said I would give a very direct opinion but i decided now that maybe I should soften it up a bit. Thea also wants William to build her a shopping center so we may exchange thoughts on that matter as well. Nothing beats doing things with locals and we have been blazing through so fast and furious that we have not had enough of a moment to engage in this fashion. Plus all of our hotels have had things pretty well scripted so far - not for us, but many people are on tours.
In many ways I can find more similarities between the US and South Africa than
On the Dead Vlei.
differences. That might come off as a glib statement but the attachment to land, rugged individualism, big car and trucks, and an unofficially segregated society are all very specific and especially palbable similarities. What is different is that there is no attachment to consumerism and commercialization and the segregation is starker.
I am sure we will have some interesting information to share after dinner tomorrow night. Tomorrow morning we go Quad Biking in the dunes at their suggestion and then will go to the beach, again at their suggestion.
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