Today was the day I've been waiting for. Four weeks of travelling around southern Africa and finally I'm at the place I've dreamt of most of all.
We were woken at 04h00 this morning and gathered around the light for an early morning coffee and rusk. At 05h15, we were already in the bus and heading for the gate to Sossusvlei. So efficient were we that we were first in the queue.
It was a 45km drive down to Dune 45. This was purely coincidental as the dunes are numbered sequentially from 1 to 69, anticlockwise. Because of the weather patterns, the dunes themselves do not move, hence, a numbering system is possible.
After waiting for roughly 15 minutes, the gates opened and we were permitted through. In the pre-dawn light, we headed west and about an hour later, across gravel roads, we were the first vehicle to pull into the car park. Getting out of the vehicle quickly, we made a bee-line for Dune 45 and begin the ascent. At first, it didn't seem difficult, but before long, I was certainly struggling, least of all because I was carrying an additional 10kg of camera equipment.
climbed the spine of the dune, all 180m, to the summit, well before sunrise. I won't pretend that it was easy, because it certainly wasn't. Reaching the top, the French Guide and myself, got out our camera and waited in the early morning breeze for the sunrise. I think it would be fair to say that we were disappointed simply because of the cloud. The colours were not as we'd expected and, although we took some photographs to record the event, neither of us were ecstatic.
After an hour, the group started to descend; we followed. Just as we left the summit, the sun came out and the story changed dramatically. The sand took on a beautiful red colour, due to the iron oxide it contained, and this, offset against the deep blue of the sky, gave us the pictures we'd been expecting. We were in photographic heaven!
Back at the bottom, we had a late breakfast of pancakes and coffee and, at the same time, took more photos so as not to waste the light.
Breakfast over, we took the bus across the desert towards Sossusvlei. Travelling as far as we could, we parked the bus
and stepped out into the hot sun. Donning out hats, we set off in temperatures in the mid thirties into the desert towards Sossusvlei. 5km of sand track lay ahead which was very difficult under foot, irrespective of the heat.
Situated at the head of a river, the currently dry river bed wasn't easy to walk down. Camel thorn accompanied us in the heat and finally we reached the point where the river disappeared into the sand. Setting off across the desert, we crossed a massive sand dune to reach Deadvlie, which was the previous Sossusvlei but had been cut off my the dune we'd recently crossed.
Arriving on the opposite side, we were greeted by the most amazing sight of 900 year old Camel Thorn trees standing proudly in the old lake. The red sand of the dunes, together with the deep blue sky just added to the sheer magic of the occasion. Finally, I was in the place of my dreams and really couldn't take it in. It was a dream come true, and I was in it.
Returning to camp, the afternoon was free so I went off in search of birds. My phone
had now completely broken and so I had to borrow one in order to exchange SIM cards so that I could at least send a message informing people of the fact!
Later we headed off to watch the sunset but, to be honest, after the delights of Sossusvlei, I really can't imagine that anything can be better.
That evening, around the camp fire, I sat with the French contingent and am delighted to report that my French has improved dramatically to the extent that I even managed to tell jokes. Finally, I believe that the barrier is broken and we are now one group - although I am concerned about the German lass in our midst. However, I'm at the end of the day I've longed for - can there be a better day?
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