Notes from Namibia: part eight

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

When it comes to fabulous weather and wildlife, there is nowhere like Namibia, says Adrienne. Here she shares her notes from Namibia – arguably Africa at its most authentic – exclusively with CD-Traveller readers. Today: Seduced by the land, left by air

I was actually grateful to get up well before dawn as it put an end to the torture that had been trying to sleep all night.

We were to get up early to beat the rush for the gate opening into the park. This meant leaving before breakfast. It was a reasonably successful tactic – we were third in the queue at the gate. It was like the start of a grand prix – the acceleration the drivers can get out of these vehicles was really impressive. It took us 10 minutes to take the lead and trail blaze into the darkness (clearly though we must have broken the speed limit!).

What we couldn’t understand is how it was that we weren’t the first people to arrive at Dune 45.

The feel was much touristic, even than the Himba village. We were out and climbing the Dune, slipping up the shifting sand to watch the sun rise. Except it was cloudy and drizzling. Instead of wondering at the beauty of nature I found myself wondering why on earth I was bothering to make such an effort. So I sat down at the first opportunity to think it through. Feeling thoroughly demotivated, and with screaming calf muscles and lungs I really couldn’t figure it out. For 10 minutes or so a long trail of people came trudging by me, all heading for the romantic sun rise view. Not one of them appeared to question the activity. In the end I reach the conclusion that if I don’t go up there I will always regret it. I assumed that the others had already decided that. So up I got…

Such was the level of cloud, once I got there I couldn’t understand why everyone was facing the wrong way for sun rise. I asked the person next to me, and soon enough everyone turned to face the right direction.

After a while, when the sun did manage to poke through it was time to get up and go back down. At first I thought everyone was waiting for me to start back down the route. But it soon turned out that there was a much more entertaining way to get down – straight down the face, as quickly as possible whilst staying upright. I felt it was scary, but soon curiosity got the better of me and I found myself starting off. I sank immediately to a little above ankle depth, which made me feel very secure. I took a second step and felt my hips swing, walking down slowly this way I soon sped up – it was in fact really great fun! And everyone else was enjoying it to – one of the German children (from the pitch areas next to ours) went tumbling down clown-like entertaining the sea of people now adopting all sorts of different styles.

Breakfast was calling now, so we headed back to the vacuum cleaner for a cold breakfast – no fires allowed here. Bread and jam, peanut butter and honey sandwiches (Ciara assured me they were great, and she wasn’t wrong). Fortunately a gas heater was permitted, so we washed it down with hot chocolate.

From here we would hike the 5km through the desert to Deadvlei. Getting into the swing of it we ascended another dune and our way was down it. There was no evidence of human activity anywhere. We really felt to be in the wilderness, it was so peaceful and vast. The air was so fresh it simply didn’t feel hot, just pleasantly warm and welcoming. Joseph, John, Ciara and I took a detour before heading into the valley of Deadvlei proper.  We decided to climb another dune – any excuse to run down the side of another one really. Of course it was a hard slog, but knowing we got to run down motivated us. I sat with Joseph to enjoy the view for a short while and then, leaving Joseph behind, I ran down into the valley.

I could begin to sense why others may feel reticent. It wasn’t like anywhere else. The dead trees – skeletons – some of which are reputed to be over 1,000 years old, are remarkably beautiful, providing some iconic photographic opportunities. While emptying my shoes for the third time that morning, I spotted a group of people on a large dune called Big Daddy which was much bigger than Dune 45.  We spend 30 minutes walking round the shifting dunes before leaving them to inundate the ancient trees. Taking a different route we came to another vehicle in a car park. We were to have a lift in a Land Cruiser to nearby Sossusvlei, where water still exists and the geography is totally different – lush with vegetation. The ‘Living Lake’ has its own dune for a backdrop – ‘Big Mama’, and there were people also going up it.

We didn’t linger here and were instead driven back to the vacuum cleaner where we headed back to camp. Or rather we head back out through the park gates, but then are taken off somewhere else. Sesriem Gorge, some 15 minutes away on a very lumpy, bumpy road, is 3km long and is incredibly pretty. Formed by a river the ground was soft and sandy beneath our feet. We had time to explore a few hundred metres of it.

There was still water in a pool at the top end, fed by a spring, a welcome yet now strange sight after what felt like a long time in the desert. In spite of the relative dark, cool feel to the place we were increasingly aware of how hot it was getting outside.  Our stomachs were also telling us it was getting closer to lunchtime too.

After lunch we packed ready for the morning – another early start for the journey back to Windhoek and our flights home. We had a final shower and then sat about until 4pm when we were being taken out to a dune to have those sundowners at long last. We got ourselves as organised as we could (which wasn’t very, given we needed to wear most of our clothes in bed to prevent freezing).

To read the final part of Adrienne’s Namibia adventure, don’t forget to log onto the CD-Traveller website next Monday (November 28).



 

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