Sunday, 23 August 2009

Namib-Naukluft Park.Sossusvlei, Sesriem, Dune 45,The Hidden Vlei. Namibia, June 2008.

At Kulala Desert lodge you can sleep on your private roof terrace and look up at the stars. Stargazing in the Namib Desert was spectacular. The sky's are so clear, it is easy to see the Milky Way. The nights in June were very cold, I needed the hot water bottle I found in my bed!
Waking up in the morning to the view towards Sossusvlei was unforgettable, the dawn was just breaking as we got into the Land Rover and drove with our guide to a private gate on the Tsauchab River. This gate was the entrance to the world-famous Sossusvlei dunes.
When Andy said we were going to Sossusvlei, I have never heard of it! However, as soon as I saw this sand dune I recognised it straight away, it was one of the desktop background images used by Microsoft on my first computer! Dune 45, called so as it is 45km from Sesriem.
The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert are often referred to as the highest dunes in the world. I don’t know if this is true, and to get obsessive about that is to miss the point, which is that Sossusvlei is surely one of the most spectacular sights in Namibia. All the guide books suggest that the best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset; the colours are strong and constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic opportunities. This is true, while we watched the sun come up the dunes changed from dark brown to bright orange in seconds. Tthe dunes are also great fun to walk up, but better fun coming down.We walked from the car park,up and over this sand dune into the 'Hidden Vlei', and there in front of me was the cover of the Lonely Planet book I had in my backpack.
'Vlei' is the Afrikaans word for a shallow depression filled with water (well, a depression that might sometimes be filled with water!), and the name 'Sossusvlei' should strictly only be applied to the pan that lies at the place where the dunes close in, preventing the waters of the Tsauchab River from flowing any further. This particular 'vlei' is actually a more-or-less circular, hard-surfaced depression that is almost entirely surrounded by sharp-edged dunes, beyond which lies a formidable sea of rolling sand, stretching in unbroken immensity all the way to the coast. We walked further to the 'Dead Vlei', then back to the car park for a late breakfast/ early lunch.
I then spent the afternoon relaxing, reading my book on the veranda having endless cups of tea. The lodge had a pool, but the water was far to cold for me to go in.
At around 15.00 our guide called us to accompany him to Sesrim Canyon. The canyon was a few kilometers drive from the lodge.The canyon derives its name from the fact that early Afrikaner trekkers had to use six ('ses') leather thongs (a thong is a 'riem') so that their buckets could reach the water far below. The canyon begins as an almost imperceptible but nevertheless deep cleft in level, stony ground, and then widens until it finally flattens out onto the plain. Because it is so deep and sheltered, it often holds water well into the dry season. So it must have been of great importance to the early inhabitants of this area. It is 1km long and 30 km deep, the Tsauchab River has carved the canyon. We hiked up stream, it was very cool in the canyon compared with above it.
On our dive back to the lodge, we stopped for a drink and snacks...Biltong, Cheese and Windhoek Beer, and watched the sunset. Again, as the sun went down the colours of the landscape changed.It was our last evening in the Namib Desert, we had a lovely meal cooked for us by the staff of the lodge, a fine wine and stargazed....and that's what I call a perfect day!