Dune 45 is situated in Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia, the colours and contrasts of this area are inspiring, with the burnt oranges of the dunes, the black shadows from the sun and often blue skies with tumbling white clouds make for picturesque photos.
The dune got its name from being 45 kilometres from the Sesriem gate, being the main access point for the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The dunes are said to be formed here from wind blowing sand in from the coast, and the red colour to these dunes are formed from the iron oxide found in the sand. The dunes in this area are often known as a star dune, meaning it has many arms to it, all in different directions and all this has been developing for the last 5 million years.
The best way to see this sight and get the full experience is to camp at Sesriem campsite itself, this means you get to be the first to go through the gates as soon as they open very early in the morning. There is a long road you need to drive (about 45 kilometres). Though take care, this is a national park and they do have speed limits, I cannot tell you how heart-breaking it is when people rush down this road in a hurry in the dark, killing whatever is in the road. I have seen bat-eared foxes have been the ones to suffer the most of this.
Once you’re at the dune it is an exhilarating climb, but do not be fooled! It is a very tough and difficult climb, every step you take you slide down more than half, best angle for this is step in footprints that are in front of you, it’s still hard but does help a lot. Often people like to climb in their socks due to their shoes filling up with sand making it heavy and uncomfortable. From the ground it looks manageable, but when you get to what you thought was the top, you realise your only halfway. There are many turns to the dunes making it look very deceptive. Dune 45 is about 85 meters tall, but when you get to the top you are sure it was closer to 85km.
All of that huffing and puffing, and tiredness disappears when you watch the sunrise over the dunes and you stare in total awe of what life is all about. Just a few brief moments of silence, reality hits as you feel the sand warming up, and fast. From ice cold to scorching hot, the desert has no mercy, on your way down, try keeping to the shaded side of the dune, it’s a lot cooler and more forgiving than the sunny side.
This will feel like a real achievement when you’re done, and rightly so. It is not an easy challenge and nor is it one to miss out on, but remember to layer on that sunscreen, have a bottle of water in hand and away you go with determination.