I have travelled quite a bit over the years, and I am yet to find a place that is anything like Namibia. With its very boring first look of orange landscape and sand with a few odd trees, if you are lucky enough a blue ocean too. Though I struggle to believe how many incredible things there are too see in Namibia.
I’m not sure if it’s because i had no expectations about Namibia, just like watching a movie you heard that was rubbish, and watching it exceeds all expectations. Namibia has been the same for me, with so much to see, I keep wanting to go back. I have spoken about Dune 45 in a previous article, Sossusvlei and Sesriem canyon are right next door and are often done hand in hand.
Doing Dune 45 first thing in the morning when the excitement for the day gives you so much excess energy, yet the climb is very tough. Sossusvlei can be even tougher with the sun warming the air and making the sand too hot to the touch, climbing more dunes to sossusvlei can be quite challenging, but once you see it, it is simply incredible. These black bare trees standing against a background of burnt orange, and almost milky floor effect from the heat rising.
This part is often self-guided, unless you have hired a guide. From dune 45 it is another 15km to visit Hiddenvlei, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. There is another track that is a further 5km which takes you closer to Sossusvlei, however this road is for 4×4 vehicle and can be rather tricky. There are often shuttles that can take you the way if you do not have a 4×4 or do not feel confident enough to take the chance. More importantly before you depart on any of these adventures, don’t be shy to over pack water, as it can be very unforgiving on a hot day. Sun protection such as sun cream, sun hat and often overlooked long sleeves help a lot rather than strap tops. Also, don’t be caught out like I was, a dessert can be very cold early morning and late evenings so be sure to have a few warm clothes available. Be sure to wear closed shoes, not only is it easier to walk in the sand than flip-flops but also there are animals that live in the sand such as beetles, geckos, lizards which might give you a bit of a fright and a giggle and less amusing snakes and scorpions or sharp objects to avoid.
Sossusvlei meaning ‘dead-end marsh’ in Afrikaans language, a large salt and clay pan set in the dunes. There is another pan called deadvlei, which is very characteristic with its black dead trees well preserved due to the dry climate, this trees have been standing for as long as 900 years. As an interesting activity you can do, travel with a good magnet in a small bag, run this over and through the sand, you’ll notice lots of black things attached. This is iron oxide, and the reason for the red colour of the dunes.
Sesriem canyon, is a little easier of these activities, less than 5km drive from the entrance gate with a walk as long or as short as you would like when you get there and very unusual. The name sesriem comes from the six straps tied together with a bucket on the end to reach fresh water that is found in the canyon. The rock formations are fascinating, especially when you walk inside the canyon. It is filled year-round with water from underground pockets, therefore a good source of fresh water for wildlife and many species of fish that live in the canyon.
Though unforgiving for us, nature is incredible at adapting to ways of life and living in all sorts of environments. With lizards that live under the sand to keep cooler during the high heat, breathing in oxygen between the large grains of sand; or insects and plants that collect morning fog as fresh water, larger animals have special ways in preserving water and food, being able to go long periods without drinking.
Us on the other hand are bound to be looking forward to stopping at the fuel station, eyeing out ice-creams, cool drinks or just a simple breeze wondering how on earth anything can survive this every day.