It was a decision made over a glass of wine too many. Cape Town to the heart of Namibia’s dune lands…And back, in five days. Doable? We weren’t sure… But before we could change our minds the twinkling lights of the Mother City were fading in our rearview mirrors and dawn was fast approaching on the horizon.
By the time that the deep red African sun was threatening to dip below the horizon we were in the middle of …nowhere. We had shredded two of our tires, bought a new one in a small nondescript village (it didn’t really fit), dropped off a hitchhiker covered in tattoos and lost our way. Twice. We weren’t exactly sure where we were. No problem. We pulled of the road, pitched our tent and spent a night gazing at the amazing African night sky. Incredible!
The next morning we pulled into Solitaire, a small cluster of buildings decorated with a bunch of rusty antique vehicles inhabited by scorpions. We stocked up on peanut butter, bread and red wine (just the essentials) and got the directions for a lodge up in the mountains. While our car overheated, we put our backs on the sun-heated rocks and stared up as the sky turned pink then black. Our worries disappeared. We dreamt of the desert.
Somewhere out there, in the ‘Land of Open Spaces’ there existed mythical dunes that towered 300m. It was time to find them! We entered the stunning Namib-Naukluft National Park and were mesmerized. The dunes were otherworldly. This was the Namib Desert, home to the sands of time. Shaped over millions of years and still ever-changing. While the name Sossusvlei may describe a place of ‘no return’ or a ‘dead end’ this is a place that lives on.
The variety of shades of red was mindboggling. Natures very own palette of reds, browns and oranges. The colours produced by iron particles oxidized over millions of years accounts for this. But we knew that to truly experience the desert we had to return at the ‘golden hour’, either sunset or sunrise.
As the dawn touched the horizon our feet touched the cold sand of the Namib. The rising sun gently illuminated half of the dune while it cast the other side into deeper shadow. My girlfriend trod onto the virgin sands. We will never know if it had ever been climbed before – but that didn’t matter. We were caught in the moment. We felt more alive than we had ever felt before!
An hour later we looked down on the great Namib, a sea of dunes as far as the eyes can see. Magical beyond description. We were all alone. Not a sound in the air. We were but mere spots in this expansive landscape. Time passed as the sun gradually reached its zenith. This was a special moment and we longed for it to continue. Eventually with great reluctance we accepted it was time to descend. We peered down the steep flanks of the dune and decided that there was only one way to descend and that’s quickly. With that we threw ourselves of the summit.
Before we left the Namib we had one last place to visit: the Deadvlei. The deadvlei is a graveyard of trees, a place devoid of life but stunningly beautiful and eerie in its own right. In times gone by a river used to feed the Vlei but with changing weather systems the river dried up and all that remains is a land of scorched acacia skeletons. The contrasting colours of the black trees, the copper dunes and white pan underneath are by themselves unique.
Before we knew it, it was time to return to the Cape. However we had one last sight to see – the Fish River Canyon. With a length of over 650km the Fish River is the longest in Namibia and it cuts deeply into the Namibian plateau carving out the world’s second largest canyon. We stood on the edge of rim and looked down at what the raw force of nature had created over millions of years. Amazing!
Namibia is an enigma. A land of vibrant contrasts and at the same time desolate beauty. I believe the traveller will find exactly what he is looking for even when he is not sure what that is!