The 120km from Ludertiz to Aus is great. Tarred and easy, but Namibian roads are stingy in their favours. We turn off and are presented with 350km of gravel road. Eish. We purchased a tyre pressure monitor in Ludertiz to avoid us shredding a tyr, and its here that the monitor is a treat. It really takes the pressure off ;-) as I bump and slide all over sand I can see what the tyres are doing. It fascinating because the tyre that has punctured twice gets the hottest and its pressure rises the most. They were all deflated down to 190kpa and this tyre would reach 240kpa at stages. This shows why it is so important to reduce tyre pressure for gravel roads. (More Namibian tyre advice for would-be travellers in a future post)
Finally, many dusty hours later we arrive at 5pm at our campsite. - Sossus Oasis. Yep, this is going to be dusty, but the good news is that each site has its own covered area with a toilet, shower and cooking area. Soon we are all setup and after the requisite braai, are all huddled in one tent getting ready for the night of blissful sleep ahead.
It’s quite warm in the desert as we settle down in our tent as a soft breeze stirs outside. Inside we are setup with our fan blowing to cool us and bring the best of modern comforts to our rustic abode. However nature has an irony in store for us. As we sleep, lulled by the gentle breeze of our fan, the wind outside starts to blow like a crazy. I wake crunching dust in my teeth. Our tent is flapping like a possessed vulture and I have to venture outside braving the elements and dust - twice during the night - to try and secure our tent with rocks. Welcome to the wilds. Exciting and fun.
Crunch, crunch. Aah, I'm awake. I now know what the sandman means. He's been a little too enthusiastic as not only are my eyes and mouth full of fine sand but so is my sleeping bag. The joy of the desert…now we need to find out if all this sand is worth it. Soon we are in our cars and enter the Sossusvlei Park. Impressive! When you've bounced along a dirt road for 400km to get here the last thing you expect in a national park is a tar road. But that is what we get. The park has a 50km tar road running along the valley floor - what a pleasure.
Soon we are flying along the road coming to multiple screeching stops whenever the cry, “Stop!” is yelled by an eager photographer. “It's my turn for the camera”, “pass the camera this side”, “you're taking too long with the camera,” becomes the frequent “conversation” of the car as we are amazed by the beauty of the dunes and the valley floor.
We finally arrive at dune 45, named so because it is 45km along the road.These Namibians are creative with their names. It reminds me of the Aussies who likewise are creative with names, calling the long road along the ocean, “The Great Ocean Road” or the blue-coloured mountain…yeah you guessed it, “Blue Mountains”…although you’ll never guess what they call their mountain with snow on it…yep, you got it again - “Snowy Mountain”. But I digress…back to Namibia...
Before us towers an impressive red pile of sand marked by tiny specks - which are people walking along the narrow spine of the dune. Soon we are parked and trudging our way up the thick sand. It's hard work and I'm grateful for the people who have forded this route before us creating a slightly flat path we can follow. From the top of the dune we look down to the flat sandless valley below. It's a strange juxtapositioning that makes for amazing vistas. After all the hard work of the climb we now can draw on all the potential energy we have created - gotta love the laws of physics. And so with leaps and yelps and full-on fun we careen down the face of the approximately 200m high, five million year old sand dune. Epic!
Continuing along the road we stop at another spot where a sign says “Dead Pan - 1.1km”. Sounds good to us and so we are off to discover what “Dead Pan” is. After a fairly easy walk - although no walk in the desert sand is easy, we arrive at a most eerie, surreal landscape. In fact I read somewhere that this area has been used in various movies especially apocalyptic, Western or futureverse movies. Protruding from a stark white, dry, flat pan are the carcass remains of dead trees stabbing upwards at the sky, while surrounding them are huge red dunes. The contrasts - sand - clay, peaks - tabletop, red - white creates an artist’s dream.
Yet there is more to be explored. The tar road eventually gives up, as tar roads do in Namibiam and several two wheel drive vehicles are parked in the parking area. From here it's 4x4s only, and we discover why. In Mozambique style the tracks diverge and converge like a convoluted weave of strings. We slide and bounce our way along the thick sand and eventually arrive at Sossusvlei - the pan that marks the end of the river that flows every few years.
Sossusvlei means The Dead End Pan and is also surrounded by huge dunes. Once more we are drawn to the challenge of climbing a beckoning sand monster for the reward of racing down its side. It's a lot of work, but the reward of the view and the exhilarating “ride” down make it worth it. Well, that was fun…it’s time to head on out of here. We leap into Pajey, pick one of the many tracks and go for it…well that is until we come to a grinding halt as Pajey gets mired in the sand. “Hmm…this is feeling very Mozi-like.” The only difference is we are now wiser and more experienced. Firstly I don't spin my wheels and get Pajey dug in. We leap out the car remove some sand from behind Pajey's wheels and in a couple of minutes have reversed our way out.
“I'm closing my eyes,” says Nicky as we face the sandy hill before us for take two. Giving Pajey full throttle we fly, bounce, and slide our way with relative ease up the dune and soon we are out of the sandy area once again. Fun!
We've booked to have lunch at the Sossusvlei Lodge across the road from where we are camping, and so leaving the park we head straight there. We have a hungry crew with everyone having skipped breakfast in anticipation of a good lunch. As we pull up the doors explode open and the family erupts from the car even before the dust settles. Normally I have to wait for the kids to get out of the car at view sites, but not here. Maybe we should visit more restaurants and less view sites!
After eating our full, and feeling like a pod of potbellied pigs we decide to visit one more place that this area is famous for- Sesreim. It's the perfect set for a Western movie. A massive canyon has been carved by the river into the flat wasteland. From above it is almost invisible, yet as we walk down we are suddenly walking along a hidden valley that has been gouged deep into the valley floor. Huge cliffs rise on either side of us while we walk on a sandy track that occasionally boasts a river. We find a small pond at the one end of the canyon where some hardy catfish are eeking out an existence in their ever-diminishing habitat.
As the sun paints the sky a dusty red we sit and enjoy our sundowners. It's hard to photograph or describe the beauty and variety of this area. It is a land of contrasts and a land of the unexpected. As I sip my red wine seated on my chair on the dusty desert floor I marvel at God's incredible artistry, and He's far from finished, as He completes today's presentation with a spectacular moon rise and a sparkling display of stars tossed across the dark canopy above. Wow! Naimbia truly is stunning!