Early start today! We got up and loaded our sleepy selves onto the truck at 5.30am. Don't worry, we didn't have breakfast first or have to pack up our tents at this stage as we were coming back for them so all we had to do was get dressed and climb onto the truck for a snooze.
I'm not sure how long we drove for, I was asleep, but in what seemed like no time Siziba announced that it was time to get up and go climbing! In front of us was what is known as Dune 45. The area contains some of the largest, and certainly prettiest, sand dunes in the world and Dune 45 stands solitary against the sky and is the focal point of many a painting or post card. The aim was to climb the dune to watch the sunrise! So we did. Sort of...
The dune looked tiny from the ground but it turns out we couldn't see all of it from down there, especially in the dark. So off we raced…and quickly died. Climbing through sand isn't easy at the best of times but every time you reach a crest and realise you still have so much farther to go it gets very disheartening. Many of us were struggling to breath and the fine stand certainly wasn't helping. But we got as close to the crest as we could in time to watch the sunrise which was so beautiful and I really don't think the view would have been any more impressive any higher up.
The sand itself is a really bright reddish/orange colour and is some of the finest and softest I've seen. The sunrise with all its colours was only enhanced by this and I'm not sure that my photos have done it justice! At the bottom of the dune the land is completely flat and there is no sand at all. It's like it just stops! There are a few trees dotted here and there and miles and miles of larger sand dunes on either side of the valley. A very memorable morning.
We ran back down, it only took a fraction of the time it took to get up there and was much easier! Vincent was waiting for us at the bottom with the breakfast tables all laid out and he was frying eggs! Heaven!
After breakfast we headed a bit further up the road to see something known as Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. Now I'm going to quote from our itinerary to give you some history on the area because it's written much better than I can…
"Namib-Naukluft National Park is an ecological preserve in the Namib Desert. It is the largest game park in Africa, covering about 50 000 square km and a surprising collection of creatures survives in the hyper-arid region, including snakes, geckos, unusual insects, hyenas, gemsbok and jackals. Most of the life here is sustained by sea mists from the Atlantic and sporadic rainfall. The winds that bring in the fog are also responsible for creating the park's towering sand dunes, whose burnt orange color is a sign of their age. The color develops over time as iron in the sand is oxidized, like rusty metal; the older the dune, the brighter the color. These dunes are the tallest in the world; the most famous of which is Dune 45, which reaches more than 170 m. The dunes were numbered to make the area easier to navigate and coincidentally Dune 45 is 45 km from Sesriem Canyon.
'Namib' means open space in the local Nama language and the Namib Desert gave its name to form Namibia - "land of open spaces". The park was established in 1907 by the German Colonial Administration. The park's present boundaries were established in 1978 by the merging of the Namib Desert Park, the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park, parts of Diamond Area 1 and some other bits of surrounding government land.
The Park includes Sossusvlei, a clay pan in the central Namib Desert, fed by the Tsauchab River and known for the high, red sand dunes which surround it, forming a vast sand ocean."
Siziba took us to visit Deadvlei first and to get there we had a ride in a 4x4x jeep followed by a short hike across the desert.
Deadvlei was once another Sossusvlei but is now so cut off by the other sand dunes that the area has literally died. In the middle of the area are hundreds of dead Acacia trees, each one is said to be 80,000 years old!!! The trees haven't rotted due to the arid conditions. One day the dunes will cut off more of the area and the current Sossusvlei will become the next Deadvlei and so on. It's very eerie!
Sossusvlei was a bit of a disappointment after Deadvlei and we only stayed a couple of minutes despite this being the world famous tourist attraction. Most people have never heard of Deadvlei and many never see it even after visiting the area. They just don't know it's there! Lucky we had Siziba as our guide.
After leaving the sand dunes we headed back to camp to collect our tents and move on to the next destination, an area of the dessert which is now covered by grass due to excessive rainfall in 2011. Here we were due to do a bushwalk but due to the mixture of grass and sand our guide took us on a tour in a 4x4 truck instead.
We drove around his farm which covers many square miles and saw Mountain Zebra which are different from those normally found in National Parks. He told us some history and showed us the iron in the sand by using a magnet to separate it. He also showed us a photo taken by a professional in 2007 which shows the whole area as nothing but dessert. Completely different from what we saw today.
Finally we climbed yet another, but smaller, sand dune to watch the sunset before heading home to our tents before the hungry Leopards start prowling…