Sossusvlei, Sesriem and Deadvlei, Namibia
We leave the Kalahari early in the morning heading to Sesriem where we would be camping for 2 nights in the desert. Most people come to Sesriem to visit Sossusvlei and Deadvlei and we were no exception, it's probably the most visited tourist destination in Namibia. We arrive in the afternoon and its roasting hot and are desperate to find a campsite with shade, we drive round the sandy campsite, each pitch has a stone circle with 1 camel thorn tree in each which we can pitch the rooftents in, blasé we drive round the camp and find a pitch, luckily we don't pitch the tents and head to reception where we are told that our stand number has already been allocated and move the vehicle into it, it not as good as the pitch we initially picked but provides enough shade for us.
The sand dunes are best seen at sunrise we are told and because we are camped within the entrance gate we get 1 hour head start on most of the other tourists, we decide to take advantage of this and set our alarm clocks for 5am, we light the campfire and again are treated to an fantastic view of the milky way and head to bed early. We needn't have set our alarms as it was impossible to sleep through the commotion in the morning of other campers getting ready and starting their vehicles. Up until this point we had seen very little other tourists in Namibia but this place was packed. We get the kids ready to drive the 60km tar road to the car park where only 4x4s are allowed further, on the way we pass a number of sand dunes lit up by the sunrise and decide to pass on climbing dune 45, standing over 170 meters high it just seems too hard work to climb and it's just littered with other tourist climbing it so hardly a solitary experience. We reach the car park we are hesitant to press ahead being a single vehicle as we don't want to get stuck in the sand unsure of how we would free ourselves. The park offers 4x4 shuttle services on the sandy track to the car park and we get out of our vehicle to enquire, the guide selling the tickets told us its easy, so we stump up the courage to progress, in a few days we will be driving across the desert for 5 days and if we can't cope with this how would we cope further on our trip. We deflate the tyres, engage 4x4 and head off. The track goes into soft sand immediately after the tar road ends, we power through the sand passing a number of 4x4 rentals stuck in the sand, we decide not to stop and help them as we would probably get ourselves stuck, we were surprised to see the car park only 4km in and pleased we drove ourselves instead of taking the shuttle.
From the final car park a big towering dune called big daddy reaching a height of 320 meters is ahead and littered again with tourists climbing for the view, we again decided to skip the opportunity to climb and instead head for Deadvlei. Deadvlei is a scene that looks straight out of a Salvador Dali painting, chalk-white ground, sand-drifted tree skeletons and a rich blue sky. This is the stuff of photographers' dreams, unfortunately it's also packed with tourists but Edwina and I spend around 1 hour snapping photos walking around trying to take shots without people in them. The kids ran round having enough energy to run up and down the dunes.
When we start heading back to the car its 9am and it's starting to get hot, were so glad we woke up early to avoid walking in the desert heat. When we reach the car we are a little concerned about going back but all is fine and we make it back to the tar road with ease stopping briefly to inflate the tyres. We get back to the campsite and head to the swimming pool to escape the heat. Since we are not driving today I head to the bar to have a beer and watch the Leicester vs Man Utd game, if Leicester win today they will win the premiership the first in their 132 year history. As I enter the bar the barman quickly asks who I support, "Leicester" I say, "me too, since January" was his reply quickly followed by "How long have you supported them", "All my life" I reply, how quickly their allegiances change when their old team is not performing I thought. Whilst watching the game Roel, Lizzy and their 2 kids Finn and Bart join us, they are the family we met in the Kalahari who happened to be heading in the same direction, the kids enjoyed playing with their kids and we arranged to camp together. They go to set up camp in our pitch whilst I finish watching the game that ends in a 1-1 draw (the next day Tottenham would draw with Chelsea and Leicester would win the league). All the kids go back to the pool and play whilst Edwina gets dinner ready a huge pasta feast and salad and Roel cooks sausages on the fire, we all sit down for dinner. The kids later cooked marshmallows on the fire deliberating over the best method of cooking them wither being burnt or double dipped. Me managed to get all 5 excited happy children off to bed whilst the adults have some more beer and wine and talk about life on the road, again Edwina and I loved the conversation with such liked minded individuals.
The next day we leave Roel and Lizzy as the head up to see Deadviel whilst we head to Solitaire the start of the "Faces of the Namib" tour, a 5 day crossing of the Namib Desert.