After leaving the idyllic little resort of Ai-Ais (and having partly recovered from the Fish River Canyon hike) we hit the road, heading north to Sesriem, where you’ll find the dramatic and unending sand dunes of Sossusvlei. This is a beautiful place of contrasting colours and needs to be seen to be believed.
We camped at the NWR Sesriem Campsite, N$200 ($15), which is located inside the park itself. The spaces were big and open, each with electricity and water, plus a big tree for some shade in the hot Namib desert. We even had a nice view, with the plains stretching out before us and the first hint of a sand dune on the horizon.
Sunset at Elim Dune
After checking in we made our way through the second gate into the main park, towards Elim Dune. This is the place to be for sunset however, it’s deceptive in the way that you’ll never really reach the top, it just keeps going. So we sat down after a while, watching the sky turn pink and the dune’s shadows stretching before us. Running down was far more fun than climbing up, which just gave me flashbacks to the Fish River Canyon.
Sunrise at Dune 45
The next morning was an early start for everyone, as the main draw of this park is to climb Dune 45 for sunrise. Why Dune 45? I have no idea, it’s not the biggest, but maybe keeping it to just one stops people slowly destroying others. There was already a queue at 5:45am, and when the gates opened at 6 the line of cars behind us was miles long.
We were one of the first to arrive and I just about sprinted up there, ignoring the pain in my legs (which honestly I don’t think will ever recover from that bloody hike, not bitter though). It was a narrow ridge to climb, the sand was bitterly cold after the long night, and as the sun came up the sand sparkled like diamonds.
It was beautiful to see the colour bloom in the sand all around us, bright red around us and white to the north, perfectly split down the middle by the road. I have no idea why, but it’s beautiful. We sat at the top for a while, enjoying the view and taking photos, before we got too hungry and came down to eat our sausage sandwiches out of the sand-filled wind.
How not to drive through sand
We made our way further into the park, the sand dunes got bigger and more impressive. We made it to the end and having our big, reliable Bucky the 4×4 we drove past the carpark and waiting buses to make our own way to Big Daddy, the largest of all the dunes. Bad idea, we got stuck halfway.
The more we tried to move, the worse we got stuck. People stopped to help and made it even worse. I told people how to get it out, but of course, no one listened, what would I know? Apparently, nothing about anything even though I’ve been doing this for 8 years, (not bitter though). Once the truck buried to its axis, we dug it out, they took my advice (put the tracks and wheel mats in front of the tires) and I got it out on the first try.
Sunset at Big Daddy
At this point the wind had picked up, the sand dunes had all but disappeared, and we decided to call it quits and head back to camp to try again later. We had lunch, had naps, drove to the (teeny tiny) Sesriem Canyon to walk around in for a while. By early evening the sky had cleared, so we took our chances and drove the hour-long road back to the Big Daddy carpark.
After taking my advice (what a novelty, not bitter though) we made it! We followed the sandy, bumpy road towards Big Daddy, a hulking mass of sand that towers above its neighbours. We didn’t have time to climb it as the gates closed at 6 and we still had that hour-long drive to get back, but we walked alongside it and I was rewarded with an amazing surprise.
A surprise visit to Deadvlei
Deadvlei is a pretty famous spot for travel photographers. I’ve seen it in countless magazines and books and I never thought it would be a place I could visit but there it was, it took me completely by surprise! We avoided some angry photographers who were setting up for a night photography course and took our own before rushing back to the car so as not to be late back.
It’s a great place to explore and one you certainly shouldn’t miss if you’re ever in Namibia. Park entry costs only N$80 ($6) per person per day, plus N$10 ($1) for the car. They have a bar, restaurant, and shop on-site, but there’s also a gas station and shop across the road with free WiFi if you’re needing a Facebook fix.
You can view the full album here.