Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 117 - Sesriem and Sossusvlei, Namibia

RobT:  We woke up at 4:45 am to catch our ride for the dunes and be there at sunrise.  We had arranged for Tuna, our driver, to pick us up at our campsite at 5:15 in his Land Rover.  He didn’t show up on time, so we walked to the park gate, where we found out he was on his way.  We also found out there was no water or food in the park and we had half a liter of water between us and a bag of trail mix.  Oh oh!  The gate attendant happened to have an empty jug and we filled it with tap water.  Tuna came after about 15 minutes and we were on our way. 

For the first time in several weeks we were actually cold as the wind bit through our jackets in the dark morning in an open safari-type Land Rover.  We drove past Dune 45 on to Soussuvlei.  The last 4 km after the normal parking lot was all deep sand.  Tuna dropped us off, pointed off to the left and said the Deadvlei is 800 m just over that dune. I'll pick you guys up in an hour. Okay   There was no one else around and a feeling of isolation swept over us as we stared at the expanse of dunes ahead.   

The walk in wasn’t too bad.  RobC was having difficulty with a sore knee, so the going was hard on him.  What was on the other side of the first dune ridge was surreal.  Black, dead trees planted in what looked like a dried up sea bed, all surrounded by red dunes and a blue sky.  Wow! This was one of the places I was looking so forward to seeing .  I didn’t know where to start to try to capture it on my camera.


We met back up with Tuna and toured some of the other dunes.  He had pointed to "Big Daddy", the highest sand dune in the world and asked if we wanted to climb it.  Uhmmmm ... No!  It was three dunes over, I'd get lost in all that sand.  We also spent some time at Dune 45, the one you see in all the Namibian travel brochures.  This one I did climb.  Saw a gecko and some sort of beetle whose name I have long since forgotten.

Guess the sand was too hot for the poor guy.  He kept alternating lifting his feet.

Ridge of Dune 45

We headed back to the camp site but were stopped by a raging river washing across the road.  That morning there was barely a trickle and now you couldn't cross it with a 4 x 4!  This was the result of the heavy rains to the west that chased us yesterday.  The traffic piled up on both sides of the river, people waiting to go see the dunes and people returning back to camp.  We waited for 4 hours before Tuna mustered up the courage to attempt a crossing.  He was the only one and we were on board. The water was probably about waste high and flowing rapidly.  We made it half-way across when he tried to shift gears or something and stalled the vehicle.  The water subsequently flooded the engine.  We sat there for 15 minutes, water raging around the Land Rover, while another vehicle winched us out.  Back on dry land, we waited another 2 hours before the crossing could be made in another 4 x 4, as Tuna's vehicle was out of commission.  The smaller vehicles stayed behind. 

Even the big overlander didn't dare cross the stream.

View from our stranded Land Rover

We met some very nice people while waiting for the water to go down, a couple from Botswana and a German fellow who helped Tuna get the Land Rover running for few minutes but later found out that water had managed to find its way into the fuel tank as well.

RobC:  We also met two young couples from Bern, Switzerland, all of them medical students. They were students at the same medical school and the two couples met at the troublesome river crossing - what a coincidence. As an aside, Namibia appears to be a prime adventure tourism destination for Europeans, particularly Germans and Swiss travelers. Perhaps they are attracted by the fact that German is widely spoken here. They rent appropriate vehicles, often with a tent on a roof-top carrier, and travel the length and breadth of this beautiful and well-organized country. I also met a middle-aged Argentine couple at the river, who have been coming to this part of Africa every year for the last 14 years.

RobC enjoying a chat with Armin from Botswana, who just happened to have a supply of beer in his car.

The guy in the black shirt is the German fellow who got the truck running, an incredibly gifted mechanic. Tuna standing behind him, learning.

Making matters worse, a sand storm blew in and more rain was threatening

5:00 pm and we were finally on our way back to camp, thirsty, hungry and wet ... not from the river ... from the rain storm we encountered on the way home. 

One of the guides ducking out of the cold, pelting rain in our open Land Rover.

1 comment:

  1. First off.. nice hat dad :p
    Secondly, beautiful pictures.