We arrived at Sesriem full of excitement to see the much celebrated and photographed desert dunes of Sossusvlei. Sesriem is the gateway to the dunes and we obediently paid our entrance fee and expected to continue to camp until we were told that the closest campsite was just behind the building we were in – we had arrived – a little nearer and sooner than we had expected.
With camp no. 28 secured we assessed the possibility of a fire – but the wind was far too strong to get any fire going – and luckily, on this occasion, there was a restaurant…we indulged.
As we crawled out of the tent for the pre-dawn drive to the dunes, the sky sparkled with a myriad of stars. So abundant that we half expected Brian Cox to be sharing the next pitch. It was an early and cold 4˚C start. Camping inside the gate meant that we were allowed to head to the dunes, 50 minutes away, at 6am, so we were up early – and managed to get all ready to go, including packing the tent away, in a mere 40 minutes – we were pretty chuffed, being only on day four.
We headed into the darkness towards Sossusvlei with only a couple of vehicles in front of us. As the sun rose, the dunes glowed a rich amber. We had started to climb Dune 45 and the light was unlike anything we had ever seen and it cast its long shadows onto the dunes all around us. On our walk, we saw the famous scraggily trees whose white colour was a fantastic contrast to the amber colour of the dunes.
We saw the wildlife enjoying the coming of the sun. But another thing that has been long awaited in this area is rain. The last rains came to northern Namibia in 2011. This rain even created flooding in the desert – an amazing site, we were told by the locals who showed their pictures. Next we hiked the Hidden Vlei. As one of the main highlights, we expected this to be full of people by the time we got there. We arrived at the car park and there were a number of people and cars around – oh well, we thought, the experience will still be amazing. It was only as we headed into the desert wilderness, struggling to locate a path, we realised that we WERE the only one’s walking to the Hidden Vlei. We had the whole hike to ourselves – an entire ancient wilderness. It was spectacular. We hit upon the Vlei – a dried up river bed, of sorts, that floods when the rains are as intense as they were in 2011. Without the rains it was just a barren and dried area with a few withering, if not dead, trees that marked the landscape. We were pleased to be able to see this rare sight.
Next we headed up the “4x4 only” section – into the depths of Sossusvlei. It was our first excursion into deeper sand since we had owned Tonka – and John relished the experience. To keep us company were springbok and ostrich.
At the end of the road, we had a well-deserved early lunch and then set off, again pointing north and heading for the depths of Damaraland and Kaokoveld – the latter of which is said to be one of the last true wildernesses in Africa.
KM driven: 204
KM total: 487
Animal sightings: Lizard, Mountain Zebra, Ostrich, Springbok, Jackal, Oryx.