6 In Africa/ Namibia

Climbing Dunes in Sossusvlei, Namibia

At the end of our camping travels in Namibia, we spent two nights in the Sossusvlei area. Rust-colored dunes formed there from sands transported from the Kalahari Desert via the Orange River.

We woke early on our first full day to climb Dune 45 (so named because it is 45 km from Sesriem, where we camped) in time to see the sun rise. We spent an hour or so relaxing at the top and enjoying the breeze and the play of light and rainy-season clouds on the dunes. While you do risk some rain if you come here during the Namibian summer, you also get the chance to see dramatic and quickly-changing cloud formations every day.

Later that morning, we drove to climb “Big Daddy,” one of the highest dunes in Namibia at 200 meters. Climbing in the sand with the desert sun striking your skin is a sweaty two-steps forward, one-step back affair. It can take anywhere from one to two hours to climb Big Daddy. Why do it? The views of the surrounding dunes in varying shapes and sizes, the solitude at the top and the descent into Dead Vlei, a scorched-earth pan with blackened trees at one end that have been dead for hundreds of years. If you go, get an early start, bring lots of water and leave your shoes on! I met a foursome at the top (a fun group of twenty-somethings from Namibia and Zambia–the only travelers I have met so far who were from Namibia) who had decided to climb barefoot. According to our guides, the group eventually had to wrap their feet in their scarves to protect their sizzling soles from the hot-hot-hot Dead Vlei. Ouch.     

Sunset views (first three photos) from a dune near our camp in Sesriem

At the top of Dune 45

A view from Dune 45

A view coming up Big Daddy

Walking up the first part of Big Daddy–tougher than it looks

The shoeless group at the top of Big Daddy

Descending a steep side of Big Daddy into Dead Vlei

Dead Vlei

A wider view of Dead Vlei…

…and a close-up shot

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  • Reply
    Maura DeMouy
    April 11, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    I love the one of you on top of the dune. The sky is lovely. The sand color is so deep.

    • Reply
      April 11, 2015 at 8:21 pm

      thanks! yeah, it was really beautiful. our guide said the reason for the color was iron. it also had a bit of sparkle to it. namibia is rich in minerals. i went on a separate hike near windhoek the first day i was here, and there were all these shiny/sparkling rocks in different colors — copper, silver and gold tones. it wasn’t every rock on the trail, but enough that i noticed it, and it was really cool to have that as your pathway. and, yes, the sky here is really gorgeous. i’m glad i’m here this time of year.

  • Reply
    Marsha Brand
    April 12, 2015 at 12:09 am

    These are beautiful photographs–the 6th and 7th ones literally made my heart sing. –and you look just lovely. Thank you so much for this blog.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Aww…Thank you, Marsha!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    These pictures are so beautiful! I really want to experience this too!! Very inspiring!

    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      Thanks! I think you would love it here!

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