After the grueling 9.5 hour drive from Fish River Canyon, there was no way we were getting up early for a sunrise hike. We rolled out of bed at 7:30, had a quick breakfast in camp and headed toward Sossusvlei, the inspiration for this trip to Namibia. Ever since we saw an article in a photography magazine spotlighting this part of Namibia we knew we needed to come here one day.
Most of the drive from camp to Sossusvlei was on a paved road with hills and dunes on both sides and occasional oryx, springboks and ostriches visible from the road.
5 kilometers from the end the road became a 4-wheel drive only track through sand. We dutifully let air out of the tires, switched from 2-wheel to 4-wheel drive and bombed our way forward. With no experience at all, we focused on moving forward no matter what and staying in low gear. We traversed areas that would have eaten our Prius alive and just enjoyed the bumps, jumps and slides until we reached our destination.
Hiking Up Sossusvlei Dunes
Sossusvlei is essentially a dry lake bed or pan surrounded by tall red sand dunes. We crossed the pan and climbed up the side of the tallest dune. After huffing and puffing our way to the top of a ridge, we saw people climbing the same dune on the ridge itself and having an easier time of it. Lesson learned. Kim was the only one to climb to the very top but she was kind enough to share her pictures of the view.
Nara Vlei and Dead Vlei
We also explored neighboring Nara Vlei and then bumped and jumped our way back to the trailhead for Dead Vlei.
Of course we missed a sign and ended up driving back at the paved road. So…we turned around and bumped and jumped almost all the way back to Sossusvlei where the Dead Vlei trailhead was.
We got out and climbed a couple of small sand ridges before coming face to face with an overhead view of Dead Vlei.
Wandering around the dead trees felt surreal after having seen them in pictures all these years. An artist couldn’t paint a more compelling landscape.
While bumping and sliding back to the main road, G retold a story about how you should never stop on sand because you will get stuck. And then a beautiful composition presented itself with a group of oryx against a dramatic backdrop.
Of course we stopped and guess what, we got stuck. It’s not like we had a choice after providence had shown us such beauty. Luckily for us, providence also brought us a local shuttle driver who helped us free our truck from the deep sand. The driver gunned the engine while D, G, Kim and a German tourist from the shuttle pushed from behind. We are sure that someone on the shuttle video taped us and posted on YouTube under “dumbass tourists stuck in sand”. We tipped the shuttle guy for helping us and drove back to camp for another of the awesome porkchop meals they serve…and a tall glass of beer to celebrate our first off-road experience.
Sunrise at Dune 45
The next day we woke up at 5am to climb Dune 45 and watch the sunrise. In the absence of a moon and the very dark African sky we could clearly see the Milky Way and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds when we first woke up. When we arrived at the trailhead we followed the line of tourists up the dune’s ridge and snapped our photos.
After we were done, we all bombed our way down the side of the dune. Fun and well worth being covered in sand.
Sesriem Camp Restaurant: They serve an awesome pork chop meal.