I love going to the ocean. We live near the sea and even in the dead of winter I make time to go there. There is something about the ceaseless push and pull of the waves. About the slight movement stretching for miles and miles. The way your eyes can fall of the edge of the world. The mysteries buried beneath the nothingness. I sometimes wonder if those same elements are what drew me to the desert.
In Etosha I’d gotten my first glimpse of vast barren stretches of land and in Spitzkoppe I’d found the beauty of a rocky desert. Now, it’s time to see a “real” desert. Dunes upon dunes of sandy waves. We’re finally visiting the Namib desert!
It’s a long drive day through an immense stretch of dry desert. Saying the desert is dry seems like the most ridiculous understatement of the year, but I was still surprised at how incredibly dry it was. We were passing around body lotion as if it was water and still my skin kept pealing in tiny little snowflakes.
The only time we leave the truck today is to take a bush wee – boys to the right, ladies to the left, there’s nowhere to hide you know – and to commemorate traversing the Tropic of Capricorn. We are now entering the lowest three quarters of the earth which somehow seems a bit weird when you are in one of the hottest places around.
And then we keep on driving.
Finally, we arrive at our campground. After quickly assembling our tents – such pro’s by now – and after the heat of the day starts to lessen, we drive over to a canyon and enjoy walking through it. Erik convinces me to climb into a small cave in spite of my claustrophobia and of course I am a happy little camper for temporarily conquering my fear. But really, it’s still incredibly hot and so we just drive back to the campsite before we see the sunset.
The next morning, we get up early to see the sunrise over the famous Dune 45 (located, surprisingly, on the 45th km on the road into the national park). I laugh at the girls in the bathroom putting on layers and layers of make-up at 4.30 in the morning until I realise that this means we are heading for a tourist trap. I dislike loads of freaking tourist ruining my peaceful moments in the desert even though I am one of them myself.
We get to the dune in good time and, barefooted, we start to climb up. It’s hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be (no Mt. Rinjani drama this time).
Once I get to loud Dutchies on the summit shouting about how nice the silence is, I decide to keep going a bit further. Than I sit down and let myself be enchanted.
It’s so silent here. No natural sounds for miles around. The sand seems to have the same soundproofing properties that snow has and crunches remarkably similar. As far as I can see, dunes in varying shapes and tones of orange stretch out. Like an ocean of sand illuminated by the slowly rising sun. As the desert wakes up, I slow down. Go quiet both inside and out. Relax after the fear of being disturbed by hordes of tourist. I just watch the sun climb over the final dune. And remember that this is why I am here, no longer certain if I am talking about just this trip, or here on earth in the first place.
Next up, we drive to to Dead Vlei. Or, more accurately, to the parking area from where we get to walk into the desert, pretending to be real pioneers for about fifteen minutes until we get to the strange beauty that is Dead Vlei. The name is derived from the ancient but dead trees standing here. Their blackened branches still reaching towards the sky. Unable to deteriorate and return to dust, because there is no moisture whatsoever in the air around us. Walking around is like walking around on another planet. It’s magical.
I walk around, forgetting all about the other tourists. Training my newfound photographers eyes. Crouching down and standing on my tippy toes to get a new angle of these trees that have been photographed by thousands if not millions of people before me. Feeling like a discoverer even if the first time a saw these trees was on Google. Letting the magic of this place influence my magical thinking. Not bothering for once with discerning the truth.
The final stage of this morning will be the Soussusvlei. I am looking forward to more wandering around, but sadly this part of the desert is roped off. So we just take a few pictures as if we are in a zoo without animals (as really they should be, animals belong in the wild not in a cage however “big” it may be) and head back to our truck, for another stretch of driving.
It’s the final day in Namibia and by the time we get to our campground it is the hottest day we’ve had. It’s about 42°C (107,6°F). In the shade! So, we spend the afternoon getting in and out of the surprisingly cold pool and sleeping on the benches surrounding it. Dreaming about all the beauty Namibia has shown us. From the incredible wildlife to the amazing landscapes. But mostly about a magical piece of peace that I want to pocket and take home with me.