The Red Dunes

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Day 48: Nubib Namibia-Namibian Desert, Namibia (25 October 2009)

So, as I said, we were supposed to wake up at 4am, get our breakfast boxes and be on the road early as the sand dunes get crowded and really hot by late morning. Well, a plan is just that, right? This is what happened instead…we did get up at 4am and we did get our breakfast boxes and we did get away on time and then…First, our bus got stuck in piles of sand as the roads out of the farmstay are gravelly and sandy (for those who have seen my cousin vinny it’s kind of like getting stuck in the mud in Alabama…) and we dug and pushed and then waited for Paul to walk back to the house (you guessed it-no mobile phone service at all)and get the owner and the Unimok and tow/pull us out of the ditch. After watching another gorgeous African sunrise, we drove for what seemed like forever and came upon a bad accident on the side of the road. A car had completely flipped over and the passengers, a young couple and their young daughter were all on the side of the road and survived with just a few scratches, amazingly. We stopped to help them and give some first aid as they were alright but now had no way to go anywhere but they said that help from the lodge they had stayed at was already on the way and thanked us for our kindness as they were only concerned that they had delayed our trip to our destination; how sweet-and they were the ones hurt.

On our way we had many photostops in front of the famous Namibian red desert sand dunes; the same ones that Angelina Jolie was photographed on before she gave birth to her child here. We ate our breakfast boxes from the nice people at the farmstay, watched outside as the springbok jumped & ostrich crossed in front of and alongside the bus and finally arrived at Dune 45.

The dunes are all numbered and 45 is the only one opened for visitors to climb. Thankfully, I took my inhaler and went with my husband to tackle the dune and tackle it we did! It was ginormous that’s for sure! Along the way up the hike we stopped to enjoy the views and take some pictures and chat with the little lizards and dung beetles whose territory we were presently invading! Thankfully we were there early and on a brilliantly sunny day without any wind. We finally did ‘reach the top alive’ as the man in black did in the Princess Bride after going up barefoot (flips in hand) and had a breathtakingly beautiful view from the top. It was unbelievable; it looked just like the postcards and photographs and magazines and movies and there we were standing in the middle of it all! How unreal!

After papparazzi style photo session we decided to zig zag down a different path on the side of the dune as we wanted a different route home; but, remember it did take us a bit of awhile to hike to the top and some time on the top and now the sand had some time to take in some sun and the side is different than the path we went up. That path had been etched a bit by the feet before us and this one was perfectly smooth sand; just right to sink into till your mid calves on the steep walk down. We had burning feet on the way down where at times I just had to sit down and pull my feet up so they had some fresh air to stop the burning and then we ran the rest of the way down…and survived! It was truly awesome and worth getting up at 4am for and really, how many things can you say that about in your lifetime, right? After conquering the dunes we got back on the coach and made our way to Soussevlei in the desert-an area that at one time was filled with water and now has mud-like concrete in the center and dunes that look like the icing on a bakery cupcake. We got to the edge of the desert and hopped into our transport-an open air jeep type 4×4 vehicle that plowed through the desert driving solely on sand; no roads; no street signs, no animals to see, just…sand, miles and miles of sand!

We got dropped off at Soussevlei to have a walkabout for awhile and then got picked up about a half hour later and driven, again through the desert, to Deadvlei. This is a part of the desert that after finding it in the center of this arid place you realize it used to have water amidst the trees and now it’s that claylike substance on the ground and is intertwined with completely dead trees. But, let me mention, that by the time we went to Deadvlei it was now 11:30 in the morning, the red sand had plenty of time to heat up and Mathew and I only had our flips on trudging through the burning hot desert sand in about 40 degrees celcius which would be over 100 Fahrenheit. We thought we had pushed our feet far enough on the hike down Dune 45 as that was completely barefoot and we could only imagine that our feet would retalliate, but they were alright after a bit of water and a cool place to rest; but this, there was no way they were going to make it through this. Some people opted not to go, others turned around, others had socks with them and two had sneakers but we were the only two who wearing just flips and our bare feet made that hurdle. It took us awhile as we treaded precariously in the footsteps of those who stepped before us as they had made a bit of a pathway that would lessen the sand coming in the sides and front of our flips and burning our feet in the process. It was now 46 degrees celcius and the desert sun was burning us from both ends; but we made it and somehow or another we were blister-free!

We got picked up in two transports as there were many of us waiting and after about 50 meters or so the first transport got a flat tyre so we all hopped into one to get back to the start of the desert where Karel was waiting with the coach to take us to our destination. We headed back to the original camp where we first started and thankfully they had regular toilets inside as the ones we stopped at this morning were a bucket surrounded by wood paneling. We had lunch; cheese and tomato toastie for me and Mathew had a burger and we tried to cool our weary feet. We had one more stop for the day, Sesriem Canyon to hike to the bottom (don’t worry, we’ve changed shoes on the bus and put on socks and sneakers/hiking shoes and our feet are very thankful). We hiked to the bottom with new footwear as we couldn’t push our feet any further and saw where the water had at once been along with lots of rocks and an owl.

When we were finished we headed back to the coach where we bumped along rocky roads for the next few hours until we reached our destination at Bullsport lodging for the night. This is a beautiful farmstay with absolutely beautiful rooms and a lovely pool, horseback riding area and a few dogs running around. We cooled off our aching feet in the room, hopped in one of the best showers we’ve had for a long time and went to dinner. Tomato soup (which I actually really liked) with garlic bread, salad with cucumbers and apple, beetroot Bavarian, green beans, rice and a goulash for a very tasty dinner, a walk under the stars and then off to bed in our triple luxury room (almost everyone else got standard-we think paul is trying to give us the best rooms as we’re on our honeymoon) for some rest from a very busy day!

Tomorrow: Swakopmund!

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