One of the large drawing cards to Namibia are the great sand dunes of Sossusvlei, located within inland Namibia where sand was blown over millennia off of the ocean – or that is at least one theory given to us. Our drive to the park takes us through empty landscapes and up over a pass and down into further desert land.
We arrive in Desert Camp, small bungalows just completed with astonishingly well designed and executed space, created for “self-catering” folk with RVs who bring their own food and supplies but want a comfortable place to sleep. Here is my cabin at sunset with the moon high above:
We are in an area of stripped down nature where a few camel-thorn trees and small tufts of hardy grass put down deep roots to try to survive. It is unique and beautiful, especially in the setting sun which turns the rocks around us to rosy red.
It is winter here and the sun does not rise until 6:45 am so it is pitch black when we arise in the early morning as the moon has already set. I can not see at all walking to the reception area and must uses my flashlight although there are a dizzying amount of stars stretching across the firmament in the dark sky.
We leave at 7 am and join a line of vehicles to enter the Sossusvlei park. We drive past spectacular sand dunes, each given an identifying number, and visitors are only permitted to hike on some of them to preserve their ecology. In this early morning light, the sun is shining on the east side of the large dunes while the west side, from where the winds blow, still in the dark, creating spectacular color contrasts on these mammoth natural structures.
A few of our group on the young side has done the 1 hr. 45 minute hike straight up the dunes and then come straight down the other side. Mark, about my age and in great shape, only made it partway up so I am glad I stayed below with others as it is hard walking through deep sand. I walked around the isolated quiet space, the silence broken occasionally by loud voices from the (mostly) European tourists which reverberates through this barren space.
Dead Vlei is a lake located in the middle of large dunes, with scattered black dead trees standing straight up in the white cracked pan of clay. The red black and sand coloring is striking.
We also visit the Sesriem Canyon, carved by water and used as a watering hole by local people for untold time but now dry and hot as it is mid-afternoon. We trek down a path into the canyon and walk along the gravelly bottom. There are steep walls, splattered with recessed round crevices where rocks fells out of the composite geological material. Our guide warned us that those holes now serve as homes for various creatures so keep your hands out!
I hadn’t looked very carefully at this tours’ itinerary after Sossusvlei, so was wonderfully surprised the next morning to find on our schedule a visit to a cheetah preserve near Solitaire, once a large cattle farm and now a way station for those on the road to Sossusvlei. Solitaire, which consists of a small store, cafe, bakery and gas station, is now best known for its apple pie, prepared in German style by a fine baker who passed away in 2014 but whose tradition carries on.
We move to a 4×4 safari truck and drive into the large preserves area where the cheetahs appear to be waiting for us. A mama and her offspring sit and pose for us, a few feet away. Magnificent cats.
The mother was rescued as a young orphan and so can not survive in the wild, nor can her offspring, as they have not learned the ways of the hunt. They are all now sterilized and will be taken care of the rest of their lives while their wild cousins, on the other side of the fence, roam the area and take down springbok for prey. When they are gathered together these majestic animals, who are the fastest runners on earth, look like their much smaller domestic relatives, waiting to be petted. We don’t try.
Our drive takes us to Reheboth, a town founded by the “colored” population descended from Dutch settlers and their tribal wives as a place of refuge which, till this day, carries on its proud heritage. In Windhoek, I stay at a lovely place overlooking the small City.