Sossusvlei & Big Daddy
This place just keeps amazing me. It's just so other worldly. Today saw me tackle the red dunes at Sossusvlei. It is one of the gems of Namibian tourism and so I was a little scared off by hordes of tourists. But once you enter the dune zone it just takes on a world of its own. Every angle is just a wicked photo op! The backdrops just so dramatic with the snaking red dunes against the vivid blue sky. The white salt vlei’s dot the landscape with ancient dead tree stumps. It's crazy. The close ups of rocks and pebbles show an eternity of sand carving patterns into the surface. Almost mimicking the ripples in the sand.
We made it to the car park where you can board land cruisers to take the 4wd top to the base of Big Daddy.
Reputed to be the largest Dune on earth it sure looked impressive. It was a red flag to a bull as I set off at a pace. Hildegard and Allen protesting at how long it would take me, but…. How could I not do it? Of course I headed in completely the wrong direction!! Once a guide pointed this out and suggested I go over a dune in front of me I arrived in this large salt pan vlei which forms the base to the trek. By this time it was approaching midday and the heat was starting to build. I took a swig of water and set up the dune. It looked abit like 6:1, our favourite hike at rainbow ski field, so I felt confident.
It did not take long before I was heaving deep gulps of air as each footstep seemed to fall away on the sharply angled ridge. With the wind blowing it forms a razor sharp ridge which is like a pathway marker. I chugged on. I thought I could see the top only to find it was only the half way ridge! By this time the heat was getting to me big time, prob being just after midday and the peak of the heat. My head was hot, my feet were hot, I was chugging!! I swigged water but still could only do a dozen steps without stopping as the sand underfoot was so loose on the crest of the dune. I was thinking of my many treks up 6:1 with Jass and Dave. But in those treks the cold air helps to rejuvenate. None of this here , just heat and hot energy sapping wind blowing sand. I was feeling it. I noticed a small bug skuttling along just below the crest. How is that possible, then a bird swung low over me , probably looking for the bug. At two thirds point I noticed another venturer heading straight up the guts climbing a few steps and stopping. It was getting a bit gut wrenching for sure. But heck it's only a dune!!! I was thinking of being fifty , how I need to learn to give up! I always push to keep going, but it's not the best way surely. I was thinking of calling it! I was thinking of Peter in Amsterdam and I knew he would keep going!
I saw the climber up the centre was getting closer to me so took a rest to watch her slow ascent.
I called out and she said she was out of water, so I called her over which took ages. This allowed me to rest and regain some strength. So I met Che, an intrepid world traveller from South Carolina. She was on her second dune of the day and feeling it big time. She revived on my juice and water and we coasted the last quarter to the peak. The view from up top was just ridiculously amazing. Just so unreal in 360 degrees. This trip seems to be about the desert, my birth here, the lives of both my grandfathers whose lives where influenced by different deserts in different ways.It's always been in me. Somewhere just below the surface. So here I am sitting on top of the worlds highest dune in the driest desert on the planet. Sharing it with this beautifully gritty random women. A blast. But Peter Pontier, it was thinking of you that kept me going when I was sure I could not make it.
So it's for you my friend.
Downhill was a run down this super steep face , but little can go wrong it seems in sand. I'd love to do it on a sand board ! A trek out across the hot vlei, a goodbye to Che and into the land cruiser for a hell as fast and rough rally back to the car park. The driver was laughing as he dropped me off. My mother had sent him to find me, he asked for water. It was just so dammed hot. It had been four hours since I set off! Lucky Hildegard and Allan weren't too upset at waiting, but how could I not do it.
A postscript regards meeting Che up there. Peter Van der Meer always says how what he loves the most about travelling is all the random people you meet. And it's so true, it's amazing how it brings out such real interactions with strangers and how quickly they become friends. Somehow I am just more receptive and more willing to give. It's a journey. Lovin it !
Heading to Windhoek tomorrow.