Sossusvlei

After leaving the chilly temps of Walvis Bay, I was admittedly looking forward to heat and some sweating… And I definitely got it. We headed south to Sesriem which is the gateway to the famous red sand dunes of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. On the way we stopped for lunch at this neat little town called Solitaire. It feels like an old west town in the middle of nowhere at the crossroads of two gravel roads. You're greeted by several rusted but in tact 50s and 60s American Classic cars and trucks and lured in by the lore of a famous bakery. We were told several times of Moose's famous apple pie and my mouth was watering in anticipation. After some amazing schnitzel at the bar/restaurant I bee lined it for the bakery. Everything looked amazingly decadent but of course I chose the apple pie. It was made in a large bake pan instead of a round pie shape so it looked more like an apple crumble but who's arguing. Sadly though, as I approached the counter I saw a little memorial and book dedicated to Moose as he just passed away 3 days prior. It was obvious that he was well loved and sorely missed. And his famous apple pie was indeed incredible.

Back on the road we arrived at our campsite about an hour later. It was well laid out and thankfully, though in the he middle of a barren desert, had a little oasis with shade, loungers and a pool. That was such a welcome sight because it was 43 Celsius when we arrived. Check my math but I think that's about 110 Fahrenheit … Hot. Funny thing though, once you got in and then out, it felt freezing because of the strong wind blowing through. Without the water though it felt like – to coin a phrase from my friend Kelly – being chased around by a hair dryer. Camping was hot but not unbearable and we enjoyed being out in nature again. Though 'nature' woke me up all night … A jackal hung around us that night and I heard him crunching on some old charcoal nearby and then at about 4am the little rascal had pushed our trash can out from under the counter and yanked out the trash bag with lots of glass bottles (wine of course) and cans making a very jarring racket when you're trying to be asleep. And about and hour later the alarm went off so we could get up to make breakfast, pack up camp and be in the Sossusvlei park at dawn for the hour drive to the dunes. The park was just gorgeous in the early morning light… We were in a wide valley and the mountains turned to sand dunes the further in we drove. Turns out that though these dunes are some of the tallest in the world, they have limestone deep underneath them and aren't just sand. You'd never know it to look at them though! The last several km to the dunes is deep sand so most people opted for a shuttle from the parking area at the end of the tar road into the dunes. Of course we drove it… Cameron was like a kid in a candy store.

We decided to go to Deadvlei first and to get there it was a trek over a couple dunes and then down into a pan that once had water but now was a hard clay bed with nothing but dead trees breaking up the landscape. It was beautiful but somewhat eerie as well. The red sand dune called Big Daddy loomed over us but already by 8am there was no shade and nowhere to hide. I had aspirations of climbing to the top of Big Daddy but I think that will wait for another visit – hopefully in the winter months when it's slightly cooler maybe?

After a little more exploring we played around in the sand and started making a slow trek back out of the park. By 2ish we had to get in the pool back at camp and then waited for it to cool off a little to make dinner at sunset. We picked up some pork chops and had a nice braii (BBQ) and wine. We were really settling into this tent camping thing… We got setup and breakdown to a science and it took only a few minutes.

Next stop… Aus, Leuderitz area where we'll see the deserted diamond mining town and the wild desert horses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damaraland – Twyfelfontein, Namibia

Wow, what a beautiful place. It feels quite literally like the middle of nowhere. It's difficult to describe the feeling and the isolation of the place. From Etosha we drove about 4 and a half hours – and mind you, Etosha is not what any American would call 'civilization' – and we came to a slice of Namibia that is incredibly rugged and beautiful. The main 'road' is graded gravel, winds though riverbeds, doesn't care to warn you of steep inclines or sharp turns and is all in all, wonderful. When we arrived at our campsite at Mowani Mountain Camp, we were a little befuddled since we had not camped in Africa before this. We checked in at the main lodge and they told us what campsite to go to and then we were on our own. Yikes. No electricity…but there was running water which included a toilet, shower and kitchen area with a sink. We barely made it to our campsite by sunset so we scurried to set up the first night. It worked and all but was a little hasty.

We woke up at sunrise the next morning, not having been eaten by lions, hyena or baboons so that was a good start to the day. Kidding of course … We hadn't see any animals in this area and figured it was just too inhospitable for them. Why else would they allow camping? So we got up at sunrise because the Nature Drive (aka Desert Elephant search party) left at 7. Spoiler Alert: yes, we found the desert elephants and that was Awesome! But long before that we got to see how much activity there really was in Damaraland… A lot! Turns out there are elephants, lions, hyena, cheetah, leopard, jackals, kudu, oryx, springbok, baboons, and lots of little birds, creepy crawlies, etc. We didn't see any of the predators except for a few jackal with their babies… Jackals are already pretty little guys – maybe the size of a Sheltie but skinnier…like a miniature coyote – and their pups?, kits? are tiny and so darn cute!

About 3 hours into the drive, we started seeing elephant poo and knew we were headed in the right direction. If you're tracking elephants, follow the poo. They eat plants ALL day, and A LOT of them, so you can imagine they're pretty regular shall we say. Before long we see two bulls at a waterhole and got to watch and follow them for quite a ways down the riverbed (dry as a bone!) until we found about 7-10 females. One of the ladies was heavily preggo and another had a baby with her – the guide said it about 4 months old and was apparently exhausted … it's napping antics were pretty great. Stand up, look around, sway, down on front knees, tumble sideways and then flop into napping position.

Later that day we toured the World Heritage Site of the Twfelfontein rock engravings. Twyfelfontein is an Afrikaans word meaning 'doubtful fountain' because the white settler that found these engravings came there because there was a natural spring nearby that sometimes produced enough water, sometimes not. These engravings into the granite were means of communication between the Damara tribespeople …they we're nomadic and traveled in small groups so this is essentially how they left 'notes' for each other.

That night we made our dinner at the campsite, set up the tent, drank wine and enjoyed the unbelievable tranquility of the 'middle of nowhere'. We only wished our friends were there to share it with us! We were treated to a passing thunderstorm that night at about 2am – just enough rain to get things wet but not enough to make much difference in the desert.

Oh and there's a few photos below … The odd looking plant is a Welwitschia – this one was only about 100 yrs old but there are some where we are going that are about 1500 years old. It grows very slowly and only produces two leaves that twist and fray and give it it's strange look. Ancient though!