Namibia has one of the oldest deserts in the world. Some of the highest sand dunes in the world. One of the hottest deserts on earth, and driest eco systems in the world. Sossusvlei is a large ephemeral pan situated in the Namib Desert, within the Namib Naukluft National Park. It is a huge clay pan enclosed by giant sand dunes. Some of them rising more than 300 meters towards the sky. This landscape is dominated by towering dunes formed over millennia and composed of sand which is considered to have originated in the Kalahari. Sossusvlei must be some of the most iconic and photographed landscape in Namibia! This huge clay pan has the most surreal, otherworldly landscape I have ever seen. Definitely one of the highligst of my visit.
The Tropic of Capricorn – got to have a selfie here...
My roadtrip to Sossusvlei started an early morning in Valvis Bay. We were three friends travelling together with a driver and guide. It took almost a full day driving to Sesriem and our camp site. The road twists it's way through the Kuiseb and Gaub mountain passes. The landscape here is more rocky, but still desert country. Since it was a long drive, we had several stops on the way. One of the stops was at the Tropic of Capricorn. It is only a sign which marks this invisible line. But still, Tropic of Capricorn is one of the five major circles of latitude and the southernmost latitude where the sun can shine from directly overhead. So a selfie was required!
Next stop was Solitaire. It can hardly be called a town. Not more than a gas station, a few shops, lodges and a bakery. Time to have a cup of coffey and a cake at the bakery, while the driver was taking care of filling gas. Solitaire was our last stop before Sesriem, which is the gateway to Sossusvlei and where the entrance fee is payed. Later that afternoon we set up our tents at the Sesriem camp,which is inside the park. Besides the camp, there is also a lodge within the park. The distanse from the gate to Deadvlei is 65 kilometers which means you better stay in the park if you want to be at there for the sunrise.
Oryx in the Namib Naukluft N.P.
It had to be an early night since we were to get up at 04.30 to start the drive to reach Dune 45 before sunrise. During the night a strong wind had developed. I woke up when I felt sand on my sleeping bag! That made me put on my head light quickly to check what was going on. I allready had my own litle sand dune in my tent! The wind was shaking my tent. Felt as if it was going to be blown away. But I got help from the others to tie my tent to a tree!
Dune 45 – took it with my phone....
First stop in the morning was at Dune 45. It was completely dark when we left camp and still quite dark when we were at the parking by the dune The wind was still very strong. When starting to climb the dune, the sand was blowing from the left, making it impossible to turn the face that way. It became a challenge to climb. My feet sank deep into the sand and I had a hard job protecting my camera. Took some of the first photoes from on top with my cell phone, simply to protect my camera. Once up I just sat down to watch the sun rise. It was amazing to see how the dunes and the landscape around changed color as the sun rose.
With the sun behind me I could not run from my shadow
Dune 45 is perhaps the easiest of these giants to climb. Acording to our guide, this dune got it's name because it is located 45 kilometers on the paved road from Sesriem. It is a «star dune» - created when wind is coming from all dircetions. Seen from above they resembles a star, hence the name. It rises more than 150 meters above the surrounding plain, which makes it look like a giant when standing in front of it. The colors just after sunrise are simply incredible.
At the start of the 1 km. walk to Deadvlei
At the shutle parking
We continued to Deadvlei on the paved 2 WD road from Sesriem. The last 4-5 kilometers are only accesible if you are driving a 4 WD drive. But for those who are not, there is a shutle. If it wasn't for the wind, I would have walked those last few kilometers but I saw the shutle as only alternative that morning. From the parking we still had 1 kilometer to walk to the flat pan. The guide tried to draw a map with a stick in the sand to explain how the pan had devloped. It was wiped out imediatly! That information had to wait until we were back at the camp.
Big Daddy (dune) throws shadows on the pan
Arriving at the pan, the sunlight had just started it's play, creating stark contrasts between light and shadow across this ancient landscape. An absolutely surreal experience and great photographic opportunities. Deadvlei is the remains of an ancient former river route. A circular depression that has been filled with water and surrounded by massive sand dunes that stretches all the way to the coast. The floor is white, consisting of dry, cracked mud and petrified camel thorn trees stretching towards the sky. Acording to the guide, the dead trees are more than 500 years old. They have become fossils, still standing as sihouettes against the dunes and the sky.
The sun is up and the shadows gone
Namibia has some incredible landscape. For years I had been seeing stunning photoes which made me dream of going there. It is a country which managed to overwhelme me with it's natural beauty and satisfied all my expectations.
Walking towards the parking. Still windy......
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Other travel stories, check out :
GREENLAND - continue to disko island (part 2)
GREENLAND - a world of ice and snow (part 1)
ILE AUX COCOS - an island in the sun (Roderique part 2)
THE ISLAND OF RODERIQUE - part 1 - a hidden gem in the indian ocean
THE ANCIENT TEMPLES OF BAGAN - from sunrise to sunset
AN ARCTIC ISLAND RETREAT – and one of the most extreme places
PORLWI BY NATURE – a cultural festival and a feast for the senses
«FOOD ON FOOT» - Street food in Hanoi
GHOSTTOWN – when people moved out, the sand moved in....
All the photoes are mine, Ulla Jensen (flickr, Instagram and facebook)