Friday, October 16, 2009

The dunes

Namibia is famous for its sand dunes - the biggest in the world, up to 300 metres high. I didn't see the biggest, but the ones near Swakop are impressive enough - and easy to get to (once you're in the area), they line the road between Swakop and Walvis Bay - there are designated areas where you can pull off the road, park, and walk; within a couple of minutes you're looking out across a vast expanse of rolling browns, yellows and ochres cut with razor-sharp shadows, a spectacular sight - and this meganormous beach extends all the way down the coast to South Africa. The dunes are constantly shaped by the wind, and so in constant movement - like a very slow replication of the waves pounding the shore just the other side of the road.

I also went to Dune Seven (giving creative names to things seems to be a problem around here), which is reputed to be the tallest in the area, but is a mere fifty metres tall. However Dune Seven is still very challenging to climb; for one thing it's unexpectedly steep - you can only go up it using your hands - and it's also, indeed, made of sand - and very fine sand at that - so at every step your foot sinks in about six inches and you slide back half the distance you thought you were covering. Many who start the climb give up, but I'm proud to say I made it to the top, puffing and wheezing and reflecting that it wasn't a particularly good place to have a heart attack, especially if I fell down the other side - and my calf muscles are still hurting now. But coming down is great fun, you can launch yourself and jump/slide and tumble and merrily undo the work of half an hour in ten seconds.

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