Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Back to Namibia for a holiday (yes I know I seem to get lots of holidays, but maybe that's because I flee Joburg every chance I get; the rest of the time I'm working very very hard, honest). We started at one of the main tourist destinations in the Namib desert, Sossusvlei, where you can see red sand dunes up to 300 metres high - and lots of them. Despite its fame, Sossusvlei feels very isolated - you have to drive for about five hours to get there from Windhoek, most of it on dirt roads, and the handful of lodges are clustered around the gate to the national park; once inside the park you drive for another SIXTY kilometres, through a plain bounded by the magnificent red dunes, to get to the actual vleis (there are several) - vleis are salt pans which are nearly always dry - we were told that the last time water was visible was four years ago, and the last time Sossusvlei was a lake was nine years ago.

There aren't many animals - a few gemsbok and steinbok, quite a lot of beetles (which defend themselves either by dashing for the nearest bush, if there is one, or otherwise by putting their heads in the sand and their bottoms in the air, as if they think they're less visible that way) and some birds around the few scrubby trees that manage to survive. The views are truly awe-inspiring, especially when the wind is whipping sand clouds UP the sides of the dunes and spraying them off the tops - you can see how these dunes slowly move in vast solid waves across the desert - and there's a hundred kilometre wide strip of them running for nearly a thousand miles down the Namibian coast. One of the great sights of the world.

Above: luxury tent (including instructions on what to do in a sandstorm - stay inside, and hide in the bathroom if it gets really bad - and the warning that "only minimum services will be provided" during such a storm); view from the tent; desert scenes.

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