Dune 45 and Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sesriem, Hardap, Namibia
Solitaire to me is a game of cards played by one person not a one horse town (lodge, petrol station and store = smallest town in Namibia) but this is where we had lunch after leaving Swakapund at 9 am. I think that the local bakery products were more interesting than Mandy's same old make your own sandwich / salad lunch!

Today is only 300 km through to Sesriem camping at the edge of the Namib-Naukuft Park. This is really an old part of the earth.

Mr Wikipedia "The desert occupies an area of around 80 900 km (31 200 square miles), stretching about 1000 miles (1,600 km) along the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia. Its east-west width varies from 30 to 100 miles (50-160 km). The Namib Desert also reaches into southwest Angola. It is one of the 500 distinct physiographic provinces of the South African Platform physiographic division.

Having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for at least 55 million years, it is considered to be the oldest desert in the world. It has less than 10 mm (0.4 inches) of rain annually and is almost completely barren."

Next morning we had a 4.45 am wake up call to be waiting at the park gates by 5.30 am for them to open. Then a mad rush by the vehicles inland. Why did we stop at Dune 45 a star dune in Sossusvlei and climb to the top? Simple ... I thought it was the tallest sand dune in this part of the world but alas no as it stands only 170m and composes of 5 million year old sand that was brought by the Orange River from the Kalahari Desert. Why is it called Dune 45? Simple actually ... it is merely 45 kilometers from the park gate / Sesriem Canyon.

Anyway the view was great as the sun rose to the east. In the distance was a hot air balloon drifting across the sand dunes.

After breakfast a walk in the desert with a real character of a local guide ... "you die". He outlined the harshness of this terrain. I asked him how many days could he with his knowledge survive without water just living off the land ... a few.

Photographically I see why Dead Vlei is one of the most photograph part of Namibia. It was well over 1 km across this flat pan protected by the surrounding high sand dunes so hasn't changed in all those thousands of years.

It best summed up by Mr Wikipedia:
Dead Vlei is surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world, the highest reaching 300-400 meters (350m on average, named "Big Daddy" or "Crazy Dune"), which rest on a sandstone terrace. The clay pan was formed after rainfall, when the Tsauchab river flooded, creating temporary shallow pools where the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. When the climate changed, drought hit the area, and sand dunes encroached on the pan, which blocked the river from the area.

The trees died, as there no longer was enough water to survive. There are some species of plants remaining, such as salsola and clumps of !nara, adapted to surviving off of the morning mist and very rare rainfall. The remaining skeletons of the trees, which are believed to be about 900 years old, are now black because the intense sun has scorched them. Though not petrified, the wood does not decompose because it is so dry.

Then the 5 km ride back to where Pangani our Acacia truck was waiting for us ... it was wild just like the white water rafting trip on the Zambezi River at Livingstone. We packed the whole group like cattle into the back of 2 small pick ups where we were bounced around. I suspect that the driver had to keep up his speed to avoid being stuck in that soft sand ... this sounds plausible!

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