This is my nineteenth (S) entry in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.
We woke up at “are you fucking serious” o’clock, as we were on a tight schedule and time was of the essence. No big breakfast for us. Barely any time for tea or coffee. Our tents were dismantled with little care, thrown into our truck, and as we wearily piled into it, our driver Tim wheeled us out of our overnight camp site at the Sesriem Gates, so we could reach Dune 45 in time to watch the sun rise.
Dune 45 is part of the Namib Desert in Namibia, and more specifically in the Soussevlei area of the Namib Desert. The sand here is 5 million years old, and the coastal winds from the Atlantic helped shape and form the highest sand dunes in the world. The highest dune in the area, aptly named Big Daddy, stands over 300 metres tall. The sand is red, cause by the iron oxide the sand contains, and because the wind often swirls here and blows from many directions, the dunes are known as “Star Dunes”, given to the fact they have many arms stretching in various directions.
Our truck hurtled down the highway, passing natural sand sculptures all the way. When we slowed and pulled into the parking area, we were at the base of the most photographed sand dune in the world. Dune 45 is so named, unromantically, as it is at kilometre 45 on the paved road from the Sesriem Gate. The gate is only a stone’s throw from Sesriem Canyon, arguably the smallest canyon I’ve ever seen (about a kilometre long and 100 feet deep).
We leapt from the truck (some of us), and into the cool, still dark morning air. The aim was to be halfway up the dune, on a natural sand shelf, and hope we were all there in time to see the sun creep over the other dunes to the East of us. Dune 45 stands at about 170 metres at its highest point, but very few people even attempt to navigate the sands that rise that high. The journey to our point would be tough – a steady incline barely a foot wide, your feet sinking deeper into the soft sand with each step. This walk would not be for the faint of heart.
Dave and I, a few days removed from our tuna sandwich eating challenge, decided it would be acceptable to test our fitness by running up the dune. Neither of us made it to the top without stopping, but we were the first two to arrive and had caught our breath by the time the others joined us. The sun had just crested the dunes before us, and as everyone sat on the warm sand watching the sky turn the most vibrant orange I have ever seen, the couples held hands and shared a romantic moment with new friends, and I called my travel companion Chris a “Jackass” because that is what we did. A few hot air balloons dotted the sky now, and a few more trucks and cars had entered the parking area, but we all savoured our moment of silence and contemplation. I am not a religious man, I wouldn’t even call myself spiritual, but I too can marvel in the wonders that nature provides.
I had time to pose for a photo (as you do), before we headed back down the dune towards the truck, where Tim had arranged everything we needed for breakfast that morning. I watched as others climbed the dune, each step getting harder as the sun grew warmer, and when we left to venture into the Deadvlei, an area of immense beauty despite being well, dead, I could hardly remember anything I had done at 5:45 in the morning that was so rewarding.
For an interesting and informative read on the Deadvlei, please see Kim’s excellent post on it here.