Oh what a glorious early morning. As much as it sucks waking up at 4am, driving a distance to the base of a sand dune and then hiking up it to catch the sun rise… it was totally worth it! They failed to mention how difficult the hike up the dune would be and I guess I’m glad in a way. Sand is difficult as is to walk on, and the sand in the Namibian desert is the finest I’ve ever seen. Combine that with fact that you are climbing up the side of a mountain and 5 o’clock in the morning and you have a very difficult task ahead of you. My calves were burning like never before after the climb but as I said before, it was completely worth it. We sat at the top ad waited for the sun to break the horizon. When it starts to crack that atmospheric seal, it moves fast into view. We took loads of pictures of videos on the top and even got the chance to run down the side. That, I must say, was my favorite part of all! It’s super easy coming down and a great deal of fun. If the climb up hadn’t been such a trek I’d probably do it again just for the coming down part.
Back at the bottom, Kelly and Richard had prepared for us a great breakfast with scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon. Between eating and taking postcard quality pictures time flew by and before we knew it, it was 8am!
We packed up the truck (my job for the day) and headed down the road where we boarded a 4X4 that took us to different locations around the dessert. We visited parts where water once lived and even a location where water was still available. The latter one was called the Oasis while the dried up one was called the Dead Pan. The explanation for them was that water comes from the mountains on the inland and travels west towards the Atlantic. Long ago the water actually made it from mountains to ocean but since then sand dunes were formed blockading the water in. In the summer the wind comes off the ocean and blows west to east while in the winter the wind comes from inland pushing west. These winds battle each other and are the reason sand dunes run vertically, north to south. Dunes would from in the south and make their way up while dunes formed in the north and grew south. Once they reached the mountain water that flowed towards the coast it was only a matter of time before the north ridges and the south ridges connected. In a way they formed a natural damn in the river and is how the Oasis is formed. The Oasis is by no means permanent though. The dunes will again from in the north and the south and connect themselves over the river creating a pond where the Oasis remains. Time will tell how long that pond will last but the desert is a very hot and dry place for any sort of water to stick around for.
As soon as our mini excursion was over with we were back on the road again. The location we were staying at was pretty interesting. It was again out in the middle of the desert surrounded by nothing but sand dunes and bush. The owner came to Africa and loved it so much that he bought a large piece of land, hung up is shoes, and hasn’t worn them since. They say, once you take your shoes off in Africa you never leave. He became an expert on the land, and hired some locals to help him along the way. He now has a camping location that he’s been upgrading ever since and continues to not wear shoes. I didn’t get the chance to meet the man but I did meet one of his employees, Frans.
Frans is a local man from the area who was employed to work on the farm and give guided tours of the surrounding area. His knowledge of the land was amazing. We would drive along taking in the scenery stopping ever so often to learn the facts of the land. He taught us all sorts of things about the sand dunes, the animals that lived in the desert, how to find your way, and so much more. At one point he was telling us all about the small critters of the desert; spiders, lizards, scorpions and snakes. He was explaining what to do if you encountered any of these animals and how to look for them. Spiders dig down 2 meters sometimes into the sand and their home is in the shape of a tube. At the top of their home they use a rock as a trap door to get in and out. You’d think he was making it all up but at the end of his talk he bent over, moved some dead grass aside, found a very small rock on the ground (size of your fingernail), and lifted it with a strand of grass. Almost immediately a Black Gorilla Spider crawled out to see what was going on. The spider actually grabbed onto his door and pulled it shut. The rest of the ride was filled with more facts and spotting. We followed animal tracks and learned how the Bushman used to hunt. The whole ride was incredible and lasted about 2 hours. Unfortunately for me I started developing a terrible stomach ache about half way into it. Long story short, we skipped the sun set, but seeing as we had been up since sun rise the rest of the group wasn’t too upset about it.
That evening was spent recuperating and hanging out by the fire. I’m really going to miss these night time skies once this ride is over.