They are witty and whimsical and we walked through them choosing our favourites before heading back out onto the gravel road.
Sesriem, back towards the coast, was only a short drive away. Its a jumping off point for the most famous dunes in Namibia; the vast orange ones that appear on the front pages of the guidebooks. They are some of the largest in the world and mostly impenetrable. But from Sesriem there is a 60K corridor between the dunes. It follows the line of a river which has kept the dunes at bay – and they do move around. Some of these thousand foot giants travel a hundred and fifty feet a year. The journey out to the big dunes was for tomorrow though. Our first stop in Sesriem was the canyon carved by the Tsauchab river fifteen million years ago. From ground level it appears as a fairly innocuous slit in the desert floor, but when you climb down into it, it is a twisting, tortuous, narrow canyon. It doesn’t look like it was formed gently by a meandering river over thousands of years. Rather it appears to have been blasted into existence by a sudden event which shifted huge rocks around and formed big caves all at once. We followed it upstream as far as we could until it ended in a jumble of giant boulders and a small pool of cold water.
We chose it as a lunch spot, gambling that we might get lucky and avoid the inevitable tour group of German tourists. Five minutes into our tuna sandwiches a tour group of German tourists arrived and climbed over everything, including the meek English tourists with their sarnies.
Next stop, Elim dune, a couple of K off the road with the sun beginning to sink, casting long shadows.
We walked up the low sandy hill which whispered with long grasses, and scuttled with big white beetles leaving tiny little tracks in the smooth amber sand.
Its the edge of Namibia’s “dune sea” and from the top we could see the outline of the big dunes in the distance.
Tom of course likes the rolling down more than the climbing up and was soon launching himself off the top to see how far he could get.
We drove back to our functional little camp site with its solar hot water tank and electricity and shower block, and set up the tents in a stiff breeze. From there we walked over the the Sossusvlei Lodge for sundowners and wifi and eventually an excellent dinner from a buffet that simply didn’t stop…
By the time we walked back, fat and happy, the wind had really picked up. It was threatening to flip the tents closed and I used large bits of the iron fireplace to weigh down the ladders and hold them open. We all got into the tents but the wind was really, really powerful, howling around the tents and bending the struts. P and I were pretending that we might actually sleep as the tent whipped about but ten minutes after we had turned the light out, Tom shouted: “my tent is coming apart!”. And indeed it was. The wind had put so much stress on his tent that one of the big struts inside had popped out. It was clear that we couldn’t sleep in the tents. With the wind lashing around us we moved Tom and his sleeping bag into the back seat of the truck and collapsed both the tents. P and I looked hopefully into the bathroom block but there was no space for the mattress, so we manoeuvred the truck to act as a partial windbreak and slept in the open under the roof shelter, sand pebble-dashing our sleeping bags which we drew tight around our faces until only our noses were visible. Thankfully the wind was warm and, fully cocooned, we were warm despite the lashing gale around us.