Sossusvlei

Well there she is, at the red bakkie. Tall, rangy, big smile and hands and dark curly hair just as I remember and a lot of time passes away in a hug and introductions. It’s strange seeing someone after so long, there is so much to say and it’s hard to know where to start but we leave the catch up as camp has to be set up and it’s dark by now.

Andrew and Elayne set up their roof top tent and I decide to sleep under the stars in a swag and not in a tent. The camp is not fenced through our little site has a low stone wall around it and as the night takes on it’s black glossyness again the crickets and birds stop their chirping and the jackals start to howl and yelp and bark. I think we have a visit from one during the night as I hear snuffles and shuffling around the camp. Wine opened and braii underway we start the catch up and so much has happened as it would in 30 years.too much to tell really.

Our morning start for the next day is very early. As we are within the Sossusvlei /Sesriem reserve itself we can be at the dunes and the vlei for sunrise so it’s up and on the road by 5am initially on a tar road and then gravel and then it’s into 4wd and sand driving to Sossusvlei and the big dunes which are starting to appear from the dawn as the sun scrambles up behind the dune sea in the east.  Andrew and Elayne climb the ridge of a big star dune, the dunes in this area are between 200 and almost 400m high, that’s a lot of sand, and I climb about a third of the way and sit on the ridge between the duneslope and slip face watching the sunrise and the shadows move and colours change as the day wakes.  The sand is orange red and beautifully simple quartz grains reddened by iron oxide. A group of Oryx move from a small patch of camel thorn at the edge of the vlei and move up the dunes and a male ostrich and two females come down from the sand and start walking across the vlei or pan before returning to the dunes.

Sossvlei is named from the nama meaning ‘gathering place of water’ and vlei means’ a hollow flooded during the rainy season’. The Tsauchab river  with it’s headwaters in the Naukluft and Zaris mountains drains into Sossuvlei and the floodwaters do not often reach the vlei  as the long winding sandy river bed absorbs most of it. White, salt and calcrete crusted the pan is dotted with  dead camelthorns and patches of prickly Nama melon thorns straggle on small sand patches on the edge of the vlei and small dune hummocks have ganna bush growing on them which thrive in the salty conditions.

More to come in the next instalments but hopefully a chance to get this posted and then it’s into Swakopmund for breakfast.

Sossusvlei and Frankie

The berg wind is seriously strong this morning and Erich, our host, tells us the way to drive through the sand storms we will meet on the road is slowly. Any speed will result in serious sand blasting of paintwork, windows and lights. Packed and ready to leave by nine the wind is even stronger so when we stop again at Kolmanskop to look at diamonds one can really imagine what it was like to live in the town a hundred years ago…….the sand is blowing in waves and spirals and is fearsome to walk through. Fearsome too are the price of the diamonds, beautiful though they are and we come away diamondless.

Today we head up the coast leaving luederitz and the Sperrgebiet to travel through the Namib Naukluft Park to the big dunes at Sossusvlei and a big reunion for me with Frankie who I haven’t seen since 1979.

There is one road in to Luederitz and therefore one road out so we return to Aus and this time have the time to make a detour to see the Aus Wild Horses . At Garub groups of bay and chestnut rangy horses have gathered to drink at a small waterhole. The origin of their presence in the desert is interesting and theories are that they were either descendents of those of the German Shutztruppe , from the stables of Baron Hansheinrich von Wolf from Duiwisib castle in the highlands near the town of Maltahohe or a ship stranded at the mouth of the Orange River  carrying thoroughbreds from Europe the strongest of which made it to the Garub Plains. All  cracking stories but the more likely one is that the horses were part of the South African cavalry which had set up camp in the namib desert and were panicked by shots from low flying German aircraft during WW1…….another cracking tale too. Anyway there they were, resting and drinking and squabbling and rearing against a background of sweeping, Dances with Wolves type plains and ridgebacked mountains forming an amphitheatre in the background.

Then it’s turning north to Helmeringhausen and as we travel through the late morning more game appears on the plains and we see larger groups of springbok and ostrich. Again it’s scenery, scenery and yet more scenery and it’s so wide, grand and classy…whether it’s grassy plains or steep mountain passes…….it’s very difficult to describe or photograph, you just have to see it!! At Helmeringhausen we stop for late lunch…yes there is a lot of eating going on……..and have Bratwurst and salads and shop at the tiny store that is an Aladdin’s cave. It reminds me of the old corner shops in England, a long well worn wooden counter behind which shelves are stacked high and deep with everything from tablets of sunlight soap to cans of beans and excellent camping food in cans called Shakalaka.  Bags of biltong  and mealiemeal sit is stacks by the door as do cooking pots and firewood.

Rising through the mountains towards the Tsarisberge the air cools and the road becomes winding and increasingly corrugated and we travel through a theatre of flat topped ridges sloping down to bleached grass plains. It is very remote with tiny settlements and painted cubist houses dotted along tracks and turning a corner we stumble across and shepherd with his dogs and flock of goats, a ‘scotch’- a donkey drawn cart teetering down a track laden with wood and people and  on the horizon a trio of horseback riders moving slowly through the land.

Classic perspective and shading in the landscape is all around and the distant mountains pale in colour as they fade off into the background. Leaving the mountains and descending back to the plains and the promise of the sand fields ahead we drive down the pass and the view opens up to reveal a scene as grand breathtaking as one could ever dream of and stretching as far as one can see or dream of.

The day is running away and the pressure is on to get to the gates before sundown when they will be closed. My map must be an old version as the route numbers, in this area have changed, and not helped by the fact that the Sossusvlei sign is on the ‘other side’ so we don’t see it. Out comes the navsat and she gets us on track with the concerning news we still have 200kms or so to travel. Frankie is by now at camp …look for the red bakkie….. and we will get in ok as she is there and the site now occupied.

This is the second time in a month I’ve spoken with her and will see her in two hours or so. WOW.