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More Dunes

May 2.  Another very early start for a 5 o’clock takeoff for our balloon ride.  Six of the group elect to take this optional, but not inexpensive ($450 each) one-hour ride.  We get to the site and one of the pilots tell us that, because of the wind, there’s only a 50-50 chance we’ll be able to fly.  We’ll have to wait until sunrise to see whether the winds calm down.
Happily, they do and sixteen of us get into a large basket, segmented into four rectangles, two on either side of the pilot.  We crouch down for liftoff and enjoy a very pleasant ride that gives us a sense of the overall terrain that we’ve been driving and walking through for a couple of days.  We fly low over the (waterless) river, skim over tree tops and get aerial views of game.  The flight gives another perspective on the incredible landscape. And the experience of ballooning, which we’ve had only one other time, in Myanmar, is exhilarating.
The pilot says that there are two kinds of landings, exciting and very exciting.  Because of the winds, ours will be the latter.  We hit the ground, are dragged along the road in the basket and then the basket tips over for us to crawl out.  Awaiting us up the road is cold champagne and a quite luscious buffet breakfast.
We return to the lodge and have four hours to relax, swim, lunch and take care of whatever we want to take care of.  At 3:30 we take off for another trip to Deadvlei, which we photographed yesterday. The wind makes the hike in more difficult, but again it’s spectacular.  We have special permission to remain in the park after hours, so we can photograph the sunset and the rise of the full moon.
After we gather at our vans at 7:30, the winds are too strong to cook, as we’d planned, but after a 20-minute drive, we find a spot where the wind has died down, and we can enjoy our steak meal under the stars and full moon.
I’m sure this sounds like a hell of a lot of dunes, and it is, but they are so majestic and spectacular that it’s worth all the time we spent there.  I hope that these photos will give you some idea of what I’m talking of.

 

   
                      

   

  

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