Category: Namibi, 2015

The Dunes

May 1​​​.  We arise very early and depart by 5 AM for an excursion in the Namib Naukluft National Park to photograph the dunes while the light is soft and the shadows accentuate their towering shapes and curves.  We drive about an hour to a spot Terry likes and hike a ways into the park and climb a dune as the sun rises.  There is a very strong wind, which creates something of a sandstorm, making walking a challenge.  We spend an hour photographing the dunes from different spots and angles.  Happily, the winds have died down, and the photographs we take from the road en route to breakfast are probably better than those taken on the dunes. After a short drive we stop and enjoy a very tasty picnic breakfast prepared by our guides under the shade of a camel thorn tree.
Sossusvlei is the most frequently visited section of the massive 50,000 km Namib Naukluft National Park, famous for its towering apricot colored sand dunes which can be penetrated by following the Tsauchab River valley. Sossusvlei itself is actually a clay pan set amidst these star shaped dunes which stand up to 300 meters above the surrounding plains, ranking them among the tallest dunes on earth. The deathly white clay pan contrasts against the orange sands and forms the endpoint of the ephemeral Tsauchab River, within the interior of the Great Sand Sea. The river course rises south of the Naukluft Mountains in the Great Escarpment. It penetrates the sand sea for some 55 km before it finally peters out at Sossusvlei, about the same distance from the Atlantic Ocean. Until the encroaching dunes blocked its course around 60,000 years ago, the Tsauchab River once reached the sea; as ephemeral rivers still do in the northern half of the Namib.


Sand-locked pans to the west show where the river previously flowed to before dunes shifted its endpoint to where it currently gathers at Sossusvlei. Roughly once a decade rainfall over the catchment area is sufficient to bring the river down in flood and fill the pan. On such occasions the mirror images of dunes and camel thorn trees around the pan are reflected in the water. Sossusvlei is the biggest of four pans in the vicinity. 
We return to the Lodge, where we have three and a half hours to relax, nap, swim, blog and lunch, as we choose.  Around 2:30, we visit and photograph another of the pans, famous for its gnarled and ghostly camel thorn trees, Deadvlei is reached on foot over 1 km of sand, part of which is elevated.  Not an easy walk, but well worth the effort, as it’s an amazing sight.   Deadvlei’s striking camel thorn trees; dead for want of water, still stand erect as they once grew. They survived until about 900 years ago when the sand sea finally blocked the river from occasionally flooding the pan.  Against the backdrop of the dunes, this place is a photographer’s dream.
Drive about an hour back to the lodge for dinner and an early retirement.


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