We make good time from Aus and pull into Sesrium mid-afternoon, the launching pad for Sossusvlei. There are a lot of people here. Surprising since we haven’t really seen any traffic all day, but this is definitely one of the Namibian highlights. The parking lot is filled with similar off road, all-in-one vehicles. A quick scope of the other rides and I’d say we lucked out with, Belinda. She’s probably the best of the bunch.
We park up and head into the main info center to check the lay of the land. Walk up to the main desk and a guy and girl are sitting behind with some seriously unfriendly scowls. We ask about camping and thankfully there are spots still available. Woot. These guys are all one word answers and zero eye contact. Not so welcoming.
I Ask about getting to Sossusvlei and the dude says we can’t. Whaaa..? It’s only early, still in the threes. He says we can’t. There’s a canyon nearby for sunset. Do sunrise at Sossusvlei. “What time does the gate open?”, “7:45”, “And we’ll be there for sunrise?”, “Yes”, “Won’t the sun be up by then?” He doesn’t like this line of questioning, “Canyon for sunset. Sunrise at the dunes.” Sheeesh, “Ok, thank you!”
Thankfully these stickers next to him add some levity
We get campsite 6. It comes water equipped, sweet we’ll fill up tonight. We walk into the open air common area under a high circular thatched roof and get some post-driving double espressos. Been on the road for 8+ hours now from Richtersveld. There’s a semi-circle bar with beer bottles and cans, just clap yer hands. This place could be fun later.
The espresso clears away the road fog and we count down the days we’ve got the truck for. 17 more. Ok. Skeleton coast might be out then. Really hard to gauge time and distance here. No idea what the quality of roads are going to be like. If it’s anything like the Mongolian Steppe a seemingly 3 hour drive could turn into a day’s affair. Well, we’re not ones for planning ahead too much so best just take it as it comes.
We grab a seat outside and enjoy the weather and espresso
I hit the head and spot a sign with the gate times on the way back. Doesn’t close until 6:15?
“So it’s not even 4 and sunset is at 715. The sign says the gate doesn’t close until 615”, “Well, why can’t we make it to Sossusvlei for sunset?”, “Yeah exactly”, “Drive over to the gate and see?”, “Worth a shot.”
We saddle up and get over to the gate. There’s a camo fatigue guard standing by it. When we pull up he smiles at us and gives us a thumbs up and up goes the gate. Haha shit, that was easy.
And we’re off. Drisdelle hits the dune tunes. Daft Punk. We ramped now.
“So… Sossusvlei is about 50 minutes from here, actually”, “Well fuck, Peter. Better punch it”, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger?”, “Better time this drive so we know how long we have on the dunes”, “We’d better.”
Just over the halfway mark we get to signs for Dune 45. “Would that be 45km?”, “Yeah, probably.” There are a couple of cars parked at the base and a few people walking up an amazing reddish dune.
We see signs pointing to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. We turn onto a sandy road. Another sign says it’s a 4km drive from here in to Sossusvlei.
The sand deepens and Peter goes into 4 low. “Whoa, this is some serious sand!”, “Keep the momentum up, homie”, “Trying. Shit’s deep!” And we’re now skating on sand, the weight of the back offering a slight fishtail waggle here and there. “Dude, this is seriously fun to drive!”
The dunes come closer into view and they are incredibly picturesque. “Looks like we’re the only ones here?”, “No way”, “Well there’s the parking lot for the dunes and there isn’t a vehicle in sight”, “Holy SHIT!”
We find a shady spot under a tree, grab some waters and head for the dunes. They’re spectacular. This one stands out, “Let’s climb that.”
“Well now I’m super happy that Grumpy Shit was telling everyone they can’t get out to the dunes tonight”, “Yeah right? Makes no sense that we’re the only ones here. Probably the most visited place in Namibia aside from Etosha”, “How badass to be out here by ourselves and have no one in the background of our pics”, “Doubt many people can say that”, “Even if the canyon is spectacular at sunset, doing this alone compared to that with 50 cars worth of people is toooootaly worth it.”
We start climbing the sand, look back and Peter is still gathering up his photo gear. “Peter, hurry up! We’re the only.ones.here!”
Trudging uphill through the sand is tough work
“Hey, check out our shadows. Let’s get a Beatles pic”, “Can’t spell ‘HELP’ with only three of us. Could wait for Peter”, “Well just do whatever”, “I think we spelled ‘SEX’?”, “Good enough.”
The only creature around are little dung beetles running up the dunes. “That must take forever.” Mark makes a funny dung beetle voice, “Hey! Hey, you guys got any dung? I’ve got a wife and family”, “Sorry bro, no dung”, “K. How about now?”, “Dude, my dung would kill you.”
Sossusvlei Dune Montage!
As we ascend the sand we can now see salt flats spread out below us. Sossusvlei actually translates to ‘dead-end marsh’ or ‘no return marsh’. There’s a chance these flats get flooded from the Tsauchab River nearby in the rainy season. There’s no outlet, hence, Sossusvlei. Some of the highest dunes in the world are here, getting up close to 400 meters.
If this basin was holding water I can’t imagine how incredible it would look to see the dunes reflected off of it.
Sossusvlei Montage II!!
Pact of the Goldfish!
“Alright hulks, suns getting real low”, “Fastest way is straight down”, “Just run full tilt down the dunes?”, “Fuck it, here goes!” and Jamie takes off as fast as his hobbit feet can carry him and it looks so super gay, I love it.
Mark’s up next
I careen down full tilt, rotating arms and jiggly backpack. Whoa, it’s steep. Can’t really stop once you get going. It’s way steeper than these pics make it look.
And here comes Peter (carrying expensive camera shit at max velocity)
I got a lot of sand in my shoe doing that
The wind whips the weeds around and draws crop circles in the sand
We catch our breath walking across the salt flats
Shit, that sun is gooooing down. We’re gonna be driving in the dark
Ok we gotta bust it back so we don’t get fined being in here after the gate is closed. Now we’ve got 45 minutes and it took 55 to get here so… speeding at dusk with all the Kudu, Oryx, Zebra, Ostrich and Springbok out there prancing about. Pretty sure we read this was a major African faux pas. But.. it always turns into a race.
Except now we have to cross that 4 clicks of deep sand back to the paved road first. Shitty McShit, this is gonna be close.
We haul ass across the sand and get back to the road. Speed limit is 60km/h. Ahh no, we’re gonna do 100+. Speeding along and, oh fuck, a kudu leaps out in front of us. Hearts in our collective chests. Thankfully it was further up ahead. The whole truck in unison, “No driving after dark!”, “They should have day time and night time speeds”, “Well, I think ‘no driving after dark’ covers the night time speeds.” Then we get to the shitty dirt roads and the speed limit says 100.
Paved – 60km/h, Dirt – 100km/h.. Ok
We make it back to the gate with 5 minutes to spare. Nailed it! Time to kick back with a drink, grab some dinner, and break open Belinda.