Deadvlei

Wake up early again. It’s a funny schedule. We pack the day with events and sight seeing, set up camp, and then drink for a few hours cuz there isn’t anything else to do. But then that still puts us to bed before midnight (sometimes) and we get up before the sunrise.

“Kinda chilly this morning”, Everyone has a hoodie or jacket on. Desert climate, hot during the day, cold at night.

While we’re getting Belinda broken down a massive shooting star crosses the dawning sky. Ok, off to Deadvlei.

We get in a mini line-up waiting for the gate to open. “Why does the gate only open an hour before sunrise? Then the speed limit is 60 to drive 64km and hike up a dune?”, “They don’t want people driving in the dark cuz of the animals”, “So there’s no way to actually be on the dunes for sunrise.” Got a case of the cranky pants this morning

My turn to drive again and I’m gunning it passed tour buses and group safari vehicles so we can get a head start on them up the dunes. This again reminds me how lucky we were to have Sossusvlei to ourselves yesterday, that’s nuts.

I get to the 4km of deep sand and just blast it. Not even putting it in 4 low, I’m just gonna let’r rip across it. This works remarkably well. You start to drift and correct before you hit a rock or fallen log. Keep the speed and momentum up and there isn’t enough time to sink. Jumping over tracks made from other vehicles and finding the right line like you’re skiing back country or something. Reminds me of drifting on the Steppe but my confidence in Belinda is far higher than the Admiral.

We park up in front of Big Daddy, the large sand dune beside Deadvlei. It’s near where we were yesterday. Get all of our shit together quickly and get out there. With the sun low in the sky we may get out in time to see it crest a dune yet.

We spot some people up on the dunes already. How’d they get out here so early? We try to outsmart them by skirting around Big Daddy across the salt flat at the base. We can see a small saddle in the dune passed where everyone is. If we get over there we’ll just make one super steep climb instead of the long gradual path that they’re all on. Hopefully we’ll come out right at Deadvlei.

We haul ass across the clay pan, pass everyone up on the dunes, and come around to the ‘saddle’. Straight up, let’s do it. We start climbing. Yeah, maybe too many drinks last night after all. Get some water. Up to the top and take a look down.. nope. That’s just a deep sand crater, not Deadvlei at all. Fuck.

Now our only option is to go up Big Daddy from the back side at a nasty incline. This is one of the tallest sand dunes in the entire world. Looks like we’ve only outsmarted ourselves on this one. “I’ll go scout it out”, “Whoa.. ambitious” and Mark trudges off up the steep dune. 

“Oh he’s going for it!” We watch lazily from our seat on the dune as he slowly makes his way. It looks terrible. “Oh shit, he looks knackered.” But Mark pushes on in slow steps and stops and frequent water breaks while we sit below getting pics of the sun coming over the dunes.

Eventually Mark gets to the top. He’s taking pics, maybe Deadvlei is below on that side after all. That dot near the top. That’s Mark

A few minutes more and he’s gone from sight. Well fuck, is he gonna have to climb back up this monster to get back? We give it a bit but there’s no sign of him. “I guess he’ll just meet us back at the truck?”, “Yeah who knows. No point waiting here though.”

The sun has come up and things are getting warm now. Seen all there is to see on this side so it’s either crank it up Big Daddy or return to Belinda across the salt flat. We choose the latter. 

We pass a couple of people going in the opposite direction, “Deadvlei over that way?”, “Nope. But there are two giraffes having sex in the crater of that dune”, “What, seriously?”, “No, no. Just kidding, there’s nothing over there. I think you have to climb Big Daddy for Deadvlei.”

With some more light on the scene now the barren landscape reveals itself in a quiet, stunning simplicity. We cross the cracked white clay and capture the hues of the dunes and the hardy plant life that somehow manages to survive out here.

Back at Belinda and Mark is nowhere to be seen. Guess we can make some coffee while we wait to see how his adventure unfolded.

If you don’t turn the spigot on the water tap off at just the right angle it will drip. Some cute desert birds have discovered this design flaw and are now hanging out at the back of the truck having a pool party. We put out a bowl for them and they’re just loving it

Coffee is almost ready and here comes Mark across the sand. He looks fairly peppy considering that trek he just made. About twenty yards from the truck he looks up and says, “So, Deadvlei is right there. Just around the right of Big Daddy”, “What the fuck? A sign would have been nice”, “Yeah, you don’t even have to climb the dune. Just go around the side. Minimal effort.” Peter is super pissed, “Seriously? I mean, a sign is all that’s needed. Some fucking markers.”

“Well how was it?” Mark pulls out his phone to show us pics. “It was hard to get a shot without anyone in them” but…

So cool. “Wanna just go over there?”, “Wellllll, that will still take 45 to an hour which could put us driving into Windhoek in the dark”, “Yeah. Fuck. Ok, let’s just get going then.”

We top up our coffees with that delicious mokador, leave a little water pool for the thirsty birds, and get things packed up again to hit the road. I cross the deep sand in record time now that I’m used to the ebb and flow of the truck on the mini dunes. It’s kind of like driving on ice. Super fun, drifting and correcting.

We get back to our shite site in Sesrium. The other sites have walls, braais and grills, garbage cans sorted for recycling and whatnot. We’ve got a patch of sand and spiky death trees. “We’re just lucky to even have a site”, “Yeah. This is true.”

Cook up some boerewors and an egg scramble. All the sauces. Sauce confluence. Delicious. Make more coffee and hit the road out of Sesrium en route to Windhoek.

Deadvlei and Sossusvlei check out. Outstanding scenery, can definitely understand why it’s a Namibian must see. Excited for the capital ahead, heard a lot of good things. Wonder what the night life in Windhoek is like. What is today? A Tuesday? Full vacation mode now, I don’t even know what day of the week it is.

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