The world's tallest dunes

An oryx on the move

With a view like this . . . 

why bury your head in sand?


SOSSUSVLEI............The Namib Desert, 1200 miles long and 60 miles wide, is the oldest on the planet. But, on this trip, it was very green.  Namibia had had a great year for rain - thanks in part to the typhoons that hit Madagascar and Mozambique. 

A tour group was certainly my best option for getting to Sossusvlei.  There were hardly any other cars on the road the whole day.  On our six hour journey, on just one occasion, I saw three other vehicles together.  I was thankful we didn't have a breakdown.

We camped in Sesriem, an hour from the dunes.  The following morning we had to get up at 4:00 to get there by sunrise.  We got there none too soon.  It was a five kilometer trek from the parking lot.  However, we didn't take the flat road.  We went over the dunes.  Sossusvlei had the largest dunes in the world - over 300 meters.  But, fortunately for me, we didn't cross the highest ones.  What we did go over was grueling enough.

The sun cast great shadows on the wind whipped landscape.  It was amazing in the early morning coolness -- and then the sun came up, chasing away the mosquitos that later gave me malaria.

The guide warned us to bring plenty of water.  He said we'd lose more than we realized because we wouldn't sweat.  Well, that was a lie.  Sweat kept running in my eyes.  

When we finally reached Sossusvlei, there was a lake.  Heavy rains created it this year, and Namibia was thrilled with the surplus water.  I didn't have a surplus.  I had a 1 1/2 liter container and the water went too fast.  There wasn't much left for the return hike.  At high noon I had maybe a cup of hot water left.  I put a towel over my head and tried to keep myself from broiling.

There are some experiences that are so great to write about in letters.  Some experiences you can easily "rose color over" when they are completed.  "Oh, that wasn't so bad after all."  This was not one of them.  I could not ever remember being so hot and thirsty.  My tongue kept sticking to the roof of my mouth.  By the time I took a sip and put the water bottle away, I was thirsty again.  This was an experience I was thrilled to do once and only once.

Copyright 2000 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.