Pre-dawn, Dune 45
Woke up 4:15am, packed up our tents then hopped onto the truck, remaining in our sleeping bags for the 45min drive to the base of the famous Dune 45. An Acacia truck arrived when we did and a few crazy people battled to get to the top first. I was content just to plod up slowly, one foot in front of the other. My knees were giving me hell. Dad was the 5th person to reach the top which I was very impressed with - his knees must be in far better shape than mine! Apparently the dune is 300m high. The last part, unlike with the sand-boarding dunes, was the easiest so that was good. Everyone climbed up except Sue which is ironic seeing as how she'd been complaining with Shelley about how we should have been allowed to climb Dune 7, the tallest sand dune, instead. Frankly, if she couldn't make it up Spitzkoppe, there was no way she was making it up Dune 45, let alone Dune 7! At the top we sat for awhile in the semi-darkness taking it all in and then all of a sudden the sun began to appear over the top of some very distant sand dunes.
It was amazing how fast it rose! Within about 30sec the whole sun was visible. We took lots more dune photos then, as the reds came out a lot stronger. Then we headed down, which of course was lots, lots easier than going up! When we were neaing the final descent Shelley, Rosie and I took a great leap off the edge and bounded down the slope. Shelley even rolled some of the way! When we got back to the truck breakfast was waiting which was awesome as we all felt famished. We then drove 20km to Sossousvlei to go on a bush walk. Our guide was Yuri, a Japanese lady who had been leading tours for 11 years. She was very very knowledgeable and energetic (running along the dunes!) and her enthusiasm for the desert was infectious. First she showed us the nest of a trapdoor spider, then a thorny plant that some animals just eat the juicy tip of.
Then it was off to Dead Vlei. The water supply was cut off 1000 years ago by the encroaching dunes and due to the dryness of the air decomposition is ultra slow which means the trees are 500-600 years old! Seems crazy. To get there we had to walk/hike/crawl on all fours up a very steep sand dune - I really hope it was the last of the trip as my knees can't take much more! Dead Vlei was pretty spectacular though - the contrast between the black tree skeletons, the white dry lake bed, the orange-red sand and the bright blue sky. Yuri told us the white sand is oxidised by the black iron ore and exposure to oxygen to become red. She also showed us many beetles, ants and lizards. We took an easier route back to the truck then, under the shade of an old acacia tree, Yuri told us about the bushmen of the area.
In the late 1800s instead of hunting traditional game, they began to hunt cattle. Because of this, a bounty was placed on their heads and men used to receive money for each bushman taken into the police station. Their heads were displayed as trophies in peoples homes, and their skins, prized for their thickness, were sent to Europe. Womens' breasts were highly prized as making excellent tobacco pouches (!). And this was happening in the 1890s! After the walk ended we drove back to Sesriem
and had an early lunch before midday. Dad bought me a Magnum which was nice of him. After lunch we just drove and drove and drove to a camp outside Bethanie 270km away. It took us til 5:45pm to get there and we only stopped for bush toilets; no snack stops or anything.
I was dying from heat exhaustion. I was on cooking duty so after putting up the tent I started preparing dinner. I wasn't feeling very well - mostly due to mild heat stroke I think. Had an awesome shower after dinner preparation was done, and tried to remove as much sweat and sand as possible. Dinner was delicious - beef stew with pasta and veggies plus orange and mango for dessert. I lay down for awhile after that as I still wasn't feeling that great and then went and sat with Dad in the bar for awhile. Bed around 10:30pm, slept really well.