Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Like the Sands of the Hourglass – Erich

When you think of a desert, do you think of huge dunes of sand in the hot sun with the wind blowing the small waves of sand into new patterns? Of course, many deserts don't look like that. But when we visited Sossussvlei and the dunes there, that is exactly what we saw.

The “thing to do” at Sossussvlei is to camp in the park and then wake up before dawn. Then you pack up and head out to Dune 45. It's tall, it's easily accessed from the road, and it's climbable. Mind you, it is not an easy climb. Not because it gets super steep, though it does have some relatively steep parts. But it is difficult because it is sand. Each step is in sand which moves under your feet. Your feet sink and slide back slightly down the hill. So for every step you take, you only make about half the distance you expect to make.

Why do you do this as the sun is rising? Because you are supposed to get the best pictures that way. Did we do the “thing to do”? Yes. Did we get the best pictures? No, but it wasn't because of the failure of the sun or Dune 45. It is just that we are not the greatest photographers in the world. But we tried.

View from Dune 45

We found Dune 45 okay. Walking back down, the kids decided they were Dune Monkeys. They would run ahead of Alrica and me, then dive into the dune and slide down a bit. They would wait there (sometimes making sand angels) and let Alrica and me pass. Then they began it again.

Dune Monkeys

What we enjoyed more than Dune 45 was “free exploration”. We drove to the far end of the park, as far as the road will take you. Here you can head out to various vleis or pans. These are areas that become lakes when the water flows. But all around them are dunes. We went out into the dunes toward Hidden Vlei. We never made it as far as the vlei because we were having too much fun playing on the dunes.

We would climb up various dunes and then run down them. Carver and Syarra discovered they could roll down them like you might roll down a hill. I never had the desire to spin quite that much, but they loved it. Climbing the dunes in the hot sun was like every great desert movie, well, except without camels.

Playing at the Dunes

We discovered that if you put one barefoot on the sunny side of the dune and the other on the shady side, there was a large difference in the temperature on your feet. Not subtle, probably upwards of ten degrees Celsius (around 18 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Also at the Sossussvlei National Park was Sesriem Canyon. This was one of my personal favorites. It is a deep canyon with caves and crevices all over its walls. You can climb down into the canyon. You can climb up the walls into various caves. There are no guide rails, no warning signs, no “staff only beyond this point” signs. You have to find where to put your feet if you are climbing, where to put your hands, where to go next.

For me, it was like being a Dungeons and Dragons character, wandering though a deep mountainous cavern in search of the entrance to the nefarious sorcerer's lair. My pictures don't do it justice. But I try.

Exploring Sesriem Canyon

Sesriem Canyon

Which would you prefer, the Lawrence of Arabia like setting or something more out of the Mines of Moria? Either way, you could experience both at Sossussvlei.

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