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mistybleu Sesriem - A travel report by Amanda
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Sesriem,  Namibia - flag Namibia -  (( Swakopmund ))
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mistybleu's travel reports

The Red Sand of Sossusvlei

  16 votes
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At the edge of the Namib Desert, far away from people and built up areas is the Namib-Naukluft Park; unspoilt just miles and miles of wide open spaces. The park is split into four areas - Naukluft, Namib, Sandwich Harbour and Sesriem/Sossusvlei.

Dune 17
Dune 17
The country is beautiful, full of desert character, even though there is still a strong German feel in terms of building and names of places etc; the locals have a more primal existence. Until the early 90s Namibia was known as South West Africa and it was ruled by South Africa since the war.

Most of the population of Namibia live is in the north and it has four main cities: Windhoek - the capital, Walvis Bay - a port, Luderitz – the first settlement and then holiday town of Swakopmund; all of which are holding back the desert sands.

It is said the Namib Desert is over 80 million years old and only receives 20mm of rainfall a year and is less than 30 times smaller than the Sahara. The desert is long and stretches from South Africa to Angola, and is about 150km at its widest.

Only about 16% of Namibia is a true desert whereby it has less than 100 mm a year of rain and this rainfall can vary; it may not rain for years and then receive an unexpected cloudburst which often causes flooding.

The typical oasis of deserts is replaced by three rivers Kuiseb, Swakop and Ugab and these only flows into the sea after sufficient rainfall. The other rivers are blocked by moving sand dunes.

The cycle that creates the sand dunes is the sediments are washed down the Gariep River to the sea, there they are moved northwards by the coastal tides whereby the sediments are then blown ashore in waves, at which points the winds picks the sediments up and blow them inland creating the dunes. Sand is made up of silica and the red colour is achieved when iron oxide levels increase.

Part of the Namib-Naukluft Park, is Sesriem, 55 km due west from the coast, whilst short in actual distance however it is harsh – as in order to reach the cost one would have to cross sand dunes under the unforgiving sun.

Favourite spots:
Francis our guide
Francis our guide
My desire to visit Namibia surrounded experiencing a sand desert and seeing the huge 300 feet fall sand dunes.

I was in my element in Sossusvlei and taking part in a desert walk was exhilarating, understanding the amount of animals and insect that exists in the desert, like oryx, zebra, ostrich, wedge-snouted lizard and side winding adder etc.

We walked, up and over many sand dunes into the Death Vlei where our guide Francis, explained that a Death Vlei exists where the river course no longer penetrates the sand dune, the lake dries out and only the clay and lime remains.

Sossusvlei (sossus mean gathering place of water and vlei - hollow flooded in heavy rain), therefore the river still flows through, but this will eventually become a death vlei as the sand continue moving.

Hidden Vlei still has a lake, owing to the heavy rainfall that had flamingos. This area is best explored in a 4x4; however off-roading is no longer permitted, as it permanently damages the landscape.

What's really great:
Sunrise from Dune 45
Sunrise from Dune 45
Doing the tourist thing is fun if not tiring. We rose very early and left the camp by 6.15am; at the gates we waited for the guard to open them and then sped down the road - 45 kilometres until we reached Sand Dune 45. All the men proceeded to start running up the dune to be at the top before sunrise. However it is very deceiving and the climb on sand is very hard, forcing them to slow down.

But once up there the views are marvellous as you watch the sun appear beyond the dunes and mountains. The views stretches over to Sossupoort lookout where the scares of not only the Tsauch river bed ‘linear oasis’ but also the vehicle tracks left behind before the main tarred road was built can be clearly seen..

Contrary to belief, that its name comes from the fact that it is 45 km from main camp, each dune is assign a number and this is just number 45 on the map.

Dune 45 is possibly the most photographed dune and has become a travel icon for Namibia.

Sesriem Canyon
Sesriem Canyon
Sesriem Canyon that is located 4 km from the main camp; it was formed by the Tsauchab River with its source coming from the Mountains of Zaris and Naukluft. It flows through the canyon and continues on to Sossusvlei.

We walked along the dry river bed and kicked up the sand. It's hard to believe that during heavy rainfall this canyon can be full of rising water. The canyon is narrow and has a depth of 25 to 30 m and stretches for 250m. The walls are formed from conglomerate river gravel cemented together by lime.

Historical the canyon got its name from the pioneers. They would rest and water their animals here; to get water from the canyon they would lower a bucket that was tied together with six (ses) thongs (reim). The other local story says that a hunter killed 6 gemsboks and tanned their skins under the acacia tree to make a thong. Either way the canyon is beautiful and worth a visit!

The Camp site
The Camp site
The Sesriem camping ground has 28 actual campsites, each set around a camel thorn tree. Each of them also has water, dustbins and a ‘braai’ the local name for a barbeque. There is a petrol station please a convenience store, where you can get souvenirs as well as general food stuff.

The camping ground was originally a farm, but became a midway point to entering Sossusvlei as no camping etc is permitted in that section of the park.

There is a swimming pool as well as a bar but it tends to close early. But there are farms and guesthouse located close by, at least one in waking distance where you can enjoy a more civilized existence.

Ontop Dune 45
Ontop Dune 45
Swakopmund offers a great rest bite from the desert. There are so many things to keep one occupied.

In the mall there is a cinema with a few restaurants, then dotted around this very small town there are some good bars especially attached to the hotels.

In the off peak season on the promenade was quite dead, however further inland more bars can be found. The Dunes Backpackers Lodge- was quite a busy bar, with fairly inexpensive beer; for a non beer drinker the Windhoek was quite nice. They had a swimming pool in the middle of the room that after a few drink a bit of Dutch courage showed through as a few people jumped in. We later found out they were from film crew working on a Wesley Snipes movie.

Taking about Wesley Snipes (star of Blade) he ended up drinking with some of my fellow travellers back at the hotel – ‘from Cape Town to Cairo.

The majestic Orynx - mmmh dinner
The majestic Orynx - mmmh dinner
More often than not we stayed in a tent and it was surprisingly quite comfortable; each campsite had brilliant facilities. It was an interesting experience – I don’t think I will repeat, but I hold dear in my heart.

For me the additional things I found useful:

1. Headlight - invaluable, also a wind up torch.
2. Air mattress - even though we were provided foam mattresses, the air ones added more comfort.
3. 2 micro towels - quick drying.
4. Fleece blanket - great for early morning game drives or really cold nights.
5. A rucksack day pack, it’s always good to have your hands free.
6. Waterproof camera case - both for moisture and sand.
7. Solar powered charger.
8. Washing line.
9. Picture (electronic) storage devices.
10. Black mosquito net for sleep under the stars.
11. A pair of speaker for MP3 player – provides wonderful hours of entertainment.
12. Off course a pack of playing cards.

Italian or German?
Italian or German?
We headed to Swakopmund, the adrenaling capital.

During spring the weather can be quite changeable as the area suffers from coastal fog. Usually the morning can be quite cold and foggy but by the afternoon the sun usually burns it off. There also many banks and Bureau de Change, the latter tends to offer better rates when exchanging small amounts (N$1 = £0.07/$0.14/E0.10).

There are also many bars and restaurants, and each of them has car park patrol man who monitors all vehicles (for a small fee). Apparently this has reduced crime considerable.

If on a budget there are two good supermarkets that offer cooked food: Pick n Pay and the WB. I also found a local take away place next to the KFC.

Some popular places are:

Napolitana – a pizzeria, but also serves great Oryx or ostrich steaks.
Swakopmund Brauhaus– located in the mall it serves good German food and beer.
Solitaire General Store - for the best apple pie on the road just outside the park.

Other recommendations:
Night viewing at the watering hole
Night viewing at the watering hole
Mentioning Namibia and not mentioning Etosha National Park is pointless.

When the park was first mapped out it covered over 100 sq km. Now at around 23sq km, it is still a massive park and a wealth of animals can be found there. When people do a safari they expected to see the big five (buffalo, rhino, elephant, lion and leopard) and Etosha doesn't disappoint.

One of the park's greatest selling points is the watering holes that surround the camps (there are three main camps – Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni Gate). It's like being in a theatre and you sit in the dress circle as the animals enter stage right, perform their lines, drink and then exit the stage as the audience applauds and this happens night and day.

We spent a cosy late night, huddled together, sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows as the animals performed their evening performance - a lion, hyena, giraffes, elephants, one after the other. It was pure bliss.

Published on Tuesday December 26th, 2006

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Mon, Jan 01 2007 - 11:10 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Amanda, you are a machine to make wonderful reports!

Fri, Dec 29 2006 - 07:23 AM rating by marianne

beautifully written. I especially liked the photo of the guide eating a lizard. This is exactly the way we eat herring.

Thu, Dec 28 2006 - 07:15 PM rating by eirekay

Amanda, I am jealous - this is exactly the kind of trip I like best! Terrific list - all the stuff you forget at the last minute! Great Report!

Thu, Dec 28 2006 - 12:16 PM rating by frenchfrog

Fantastic report Amanda, many thanks!

Wed, Dec 27 2006 - 06:04 AM rating by hieronyma

Thank you for this report and the photos. It makes wishes.

Tue, Dec 26 2006 - 09:12 PM rating by horourke

I find the detail great for the purpose of virtual travel. I could feel the sand slipping down beneath my feet!

Tue, Dec 26 2006 - 02:16 PM rating by davidx

Another top report. Fine photos.

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