Friday, March 8, 2019

Embracing the desert of Namibia

We leave Windhoek, Namibia and fly south toward Sosessuvlei to see the red sand dunes.  The landscape is desolate; metal roofs on scattered buildings glisten like diamonds in the sun. Cars below are few and far between as a dirt road snakes its way along the narrow paved two-lane road.
View out the window of our small transport plane.
The topography takes on a reddish tint, a hint of what is to come. After nearly an hour in the air, the terrain becomes more rugged and mountainous, although it is still dry and dreary. Then there is the desert—waves of unspoiled champagne-colored sand covering the ground and drifting over even the mountains below.

I marvel at jaw-dropping views of this spectacular landscape. Eventually I notice the long, gravel landing strip which fades into the vast emptiness as the plane's wheels touch down.
Getting to various camps requires transport via small plane.
The Namib Desert is a land of magnificent dunes to the west and rugged, mountains of the Namib escarpment to the north and east, with grassy plains filing the space between.

There is a simple beauty in the starkness of the desert.
We land and head in a safari vehicle for the private 90,000 acre Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Massive gold-orange dunes, shaped by wind into this unbelievably beautiful starkness, rise a thousand feet from the floor of the world’s oldest desert.
Stairs leading to our rooftop "hideaway."
We find our accommodations among 11 stylish thatched villas or kulalas (meaning “to sleep” in local Oshiwambo language). There is a large outdoor deck, indoor and outdoor showers, a private plunge pool and a rooftop “skybed” for romantic stargazing (We try this out later!)

We scan the landscape from our rooftop perch.
In the afternoon we set out to explore the Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Everything living here has adapted to the harsh, dry climate. Challenges include finding water, conserving energy (many are nocturnal), and finding food (hunt early morning or late evening). Trees have tiny leaves because of water scarcity or thorns as protection from grazing animals.
Spring bok can go a year without
water--desert adaptation.
On our first safari of this journey we see antelopes, Oryx, and spring bock (which can survive 365 days without water). Rocks are everywhere on the ground, leftover from wave action on a prehistoric ocean bed. Basalt and limestone are now prevalent in the dry river beds.

An ostrich egg left to nature.
Our guide points out “fairy circles” and explains that the origin of these rock formations on the ground is not really known. We find an ostrich egg that had been laid in the open on bushman’s grass. Most likely it will never hatch.
Our dining experiences were superb.
After driving for awhile, we stop for snacks and wine before heading back to camp and a sumptuous dinner.
Even better, we are treated to native singing, dancing, clapping, and foot tapping by the energetic staff. Their happy voices lift us all, till we forget what a long day it has been—and the early morning wake-up call we will have in order to see sunrise on the magnificent sand dunes of Sossusvlei.
Staff was very friendly, helpful, and accommodating--a real asset for remote camps.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



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