Namibia Part II: Mountains And Sand Dunes
The number one rule about driving in Namibia is Never Drive At Night. Obviously you can if you are staying in an urban area, and there are street lights. But if you are out in the woop woops, then when night falls, you avoid the roads. There is no lighting and animals like to lie on them and soak up the warmth, especially if they are sealed. And when even a medium sized antelope can make a mess of your car and the nearest garage may be 100s of kms away, it’s not a risk you want to take.
Unfortunately, we broke this rule our second night in Namibia. We simply miscalculated how long it was going to take to travel the 160 kms between Windhoek and our Lodge in the Naukluft Mountains. We were so taken with the quiet gravel road and our sightings of so many animals on the way, that we dilly dallied a little too enthusiastically and before we knew it, it was 5:30 pm and night was falling.
It was a race between my driving and the sun going down in the end, and the sun won. We kept on driving regardless; it’s winter in Namibia at the moment and although it’s warm enough during the day, the nights are cold! We did not fancy sleeping in the car.
Finally we made it. Corona Guest Farm is in the middle of no where, in a large plateau at the foot of one of the highest mountains in Namibia. We couldn’t see much when we arrived, but were welcomed in, shown our rooms and fed a very good Onyx steak ( The kids had pasta).
We admired the stars and I gazed longingly at The Southern Cross for a bit, then went to bed and slept very soundly. We were supposed to stay 2 nights at Corona, but our delayed flight put paid to that and we had to leave the following morning.
I woke early, got dressed and tiptoed out to see this view.
It was a lovely place, and we wished we had longer here but managed a short walk down to a nearby spring. There was no chance of us sneaking up on anything as we made so much noise on foot; at least our safaris will be by vehicle!
As we left the property we were watched by a herd of mountain zebra; the kids were delighted.
We were heading south to a guest house 47km north of Sesriem, and the sand dunes surrounding Sossusvlei. The gravel road had been newly graded and we had one eye on the clock as we’d been told we should drive down to Sesriem and purchase tickets for entry to the dunes the following day, so we made good time even though we stopped for the obligatory photo at the Tropic of Capricorn.
When we arrived at Weltevrede Guest farm, we were told that there was no need to purchase gate passes in advance as these days, they simply took your licence plate number and charged you on the way out. So we settled in to our basic, but clean, accommodation and the kids enjoyed running around in the sunshine rather than being cooped up in a car for another couple of hours.
We were up at 5:15am for an early start the next morning. The sun hit the dunes around 6am and we wanted to be there around that time. This plan was scuppered when the car in front of us blew a tyre and went off the road. We stopped to make sure no one was hurt, and made sure they knew how to change a tyre before we went on our way again.
We got to the gate just around 6, and headed along the 60km of tar sealed road with huge dunes on each side. In the morning sun, they make an impressive sight and we stopped at Dune 45 for the kids to have a go at climbing it.
We were also fascinated by the sightings of springboks and 0striches beside the road. Onyx are also common, we were told.
At the end of the road, we parked our car, used some rather interesting toilets, and took the shuttle Landy for the last 5kms before we started the walk to Dead Vlei.
Deadvlei is a clay plan with the skeletons of trees more than 900 years old. To get there you have to trek just over 1km into the desert but it’s not a hard walk and you don’t have to climb any large dunes. The kids had a ball climbing smaller dunes and jumping off them, following lizards around the sparse vegetation and digging holes in the dry, dry sand.
Luckily DS got over his sand phobia pretty quickly. It was a slow walk but we made it in the end.
Deadvlei is really quite a weird place; beautiful in an otherworldly stark way.
We ate a snack among the ancient trees, then walked back to catch the shuttle to Sossusvlei and Nera Vlei. Nera Vlei was holding some water for the first time in 5-7 years, so was a buzz with waterbirds and we saw our first flamingos!
Then it was back to the car, and along the tar road again. By now it was boiling, whereas it had been decidedly chilly when we entered the park earlier that morning and we went looking for Sesriem Canyon. By the time we worked out where it was, and how to get there, we had driven 12 km past it and the kids had had enough of sand, so we headed back to our guest house for a bit of R&R.
We’ll have to check it out next time, I guess…