Saddened by our farewell to the desert, we drove through sand storms to Walvis Bay, the first place that looked like ‘civilization’ after a long time. It was also the first time we were able to see and smell the ocean since we left South Africa.
We ate a VISA-payed pizza -we couldn’t resist the temptation- and then kept driving towards Swakopmund, one of Africa’s most famous extreme sports capitals.
Since we had plenty of time to get there, we stopped on the way and drove off the road to see some dunes that were next to the ocean – a beautiful mix of landscapes. After enjoying the view for a while, we returned to the car and tried to get out of there, but the car laughed at us. We were stuck in sand, and I don’t even know how that happened. The more we tried to get out, the more stuck we were. But suddenly, before we had time to laugh at our misfortune, a messenger of God came to rescue us in his pick-up truck! We hadn’t even been stuck for 5 minutes when he came, a Capetownian middle-aged man who had seen us from the road and thought we could be in trouble. And yeah, we were. But not only that, besides he just happened to have a rope and pulled us out in a second. It looked like he was used to save stupid tourists from their sandy deaths. After thanking him we continued our journey to Swakopmund, where we stayed at a cool backpackers, thinking we had escaped from the dangers of the sand.
The next morning we decided to try sandboarding, which is exactly the same as snowboarding, but on sand. My friend was used to going snowboarding, but this world was completely new to me. We spent the morning going up and down the dunes, it was really fun! We couldn’t slide down many times, because to be able to do that you had to walk up the dune first, which wasn’t easy. But it was an interesting and enjoyable sport that I recommend you try if you have the chance.
After all that adrenaline rush from the morning, my friend convinced me to try quad biking in the afternoon. Big mistake.
First of all, don’t use an automatic quad if you’re driving up and down the dunes, it gets stuck all the time. In flat areas was fun, though.
Secondly, if you see it’s getting stuck all the time, don’t try to go up a steep dune – it will get stuck and fall backwards. And that’s what happened to me. I fell backwards with the quad, which got the best part because it fell on top of me – lucky quad. As for me, having a 200-kilo-monster on my back, eating sand, being unable to breath, and having gasoline dripping on my face was not a nice experience. Those seconds before my friend and the guide got to me were never-ending. But the worst part came afterwards, when we had to go back to the quad station and the guide asked me to drive the quad back there, because we were pretty far away. So in pain and terrified of having another accident, I had to drive that monster back to its cage for what it looked like hours but I think it was 20 minutes. Of course, when there were high dunes I just left the quad there and walk – with difficulty -, and let the guide do his job.
After that, I had to stay in bed with ice for a couple of days, which forced us to stay in Swakopmund a bit longer than we expected. Quad bikes: never again!
After our adventure with the tires, we left Aus and headed towards Sesriem to see Sesriem Canyon, this one smaller than Fish River Canyon.
On our way to Sesriem my friend let me take over the wheel, and I learnt to drive for the first time in my life! I know it sounds sad that I had never driven at my age, but in Spain you can’t learn to drive on your own; you have to take official lessons and they are really expensive.
And believe me, the long, quiet dirt roads of Namibia must be the best place to learn to drive. I enjoyed every second of it and understood why people like driving so much. Of course it has nothing to do with driving in a city (specially a crowded Spanish city); I wouldn’t enjoy that at all.
So slowly but firmly we got to Sesriem Canyon, camped, and decided to enter the canyon and explore what was down there. We stayed there until it was dark, entering every nook and cranny we could find, and enjoying another beautiful African sunset as we were getting lost down there without light.
That night we slept under the stars, with a friendly tree providing us with shelter.
The next morning we drove to Sossusvlei, which is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high dunes and located in the Namib Desert. This is the main attraction in Namibia, due to the vastness of the desert and the colors that the sand creates, especially at sunrise and sunset.
In Sossusvlei the dunes are identified by numbers, and our goal was to watch the sunrise from the top of ‘Dune 45’, the most famous of all, but soon we realized that the desert was not that deserted. Loads of people with their overland trucks had come to do the same, so we left looking for some deserted desert. There was desert enough for all of us.
Some lonely wild animals, a group of springbok running in front of you, a dune that looks close but it’s hours away, never-ending sand, fierce wind, crazy Egyptian-like bugs, the burning sun, and a extremely peaceful feeling in your heart. That’s how the Namib Desert can be described.
We wandered around the desert for hours, jumping and running down the dunes while admiring even the tiniest insect that we could find. Eventually we climbed the highest dune and had a sandy lunch there (after all, sand has minerals), and then we headed down to Deadvlei (literally ‘dead marsh’), which looks like a giant, white, dry lake. Seriously, that place was incredibly huge. There were some trees at the end of it and it looked like they were pretty close, but we walked for about an hour to get there, also experimenting the classic mirage that makes you think there’s water on the ground – and we were running low on water. But the place was magical, and the experience unforgettable.
Since the avid tourist trucks had finally disappeared, we were able to watch the sunset on top of ‘Dune 45’, although it wasn’t as incredible as the sunset in Fish River Canyon. But the sand turning purple everywhere was a show worth watching.
The following day we enjoyed our last moments in the desert before going back to ‘civilization’, and the dangers that were awaiting us there.
No other place has impressed me as much as Namibia did. This vast territory contains thousands of kilometers of emptiness and peace, sometimes with a small surprise when a group of springboks jump in front of the car, or maybe a giraffe that has lost her family, or an elephant if you’re “lucky” enough. In some places you can drive for an entire day without finding any other cars. And the colors… the most amazing colors I’ve ever seen: the orange fire of the desert; the bright purple, red and orange of the sunsets; and the beautiful white sky at night, full with the powerful light of the stars everywhere you look, without any kind of light pollution.
Some of the pictures of this astonishing country: