Day 88 – Big Daddy.

Blog — By on December 18, 2012 9:55 pm

This morning, after a negotiated start time (the guides were keen on a dark wakeup call!), we headed off to Sossusvlei. Apart from Angelina”s baby this is probably the most famous thing in Namibia. It is the highest permanent sand dune in the world and is known as Big Daddy. 380 metres. The Saharan ones can be bigger but they are always on the march. It also, uniquely, has a white dried up pan at the base. With its dead trees it provides one of the world”s unique landscapes surrounded by massive red dunes. Our plan was to climb the steep face. It was not clear exactly whose plan this was. A little way up and there were certainly no claimants! It was not possible to walk or run up on two feet. You simply slid down in the running sand to where you were the pace before. The only technique that gave any positive purchase was to knife your two hands into the sand and scramble on 4 legs. We probably climbed 300 metres, enough to bury the Eiffel Tower. The distance was no more than 500 meters. But no it was not a 5 minute jaunt. George hit the summit as official winner in just under 30 minutes. I came in in 45 minutes. This is even slower than my last kilometer of the New York marathon! It literally is 3 steps forward and 2 and a half back. It is certainly the equivalent of a 10k. The Ratcliffes, the two guides, Nick and Tim made it. The others wisely capitulated on the face. The view from the summit is breathtaking with gigantic dunes in every direction. I once heard an astonomical statistic, that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on planet earth. Just one of these dunes would make an impressive universe!

The descent was fun. Giant strides down running sand. We collected the other bodies littered on the slope on the way down and then had a pleasant brunch under a shady tree. We have now climbed the highest mountain in Southern Africa together with the highest dune.
We need to find another term for our “rest” days.

The temperature today has hit 40 degrees, maybe more. You certainly cannot walk on the sand now. I returned to my chalet early afternoon to find a large bull oryx lying underneath it in the shade. They are the finest of the antelope. Pale grey, black and white with great shards for horns up to a metre in length. The national animal of Namibia. You would think little could survive here. What vegetation there is is parched straw colour. There is the odd tree along the dry river beds. And yet there is life. Oryx and springbok are plentiful along with the bizarre looking ostrich. And there is birdlife. We were joined at brunch by the sociable weaver (that”s its name not description!), the chestnut vented tit babbler ( a very pretty bird) and a few friendly sparrows. On the return we saw a large pale chanting goshawk waiting patiently on a dead tree. So it may seem a hostile univiting desert to us, but it is home for many creatures.

Felicity joined the team last night ex luggage. So today she was wearing a maids dress from the lodge. We insisted she made the tea.

To finish on another astronomical note, the sky at night here is breathtaking. The sky is simply flooded with stars down to the horizon. It is never visible at this level in Europe because of a combination of cloud, pollution and light pollution. Jupiter stood out brightly just to the left of Orion”s Belt. And a strange phenomenon. When you look at Jupiter you can see clearly the Seven Sisters clustered to the left. But when you look at the Seven Sisters they largely disappear. Look again at Jupiter and they reemerge. I kid you not. If you look directly at them they are difficult to see. Something related to our peripheral vision. Too techy for me. J

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