Dune 45 was one of the main reasons for my Namibian trip – they say you don’t choose Namibia, Namibia chooses you. And the dunes were calling my name!
The dunes of Namibia are dramatic and overwhelming! From photographers to adventuress, nature lovers to the solo traveller, the dunes of Namibia was calling each and everyone’s name to come. Come and be enthralled, come and climb, come and challenge yourself, experience the beauty and feel the stillness of the desert and the expanse of Namibia.
I had always thought of doing a MSS cruise to Namibia only to climb Dune 7, known as the highest. It never occurred to me that sands shift and winds play a huge roll in the sand dunes. Dune 7 is no longer the highest dune, neither is Dune 45 as Great Daddy still takes the trophy. But Dune 45 was high enough at 85 metres!!
It was an early morning departure as we left with breakfast packs to the notorious Soussovlei http://www.sossusvlei.org/attractions/dune-45/to greet Dune 45! We had to start climbing the dune before the sun got too hot. Sunrise is the best time to start, and the only time!! If you start any later you will be met by the fierce Namibian sun that will bake and punish you for leaving your climb so late and not respecting that the dunes need an afternoon rest, with no climbers rambling up. The dunes prefer to be left alone in silence and peace as the desert critters return. The afternoon sun can be crippling and the desert Namib sand gets extremely hot!
As we drove on the gravel roads towards the dunes, we were hemmed in on both sides with steep red ochre desert dunes. The morning sun greeted the sleepy dunes. With one half of the dunes still in the stark shadow of the night and the other half a brick red colour, forever changing as the shadows shifted with the movement of the morning sun. Those dunes were formed after many years of the wind carrying sand from the Atlantic Ocean, this process made the sand soft, fine as icing sugar. The sands gently slide down the sides with the moving of the winds. This soft fine sand is over 5 million years old and still shifting, falling and being wind swept from one dune to the other. A sea of graceful curves reflecting ocean waves where hence the sand originated from, a marvellous gift Nambia has received.
I had decided to climb the dune barefoot, for some it might have seemed crazy as scorpions and snakes make their home on the dunes. We did see a lizard’s track that had scurried away. Even in this barren land of dunes is life. But I was not afraid of those, plus with tourists climbing the dunes they would be chased away I was sure. By the time we got there, there was already a path on the ridge of the dune. It was easier for me to go barefoot than to do it in sneakers, this way no sand would creep into my shoes thus making it heavier and harder to climb.
I had only a small backpack, enough water, camera and sunblock. Aerial and I were ready to face my challenge. The morning sun had just peeked out to say hello, still cleaning the sandmen from her eyes. Plus not too many people were at the dunes. Dune 45 from the bottom didn’t look that high or difficult, but as I started my walk up I realised it was a steep hike in the soft sand. We started our slow ascend with one step up and 3 steps down, this pattern continuing till we reached the top, due to the soft dry sand beneath our feet. It felt like we were doing the time warp, and I was hoping it was not going to be much longer, I’ve got to keep control. As the sun was rising, so we were climbing to the top.
We stopped every now and then on the dune just to absorb everything. In this large area of the Namib you are greeted with silence, no wildlife attics or singing birds to distract you. It is just you and your dune, your challenge is with your mind, stilled only with the focus on Dune 45. The higher we climbed the smaller the cars became.
What I didn’t realize and was quite scary for me, was the height. I am not afraid of heights as such, but climbing up the dune and trying to stay on only one small narrow path was scary. On each side of that tiny sand path are steep drops. I had to balance myself and keep my eyes on the path, without trying to look anywhere else as it was like walking on a tight rope. I felt dizzy from the height and was afraid of falling down the dunes; it was a steep drop to the bottom. When it got too much I sat on the dune to breathe and take some photos, keeping in mind the sun was rising and soon the sand would be too hot to walk on. It was a mind game and I needed to be in the game with the right mind-set. Midway I thought of coming back down again as the tiny spine of the dune path seemed to be getting thinner and thinner as we got higher and higher. Suddenly I could not hear the dunes calling my name anymore. I decided to take a rest and continue again, to preserve as I never went all the way to Namibia to not finish. For some this was not their battle, and they walked up in confidence. For others this was only a photo shoot, with no interest in getting to the top. For me the challenge was to get to the top, one step at a time, slowly, slowly.
I never looked ahead of me to see how far I still had to go. I just focused and walked one step at a time, one step sinking forward and 3 steps sliding back when finally I was at the plateau and had reached the top. The views from the top were breath-taking and dramatic, perservere and you will be richly rewarded! The flaming colours contrast to the palette of the sky made this the perfect setting for a Van Gogh painting!
Silence greeted me with not even a slight breath of wind to distract my thoughts but only salty fluids trickled down the sides of my cheeks as a gentle reminder that the hike up Dune 45 was not a walk in the park. The sun started to get hot and time was of essence. I took my last photos at the top and with a sigh of relief, slid down the side of the dune to the bottom making this the best part of Dune 45.
It took me longer to do than normal, but I had done it! I had conquered Dune 45! I was ready to celebrate! This had been an epic experience! The Methode Cap Classique was chilled and waiting.
Things to remember:
You need to be in good health, don’t be fooled.
You need to be able to walk and have no injuries from hips to feet.
It is about 7 storeys high and it’s a good workout.
Take enough water and sunblock, the heat is real.
There is only one long drop toilet, if you really must go take toilet paper.
If you only going to get there after 11am don’t go – it will be tough in the sun!
I recommend doing this with a Tour company – lots of cars got stuck in the sand and after the dunes you want to just sit back and relax. I went with Cardboard box travel shop and they were excellent. http://www.namibian.org/travel/contact.htm,