Brrraapp brrapp brrapp… The alarm went off at 4:30am. Today was a morning I had been waiting for since the day I chose which tour I would go on. It was the morning we were going to climb Dune 45 before sunrise. At 170m high, it was going to be a race to the top to be able to watch the sun peek over the mountains in the distance and light up the morning’s sky.
After waking up, we simply got dressed and made sure we were on the Nomad Adventure Tours overland truck ready to go before 5am since the gate to the national park housing the massive rust colored sand dunes isn’t opened until 5:15am. Sandile made the 2minute drive to the gate and we found ourselves second in line waiting for the gate to open.
Within a few minutes we were racing the sun and the convoy of other overland trucks and 4x4s trying to make it to Dune 45 for sunrise. After about a half hour drive Harrison was stopped at the base of the massive copper sand dune and sixteen of us were beginning our ascent to the top ridge.
After nearly 20minutes of huffing and puffing and hacking up my poor asthmatic lungs, I had reached the top and took a seat next to my Nomad Adventure Tours family members and took in the peace, silence and beauty of the sprawling dunes that went on for as far as the eye could see. With cameras in place, we awaited the moment we had come there for – to watch the sun slowly rise up above the horizon and brighten up the day. The copper colored sand took on a whole new magical glow in the light of the sunrise. It was breathtaking and in that moment, sitting atop the massive red sand dune, I truly felt at peace.
We made our descent down the dune and once we made it over to the truck we learned that while we were getting our cardio workout for the morning, Shingie and Sandile were preparing a scrumptious bacon and egg breakfast for us. Yes, you read it right! Bacon and eggs, damn it! I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. (For those who don’t know, I have a deep-rooted love of bacon – the streaky kind, or rather strip bacon for you North Americans in the house). After scarfing down my delicious morning meal, I wandered off to take some more pictures of the dune while the others ate and relaxed their weary legs.
Our second stop of the morning was to check out Deadvlei and Sossusvlei – an area that is very well photographed. Since the only way to get to Deadvlei and Sossusvlei is by 4X4 safari vehicles that are operated by the Namibian Parks Authority, it was a small additional fee of R50 per person. Since I was still sitting up in ‘business class’ (closest to the front) Shingie leaned through the opening and asked if I could collect the money from everyone interested in doing this particular optional activity. And collect money I did. To brighten the spirits of this still-shy and quiet group, I made it appear as if I was going to do a naughty striptease… then continued to make every single person put their R50 in the waistband of my pants. This definitely brought smiles and laughter to nearly everyone aboard and of course too many almost-incriminating photographs were taken.
Once Harrison made a complete stop, we jumped off, I handed over our money to the men from the Namibian Parks Authority. We clambered into the two 4×4 safari vehicles that were waiting for us and they took off through the deep sand. Once we had reached our first destination – Deadvlei – we made arrangements with our driver to pick us up in 45min to take us over to Sossusvlei. Once we’d agreed on a time, it was off into the copper-toned sand dunes in search of the famous white clay pan just beside one of Africa’s largest sand dunes, the aptly named, Big Daddy.
Sue ran off ahead of the group, in attempts to burn off whatever calories she had packed on during that morning’s delicious breakfast. In her words, “I can’t go back to Canada fatter… not after being in AFRICA! They’ll all laugh at me!” I found myself trekking through the sand with Anja, Jasmijn, Shaun and Ken, while some others were either taking their sweet time or had walked on ahead of us. Shaun and I stopped to write stuff in the sand, including our awesome attempt at the Nomad Adventure Tours logo – which of course we just HAD to take pictures of. When we caught up with the rest, a short 5minute walk later, they were attempting to do what I can only describe as “Mellyboo jumps” (jumping as high in the air attempting a cool little pose). Of course we joined in. Then it was off to the clay pan to take some pictures of the scenic white clay flat and 900 year old tree skeletons with giant red sand dunes in the background.
Once we finished up at Deadvlei, it was over to Sossusvlei – what most of us called the ‘wet version of Deadvlei.’ Visually it wasn’t as appealing to us – to be honest, by this point most of us were getting tired. It was nearing 10am and we had already done so much with our day. Not to mention the temperature was heating up quickly. Not to sound unappreciative, but I know I was beginning to get restless and was more than relieved when the 4X4 appeared to bring us back to Harrison and eventually back to camp.
Back at camp, we were given a couple hours of free time before we were required to get back on the road for our next destination. In this time many people utilized the showers or simply hung out around the campsite. Myself, Sue, Raymond, and Ken all took advantage of the campground’s delightfully refreshing swimming pool. With the African sun starting to beat down on us, nothing seemed more perfect than taking a dip and splashing around in the cool waters.
Typical Nomad lunch consisting of sandwiches and salad was served around 12:30pm and by roughly 2:00 we were back on the road. A short stone’s throw away was the miniscule town of Solitaire – consisting of what looked like simply a cafe, a petrol station and a bakery. Both Shingie and Sandile raved about the apple pie from Moose McGregor’s Desert Bakery – so of course nearly all eighteen of us marched right in there and indulged in some afternoon apple pie. And FYI – Shingie and Sandile weren’t kidding – the pie was scrumptious. Once everyone took their last chance to use a proper working toilet, it was back on the road.
A mere 45min to 1hr later we were at the desert camp – our destination and homestead for then evening. Mere minutes after pulling into our designated campsite on the property, tents started popping up! Our own little tent city was up for yet another evening. We were getting pretty quick at it too! Dilly-dallying around the campsite wasn’t an option though as we were loaded up on a massive 4×4 truck and a local guide was telling us everything from traditional survival skills to history to folklore! He was such an amazing guide and storyteller, so captivating… words cannot even explain how great he was at his job; all fifteen of us Nomad travelers were wholly engaged the entire time. By the time we returned to our tent city it was nearly dark and our bellies were starting to rumble.
Shingie had made yet another spectacular meal of fish and roast potatoes and salad which was enjoyed in the very narrow kitchen of our campsite. We all sat shoulder-to-shoulder, laughing and chatting and enjoying our meals when all of a sudden I noticed a rather large locust jumping around behind those sitting across the table from me. Keeping my eye on the big bug, I watched in horror as it flew across the table and onto Sue’s shoulder. Being the good friend that I am, relieved that she didn’t notice it land on her, I casually tried to shoo it off. Only this made her react and the locust jumped/flew deep into her hair!
Well that was it. If you blinked you would’ve missed it – but in a matter of 5 seconds Sue was up, screaming and ripping off her sweater – only the t-shirt she had on underneath came with it.
And there Sue stood.
In the middle of the kitchen.
In her bra.
With 17 pairs of eyes gawking at her.
Within seconds following the awkward silence, laughter erupted. I rushed up to my friend and threw my sarong/scarf around her as she redressed, mortified that she had just stripped in front of everyone. If we needed an icebreaker at all… that one sealed the deal. After dinner was finished and the dishes were cleaned a good number of our group headed down to the bar – the boys having some Windhoek Lager, the girls enjoying some Amarula on ice.
Sipping away at my Amarula, I wandered out to the patio area by myself and simply tilted my head back and watched the sky with an infinite number of stars. I even saw a good number of shooting stars in the massive sky. The five-year-old in me insists on always making a wish on a shooting star – and sure enough, many wishes were made. It was about this time that I heard a rustling in the bushes a mere 10 meters away. Looking over to where the noise had come from, I let my eyes readjust and just as I started to make out what looked like a mountain zebra the door to the bar opened and a few of my fellow Nomad Adventure Tours friends walked out chatting with one another. I looked back to where I had seen the zebra, only to hear the sound of it trotting off in the opposite direction.
With another incredibly close animal encounter in just two days, I took that a sign to call it a night. With my headlamp firmly planted on my forehead I made my way up to our tent city and crawled into my tent, leaving the rest of the Nomad Adventure Tours gang down at the bar to enjoy the rest of their evening.
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours did provide me with a discounted tour, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**