Racing to the top of Dune 45.
Leaving Rhino Camp was very bittersweet, but we realize our time here was an amazing once in a lifetime experience. We can't recommend it enough.
Now onto another very long road trip headed south with an overnight pit stop in Swakopmund in route to Sossusvlei.
This is a good 2 days in the car, so settle in and make sure your reader is charged up and you have plenty of snacks and drinks. We became very good at pulling over on the side of the road and having a quick picnic in the middle of nowhere.
Also, get ready for driving through clouds of white dust as other cars pass you by. You might as well pull over for a few minutes and let the dust literally settle.
Literally, the only place to stop from Swakopmund or Walvis Bay to Sossusvlei will be the micro-town of Solitaire.
It's charming and very welcome sight to see after hours in a car and the only place to fuel up along the way. There is a gas station (all gas stations in Namibia are cash only, very important to know) a restaurant and a fantastic bakery where EVERYONE stops to get a piece of apple crumble.
It's also a great photo opportunity with some great rusted over classic cars.
The crown jewels of the Namib Desert are the gigantic rust and golden colored dunes in Sossusvlei. These dunes are some of the largest in the world and a photographers dream.
We chose to stay at Sossus Dune Lodge for one reason. It's the only lodge inside the Namib Naukluft Park.
So if your goal is to be on top of a dune at sunrise, this is the only lodge inside the park. Otherwise, you will be queued up at the parks entrance gate in a very long line of cars.
We had mixed emotions about this lodge. It's a government-owned lodge and has potential, but was ultimately a disappointment for us.
If you have the means, I would stay at Little Kuala, which has its own private entrance into the park
Our rooms here were nice and spacious, but the rest of the lodge is really lacking. You can spend your time relaxing at the pool when you're not exploring the dunes and that's about it.
If you have your own car, the easiest thing to do is drive yourself to any of the dunes and start climbing. You are allowed to climb any dune, but the most popular is Dune 45. It's easily accessible from a parking lot and you will literally be racing others if it's your goal to be the first to the top before sunrise. The morning we pulled into the lot, we were the first to park. Seconds later, a large van skidded up and had its door opening before it even came to a stop. It was like a clown car of tourists jumping out and sprinting up the knife edge of the dune. We just laughed at them as they fought for the front position.
Leave your shoes in the car and prepare for a surprisingly difficult early morning workout. It's much further to the top than you would expect and by the time you reach what you may consider to be the top, your lungs will be burning and your peaceful sunrise will be constantly interrupted with the sounds of coughing and people spitting.
Overall, it's quite a spectacular moment. You'll be saying, "I'm at the top of a dune in Namibia! I wonder what my friends are doing right now."
If I were ever to do this again, I would go to Dune 40 instead. It's a few minutes before Dune 45. There is a small sign marking the dune and all you have to do is park off the road, walk to the base and start trekking. When we were driving back, we noticed that there were maybe 4 people on this dune as compared to the hundred or so that were on Dune 45.
Our biggest splurge of the trip was an early morning hot air balloon ride with Namib Sky Balloon Safaris.
This is always a highlight when you get to soar over spectacular landscapes in a place you've never been to before.
Even better, is touching down in the middle of the desert with a herd of Oryx next to your balloon and then walking over to a formal table set up at the base of a dune for a champagne brunch.
Our final adventure of the trip was a private guided tour to Deadvlei.
Unless you have rented a 4x4 vehicle, you will not be able to make this trip on your own. There are 4x4 shuttles from the 2x2 parking lot, that are available to get you to Deadvlei and Big Mama Dune.
After a 20 minute trek, up and over changing sand and clay pans, you reach one of the most photographed spots in Namibia.
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I started this blog so that I could document and share my adventures in travel, photography, food and the things that inspired me. It's a work in progress as are most things in life.