It was an early start today. Wake up call at 5:30am, coffee at 5:50am and off to Sossusvlei Reserve and the dunes by 6am. We needed to be there as the gate opened (opens at sunrise) to get the best light on the dunes. Even though we did it five years ago it, it was again very special to see the sunrise and the red coloured dunes. You have to drive 60 kilometers to get to the end of the dunes through what they call ‘The corridor’. It is basically the corridor between the dunes and ends in the pan. There are 50 dunes and they are numbered from the first one on the right down to the pan and back up the left side again. The biggest (tallest) is meant to be number 7 but George (our &Beyond ranger) tells us that there is a lot of dispute around that because it depends on where you measure from. Number 45 is the one closer to the road and the one that the kids climbed last time. This time we went right through to the end of the road and into the river bed and down to the pan itself. At the end is the dune called Big Daddy. Michael, Stephen & Chloe made it up (that is Michael on the left side of the photo climbing up still), Helen went most of the way and I stayed at about 25% of the way (I am realistic – there was no way I was going to make it up as it was so cold I was struggling to breathe from just climbing that much).
We definitely arrived at a good time because as we were finishing, the people were pouring in including the Asians along with enough camera equipment for the whole of Japan. And they were trying to climb the dunes laden with all that equipment. Even more amusing was that a good number of them were wearing masks. What did they think they might get to breathe in? Fresh air? They were the stereotypical Asians – taking photos of everything including directly down at the sand (like they had never seen sand before), the grass (which was pretty dry and sparse) and also Chloe & me (like we were a unique species). They didn’t even do it surreptitiously! After the dune climbing and photography was finished, we went for breakfast in the pan. Our ranger (George) cooked bacon, egg and tomato on the skottle gas braai. It went down very well. We then headed back to the gate (60 km) and all managed to nod off for that but of the journey. A quick side trip down to the Sesriem Canyon (the water flows through there and down to the pan when it rains a lot in the escarpment). And then back to the lodge again. We eventually got back at 12pm.
This afternoon George took us to ride the ATV’s (or what we commonly call Quad Bikes). We thought we would not be able to do it because all their guide books say you have to be 16 and older to do it. But they said we only needed to sign a waiver for the other 2 and we could do it. So that duly signed we headed out. Unfortunately, only 4 were functioning so Michael had George sit behind him (give George some credit for choosing Michael to sit behind) and Chloe went behind Stephen. Helen had the automatic one. It was great fun and we were able to go up the dunes and ride in the dunes for quite a reasonable amount time. We rode for about 1.5 hours including seeing the sunset while on top of the dunes. Chloe also got to drive as she eventually went in front of Helen and she did very well too. Michael was in front and on the way back everyone was going much quicker than on the way out. We were going so fast we hit the bumps so hard you actually had to either stand up or at least get your bum off the seat.
We did manage to also add a few more birds to the list during the day and the list is now up to 118 and 8 lifers. Now waiting for dinner (in about 40 minutes). What you do at any &Beyond lodge is eat too much. Their food is generally very good and Sossusvlei Lodge is no exception. Last night we had pumpkin soup as a starter, choice of Lamb Tagine or Dorado for main and then Apple Pie for desert (though it was actually raisin pie … why .. oh why .. do people put raisins in APPLE pie). (Food details given especially for blog reader Josie.)
If I can make one recommendation to everyone who reads this is to try and get to Sossusvlei once in your life for this experience. And if you have enough money, then stay at the &Beyond lodge (that’s a picture from the lodge – those are bedrooms on the left). And if you have a lot of money, fly in (they have a landing strip) rather than having to drive in over the bumpy gravel roads. It really is a superb experience.
Until tomorrow …
C (because she handled a quad bike for the first time in her life), H (because she also handled a quad bike for the first time and only went off the track once), P, M (because I still vaguely re-collect some reversing he did) and S.