Merry Christmas

It was Christmas morning and we had to leave at 5:00 am. What a horrid time to have to be up and moving about. We drove to the Namib-Haukluft National Park to Dune 45. The Namib dune fields stretch from the Gariep (Orange) River to the Kuiseb River known as Dune Sea. Dunes are composed of quartz sand with hues from cream to orange to red to violet. Unlike the Kalahari dunes, these are dynamic, shifted by the winds into distinctive shapes. Dune 45 is the most accessible of the red dunes rising to 150 meters. The whole sand sea is 300 kilometers long and 150 kilometers wide. Bruce warned us to remove our shoes before climbing to keep sand from filling them and dragging us down. However, we were warned to keep our socks on as the sand can get so hot, it will burn your feet. We were told to climb up the ridge to the top if we chose to. Walking in sand is difficult at best, but at a 90 degree angle, it is arduous to say the least.Notwithstanding, Ron worked his way to the top. This was my intention too, but multiple factors kept me at half mast. My leg was still bothering me and getting progressively worse day by day, smoker’s lungs are not conditioned for heavy exertion, but what really dissolved my determination to succeed was my fear of heights. As you climb the ridge, it is like walking a tightrope with nothing but space and air between you and way down. My vertigo was the killer of ambitions and I had to let go ¾ of the way up to the top and return to the truck. There were others who only made it as far as I, so we commiserated.It may seem unusual to think of sand as incredibly beautiful, but these dunes had such grace and purity that they deserved all of the attention they received. The pristine nature was and sleek lines were breathtakingly attractive.
We broke our fast at the truck, a boxed up style supplied by the accommodation we had left. It felt like late afternoon, but it was barely half past morning. We drove for a long time, time becoming blurred with so much of it on the truck.
We met our local guide Boseman, a white Namibian, who for 120 Rand each did a desert walk with us. This was an optional adventure, but all joined in. Boseman, not all that tall, walks as fast as a cheetah runs and it was difficult keeping up with him. Boseman was an academic professional who studied the desert life as a hobby, later turning it into a full time profession. His knowledge was extensive. He explained how the dunes formed and how you could tell the seasons and directions from the shifts in the dune. The dunes either shift to one side or the other depending on whether the winds are coming from the mountains or the ocean. He showed us scorpion tracks, mice, and beetle larvae as well as beetles themselves. He explained how the animals live under the sand only coming out at night when it is cooler. He showed us how to catch a lizard by scooping it out of the sand and plants that can die completely, but retain their seeds for the first rain. They then burst open and release their seeds to the ground. Within three days, new plants are growing. Africans used to believe that the sky rained seeds. He explained the life of the Bushman who were continuously nomadic. They left the elderly and even children behind who could not keep up in order to keep the community alive. Bushmen used poisonous darts with a ten meter range. They killed many whites from fear. It was legal to hunt and kill Bushmen until 1919 and then until 1929 with a hunting license. There are no longer any Bushmen due to this heinous act. Boseman explained that one should never climb a dune on the ridge. Where was he earlier when we needed this information on Dune 45? He said if you watch an animal, they never climb the ridge, but zigzag along the side. After having us climb yet another dune, he took us to the edge. Again, being so far up, made me dizzy. Boseman explained how soft the sand was and how safe it was to fall down, regardless of how high up one was. He shared that we could slide, roll, or walk down without any danger at all. The only problem was the sand may discolor our clothes and it may not come out in the wash. With this knowledge, I felt powerful enough to leap down the side of the dune at a 90 degree angle with giant steps, feeling the fear, but pleasuring in the sensation. I really wanted to regress to boyhood and roll down, but my mother’s voice whispered in my ear about staining my clothes, so I refrained. This was a highlight for me and if I had know earlier, I would have felt more confident with Dune 45. On the way back to our truck, Anna, Rikard, and Klas sat on the front of Boseman’s 4×4 while the rest of us were herded like cattle in the back. It takes a special type of vehicle to drive in this sand. The ride was like a tumultuous roller coaster and we were jarred around praying the truck would not flip over. When we returned to the Six Pack, we drove to another part of the park for lunch. There was supposed to be a swimming pool there, but when we arrived, they were draining the pool. Bruce created a delicious pasta salad, then after we ate it was back on the truck for our lodge once again. Ron gave out Hungarian Christmas candy we brought with us and and explained the significance in Hungary. They seem to have been enjoyed and appreciated by all. Before returning to the lodge, we went to another gorge at Sesriem Canyon. The sunblock was bleeding into my eyes and I asked Ron for a tissue. He went back to the truck to get it from his bag, but in the meanwhile, we were separated from the group, who were descending into the gorge. I had tried to follow to keep track of the direction they were going, but Ron did not immediately follow. At one point, the way forked and I waited for Ron to catch up so he would not take the wrong turn. When he did not show, I went back to find him still at the top at the truck taking pictures. By this time, it was too late to try to find the group’s direction and I too stayed at the top and watched them from above. Back at the lodge, I was ready for a swim, a shower, and a nap in that order. Later, we congregated outside on the lawn for a drink and socialization until dinner. Bruce prepared pork chops with sausage, potatoes, and mixed vegetables. It is astonishing what he can create on a couple of propane burners. He also made a special dessert with chocolate and bananas. All in all, it was a great Christmas, though with 30 degrees Celsius temperatures, it did not feel like Christmas. At the lodge, I bought a Hammerstein Namibia t-shirt to remind myself of this beautiful lodge and lovely Christmas with great people. Within an hour of wearing it the embroidery started to unravel. Santa, help me! Tomorrow, we leave at 8:00 am for Walvis Bay via the arid Namib-Naukbift route on our way to the seaside town of Swakopmund. Today was only 200 km bringing us to 1990 km.