When Chelsi, Aubrey and Chad had first arrived in Namibia and were driving out of the capital Windhoek, they looked around. “It’s awfully green for a desert,” they decided. But this now, this was more of what they were expecting.
Just beside the road, dunes of sand reached what must have been a mile high. In between patches of desert grass sprouted up. In one the group had spotted a small, brown colored fox. Hoof prints for gemsbok wondered off in all direction, searching for thickets of scraggly, cracked looking trees, sprouting leaves so small one wouldn’t fill the stomach of a mouse.
“This landscape kinda looks like a dinosaur might come out from around a corner at any moment.” Chelsi noted as they sped down the gravel road toward Sossusvlei, Namibia’s tallest sand dune.
“Speaking of dinosaurs, look.” Chad pointed out his window. A flock of five ostriches stood just beside the road. They slowed their roll to get a better look.
Not much farther up the road essentially disappeared in a sea of deep sand. When their 4×4 got stuck for the second time they abandoned it and hopped in to a shuttle to take them the rest of the way to the dune. With dawn having broken just minutes ago, the dune was not yet crowded. The car park was empty and only a few foot prints lead off into the desert.
Chelsi smiled. At first she took off her sandals. The sand, already warming under the morning sun, messaged her feet. As good as it felt though, she found it easier to walk with the flat, broad sole of her sandal under her. From just past the car park, they could see where thousands of people over the years had started their trek up the dune. All the other dunes had finally point ridges from a millennia of windblown sand. The ridge to the top of Sossusvlei was flatten by human feet. If it were almost any other monument of nature in the world Chelsi would have been worried for it integrity as a ‘wild place.’ But here she knew as long as the wind blew, the sand would cover the tracks of humans in a short while. That same wind blew her tunic up around her, blew sand into her hair and encouraged her ever higher up the dune.
About halfway up her group waited for to catch up. Looking around, the sand seemed endless. The grass, and trees, any oasis were concealed by the dunes. Had they really been lost and disparate, climbing the highest point as a look out for safety would not have helped.
The sun had climbed with them and was now high enough that they cast nearly no shadow. “I think we should think about heading back to camp. The suns getting hot, and we’re running out of water.” Chad suggested to the group.
“That’s fine by me,” Chelsi agreed. The wind was no longer enough to keep her cool. It’s like a convection oven here, she thought. “So, do you want to just turn around here?”
“No!” Aubrey shouted and threw herself off the edge to the dune. They all laughed when she landed about four feet away, sunk up to her knees in the sand. They all followed, rolling, jumping, running, slipping, sliding, like children in a sandbox.