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Wednesday, 01 July 2020

Sossusvlei, Namibia - Page 3

Written by Richard Taylor
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In thirty minutes I was feeling full and decided it was a silly thing to stuff myself with impala and ostrich when I had to climb dunes in the morning.

After dinner, they drove me back to camp. An oryx burst out of the thorn bush and stared at us, lit up in the headlights. Then he vanished.

“We will pick you up at seven o’clock for breakfast,” said the driver.

“Okay. Thanks.”

I sat on the bed and thought about the long night and the dead silence and scorpions in my shoe. They didn’t call it Quiver Camp for nothing.

The next day I met Werner, our driver and guide, and boarded the elongated 4 x 4 jeep with a joint Italian-Commonwealth expedition: a retired couple from Bristol and two unrelated pairs from Milan, senior and junior. Werner doled out blankets for the chill of the desert dawn, wedged us into a long caravan of tour jeeps and exhaust fumes and steered through the park gate onto a two-lane blacktop that was nice and firm and inauthentic. The traffic thinned after twenty minutes and Werner stopped along the shoulder. A gorgeous sunrise turned the landscape a soft reddish-gold and we noted the tour balloons rising in the haze over the mountains.

“They are with a different lodge,” said Werner.

He climbed out of the jeep, picked up a stick and started scratching facts and figures on the sand. The Namib Desert, he told us, stretched from South Africa to Angola, two thousand kilometers long, give or take a grain, but only a hundred and fifty wide.

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“Long and thin, like the Atacama in Chile,” said Werner. At that, it was Africa’s third largest desert, the dunes attaining their great size from winds blowing off Botswana’s Kalahari, depositing the iron-rich sand, which accounted for the red color.

“Can I have a volunteer please?” Werner asked, collecting some sand with a cloth.

The older Milanese stepped forward. Werner spread the sand over the man’s palm and waved a tiny magnet under his hand. The granules danced back and forth.

“You are the iron man,” said Werner. It was a rehearsed gag. We chuckled in a rehearsed way.

The first of the great dunes stretched magnificently to our left, about a half kilometer off the road, the ascending tour groups reduced to a staggered line of dots, like Klondike miners on guide ropes. Indeed with the clean lines and stark play of light and shadow, it was a scene from the higher latitudes; a Lawren Harris painting come to life – if Lawren Harris had painted sand.

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The paved road was done now and the red earth was soft and thick and marked with tire treads. We came to rest by a circle of trees, metal tables and trash bins where Werner unpacked the cooler, laying out a lovely picnic breakfast of bread and cheese and salami and tomato. I rose to throw my trash out and felt a sharp scrape. When I returned from the trash bin, the lady from Bristol was looking grave.

“You’re bleeding lad,” she said.

The group let out a gasp. Blood was welling out of three gashes along the calf. The edge of the metal bench had not been properly finished. Werner fetched his first aid kit from the jeep, wrapped up the gam to my drama queen delectation, then packed up the bandages and salami and we set our respective sun caps for Dune Forty-Five, known as Big Daddy.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 July 2020

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