The red sands of Sossusvlei

It’s a study in contrast. It’s red and black and blue. The sky is so uniform it could even be fake. I feel lost in a Dali painting. The ant-like people are climbing up Dune 45 in the distance. Their footprints up the hill traced a caterpillar in the sand. This is Sossusvlei, this is the desert like I always imagined it.

Climbing Dune 45 is not easy. I go barefoot, digging my toes in the sand and placing my feet in the footsteps of the person in front of me. The sand is already packed there and it makes the going easier. Soon, my thighs are burning anyway. I keep going, focusing on the feeling of being a child in a giant sandbox instead of the pain. Quickly, something else starts distracting me: the unbelievable views on either side of the dune. One is bathed in sunlight, the other is still a little in the shade of the dune. Both are otherworldly …

At the top, I discover dunes upon dunes of orange sand. I could keep walking forever, always believing I’m following the same dune top. It’s an ocean!

Now, if I have one word of advice for exploring Dune 45, it’s to run down the shadowy side. I ran down the sunny side, which was tone of fun, but the sand started getting uncomfortably hot under my bare feet. Anyway: RUN!

Right after Dune 45, we drove to Deadvlei.

Deadvlei was very surprising. Out of nowhere, nestled among the orange dunes, this white pan stands out the test of time.

Those trees have been dead for about 700 years! The place used to be an oasis, which is how the trees came to grow, but the water changed its course and the trees died, but the weather was (and is) so hot that the wood is now too dry to decompose!

Anyway, this place is a photographer’s dream. The sky is so blue and the ground so red … by the way, do you know why the sand here is so much more of an intense orange/red than in the Sahara desert (for example)? The sand here is actually very rich in iron. In fact, bring a strong magnet with you and just brush it on the sand. The magnet will be full of dark particles of iron!

How to get there? If you have your own 4×4 car, you can drive to Dune 45, and then follow the road towards Deadvlei. You’ll have to stop a bit before the Deadvlei parking lot anyway and take a shuttle. The sand here is too deep for inexperienced drivers and normal cars (I saw one car try anyway, didn’t go very far…).

From the parking lot, there’s still a short walk (about 1 km) to Deadvlei itself. Take a lot of water. That walk nearly killed me, not because it was hard, but because of dehydration. Do not go barefoot either, the sand is too hot! And try to go as early in the morning as possible. This is the desert, it’s hot. If you don’t have a car, you have to join a tour (there’s many going this way). I went with Acacia Africa!

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