Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sossusvlei dunes Mar 2016

That's me on the top of the Big Daddy dune at Sossusvlei in the Namib Sand Sea World Heritage Site.  These are the highest sand dunes in the world, over 1100' high/340m.  We were some of the first few folks that morning to climb up them.  That's Myra sitting just below the ridge, puffing to make the last few feet to the top.  Climbing through the soft sand is tiring and we were rushed for breakfast that morning to get an early start.
The dawn hasn't quite hit these dunes, but you can still see how pink they look.
Looking back to the sunrise as we raced along the paved road in the park to try to capture the light and shadows at sunrise on the dunes.  Most of my shots are a bit blurry as we were in a car doing about 100 km/h and the spots are inside the camera now,
We had clouds and the previous night it had rained.  Folks say we were lucky to experience rain in the Namib desert, but this far towards the coast, they didn't get the moisture.
Dark pink dunes in the pre-dawn light.


The same dune from afar.  Only in the light of sunrise do they look so red.

You can start to see the difference from the light and shadow.

Some dunes looked grey or brown,  The light really made a difference in what they looked like.
Some low dunes looked orange against the pinky-grey of the farther ones.
Lots of oryx near the road that morning.  Their long, straight horns will reach back to allow them to scratch their own backs.
The group decided to cross the road in front of us.
The different colors start to come out.
A dark saddle dune between two that look orange in the morning light.
Sometimes there is a difference in the sand that makes the color differences.  It looks like a knife edge difference here, but some of it is just the sun and shadow.
I like the squiggles that the dune ridges make.  They highlight the different colors here.
The graceful curves of the sand make for interesting landscapes.
These sand hills look more solid but we didn't venture there.  Too far off the road and I don't think we were allowed off the main road inside the park.

Another edge where the color changes.
The first baby dune we got to once we reached the end of the road on the shuttle.  Karen in a little pocket of sand where there were bushes growing and lizards making tiny tracks in the sand.
Many of the trees here don't fare too well in the dry, but there are still birds that use them.  This one had several Cape Crows in it.  They look a lot like our magpies.
Cape Crows  in the dead tree, waiting for scraps to be left behind by the tourists.
And the ubiquitous sparrows live everywhere in the world it seems. They liked the seeds in the brown bread we get at the store in Luderitz.  The grocery stores here bake their own bread and rolls and we don't get pre-packaged bread, so we have to buy it every other day or so or it goes hard and/or moldy.
The vista from the shuttle parking area.
Dunes are a callin' us.
The 4WD shuttle we were required to take out to the climb at Big Daddy and the Dead Vlei.  They are two famous sites here in the Namib Sand Sea.
The shading with the sun and sand just can't be captured properly in a small camera.
The top edges of the dunes throw the shadows into the concave recesses on their lee side.  The dunes are always shifting with the wind and the scenes change regularly.
Light and squiggles--what more could you want to see?
The little blips on the edge of the dune are people walking along its ridge.  This was a different dune that we passed and several vehicles stopped here for the people to climb in the early morning light.

There were lots of these comma-shaped dunes.  I'm sure there is a physical reason for the shape, probably something to do with wind drag or such, but they mad great viewing.
The first little dune we came to with growth around it.  Lizards live in the bushes and in holes in the sand.
Nice designs in the sand ripples.
Little tracks led into the hole in the middle of this shot.  A little critter of some sort lives here.
Footprints on the ridge of the dune we climbed.  You had to put your feet right on the ridge because if you stepped to either side, you would sink in and have to climb back up.
You can see the hard salt pan as the white on the desert floor.  We are probably about 1000' above that white.  The scale is hard to judge.
Jason traipsing barefoot on the top ridge of the big dune, carrying our binoculars.
Looking down at my hand and footprints after I had climbed the dune.  You can see the hard pan white below and you can perhaps make out the tree line in the distance from where we started.
You can see the vehicles on the far left.  That was our starting point.
Myra at the base of the dune where I'd climbed up.  I had to get on all fours at times to make progress as the sand was so soft and slippery, it was hard to make much distance in each step.  I found that if you aligned your foot parallel to the ripples, it seemed to be easier to step without sinking in so far and the surface of the sand seemed to be harder.  Of course, that all depended on which way the ripples went and the direction you wanted to climb, too.
Karen at the top of the dune, Big Daddy.
Myra climbing to the ridge.
You could see for miles from up here.
The ever-changing desert scenery.
The blackened trees in the white salt pan below are estimated to be 500-600 million years old.  Water rarely gets this far any more.  They are at the bottom of the largest dune.
Looking back towards the east, the shadows don't have the same quality, but you can see the dry hard pan at the base of the dunes.
A selfie at the dune's ridge, about 1000'+ up on the sand in the Namib Sand Sea.
Jason and the early arrivers sitting on the top of the dune ridge after the climb.  The wind started to blow gently and already we could see the footprints being filled in.  Mother Nature erased the tracks of people every day.
Jason looking down on the salt-rich crust of white at the base of the dune.  Those tiny marks in the white are full-sized trees, now long dead, way down below us.
Looking back along the ridge of the dune with our footprints flattening out the knife-edge that was there.  Tomorrow, all traces of us will be gone.  That's Jason heading back in the distance.

Distant dunes as seen from Big Daddy.
Looking down at a hard pan area on the other side of the dune.
Another view of the hard pan white with trees in it from the top of the dune.
A zoom on the white salt/sand, you can see the evidence of water from the past in the river patterns.
I used the zoom instead of my feet to see the white salt pan and trees.  It started to get tiring and warm and the others were already heading back to the shuttle parking area.
Every step I took going down the face of the dune created a tiny sand shower from my foot that preceded me.
Walking down the ripples of the face of the dune.  It was like walking on the moon or underwater.  One step propelled me three feet or so down the face as I slid through the soft sand under my feet.  My shoes were filled with sand before I got down and it felt like I was walking in shoes filled with concrete.  I finally had to stop and empty them.  Each shoe held over a cup of sand when poured out.
Jason retraced his steps along the ridge to get down--not nearly as much fun.  We watched one guy tumble and roll all the way down the dune, taking selfies of himself in the sand all the way.
The edge of each of my footsteps left a cool design in the sand.
Looking back at my footsteps on the way down, they don't look like they'll last long.
Lizards, geckos, snakes and bugs still eke out a living in these dunes.  I had a hard time finding this guy with the camera; once I zoomed in, all the sand looked the same.
Pretty sand ripples
I may have been shooting for a lizard and only got these ripples in the sand.  Still pretty.
Our group back in the shuttle, ready for a cold drink and some food.
The dunes have already started to change color as the sun rises.
Now a soft orange, they are still awesome looking in person.  The shuttle driver tried to bounce us as much as possible along the sandy road back to the vehicle parking so we couldn't get many photos.
Pretty in pink, these dunes.
Pink and grey now.
Still can see the sharp edge at the top.
Some dunes look incredibly steep on some sides.
This dune was pink and red on the way in and now is a picture of browns.
Still gorgeous to see.  The different sand composition gives the sand character.
A beautiful dune on our way out.
Don't you wonder what makes the shapes different on these mountains of moving sand?
Some of these dunes settle long enough for the scrubby bushes to take hold and start to grow.
Not far outside the park, as we headed towards home, we saw the sand had blown over rock, making it look like snow on the mountains.
This could be a shot above the tree line in the Rockies in the winter.  Instead of snow, the white is sand here.
The is part of Le Mirage Resort and Spa, out in the middle of nowhere as we left the dunes area.
The greens and grey of the layers in this rocky hill caught my eye.
We got a kick out of the warning signs for animals along the roads here.  This one is for oryx and we saw lots of them on our drive.

This is for giraffe.  We never saw a giraffe and very few trees or places that there could even be one living around here.
Zebra exist out here too!
This zebra was laying  side of the road just before we left a conservation park area.  We thought it was dead, but when we got out to look at it, it was still alive, but just barely.  Not enough to make it move from us.  It didn't look like it had been hit or injured by a car (our first thought), but someone later suggested the drought was killing animals out in the desert.
These giant blobs of straw hanging in the trees intrigued us.  Some of them were as large as camping tents.  We found out they were homes for little birds.  Hundreds of them make these giant nests and live in them like bird condos.

A motorcyclist with a broken bar for his side car.  We offered to take them down the road, but another vehicle came along heading their way and would ask at the accommodation a kilometer down the road for help.
A chair carved from a palm trunk at the coffee shop where we stopped for lunch.
This mountain looks like someone drizzled chocolate sauce over the top.
One of the many dead oryx we saw along the fence on the side of the road.  Brian broke off one of its antlers/horns, but it broke off half way up.
Brian at the car where we stopped.  Pretty barren out here.

The ruddy red-orange of the dirt with green bushes on it caught my eye.  This is the kind of dirt they use to dye t-shirts and call them 'dirt shirts' of Africa.
Back in Luderitz, we had a cruise liner call in for one day.  Arrived in the morning and was gone in the afternoon.  Not much to see/do in Luderitz for cruise ship passengers, so we figured they must've gone out to Kolmanskop, the diamond ghost town.


3 comments:

s/v Libertad said...

wow, beautiful sand dunes. When do you leave South Africa and where do you plan to make landfall? We wish you fair winds and reasonable seas for your Atlantic crossing!

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