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The Sossussvlei area of the Namib-Naukluft National Park

Dune 45 The area of the Namib desert which has the famously high and spectacular sand dunes is usually referred to as Sossussvlei, although Sossussvlei itself is one particular pan within the system. A fair bit of the dune system is accessible by 2WD vehicle, including Dune 45 (left) but to get to Sossussvlei, Dead Vlei and Hidden Vlei, you either have to go on a 4WD or walk for about an hour from the 2WD car park because of deep, soft sand. Apparently, it's not unusual even for 4WDs to get stuck and need help.
We went with our guide as far as the 2WD car park, then met Franz, a desert specialist guide, who took us to the 4WD car park between Dead Vlei/Crazy Dune and Sossussvlei in a bakkie. He then gave us a very interesting presentation about the dunes themselves, including showing us the two different types of sand you can see here, the fine red sand from the Kalahari, and the coarser, less red sand from the coast. He explained about the prevailing winds at different times of year, and how you can always work out your direction from the way the sands lie.Different sands
IronHe also told us that the dark shading on many of the dunes was caused by iron particles. He had presumably met with a lot of scepticism about this in the past, because he proved it by picking up iron filings with a magnet (left)! He also told us about historical conflicts between the 'Bushmen' and the Nama people, particularly over diamonds. He said the Nama people know that the 'whites' would give them money, clothes whatever they wanted for diamonds, but the Bushmen thought they were a gift from the moon (because they would find them glinting at night). So the Nama would try to steal the diamonds the Bushmen had, but the Bushmen outwitted and killed the Nama. The other Nama couldn't believe the bushmen could outwit their tribespeople, so they thought the sands were killing them, and that's why the Nama who went into this area after the Bushmen didn't come back. So the Nama word for this area means something like "quicksand"
He also told us how to survive in the desert, by getting water from Nara melons, and if that fails, killing an Oryx, which will have a Nara melon in its stomach. So killing an Oryx was a prerequisite for a Nama suitor to be allowed to marry the girl of his choice, so that her father would know he could provide for her in future. He also told us about the creatures which survive in the desert, like beetles, spiders and lizards.
Dune 45
More Dune pix
Dead Vlei
Beetle

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