The ride from Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, to the coastal city of Swakopmund is simply breathtaking. The landscape has hues ranging from a dark rich red to a deep earthy brown, and the most spectacular rock formations rise in the distance as if beckoning you to explore. I wanted to climb every single one. One hour away from Walvis Bay, the sun set, hanging low in the sky. Picture the scene; a mountain straight ahead and to my right, a big orange sphere at eye level, the sky awash with a beautiful blend of purple, red and orange as we drove deeper into the evening fog.
Swakopmund is a little sleepy town bursting with colour, full of adorable little cafes and watering holes at every corner. I got there at 10:00am, my phone at less than 10% with no idea where my bed and breakfast was. In hindsight, I really was trying to get lost. If it wasn’t for the kindness of the taxi driver who not only offered to help me find my accommodation but also took me on a little detour into the township, “Mission Dune” would’ve been but a dream.
Having spent two nights in Swakopmund, we set out into the desert with a pit stop at Walvis Bay to view the flamingos that call home a stretch of beach here, their pink plumage contrasting sharply with the dull tones of the Atlantic Ocean blanketed in a heavy fog.
It took us two days to get to the dunes. The drive there can only be summarized as landscapes that ask you to simultaneously experience them while also curating them for the world to see, often leaving you in a state of confusion as you drive through the vastness of the desert. With the Namib Naukluft Mountains looming not too far in the distance, you would be remiss to try and catch even a sliver of sleep.
Finally, D Day (Dune Day) was upon us and we had to be up early because we had a two hour drive to the entrance of the Namib Naukluft Park. When you go on vacation, getting up early isn’t the kind of thing you want to hear, especially if early in this instance is 4:00am, but I was eager to take in the views atop Big Daddy.
Dune 45, Big Daddy and the Soussvlei and Deadvlei are all within driving distance of each other, with the park providing 4×4’s to ferry you from the pickup point to any of these attractions. The park opens at 6:00am and we had to be among the first to get there to avoid the long queues for the few 4×4’s available. On the drive to the park entrance, the moon languidly sashayed away behind the Namib Naukluft to my left taking the night’s cold with it.
Shortly after, we were at the bottom of Big Daddy. Found between Soussvlei and Deadvlei and at a height of 325m, this was bound to be a challenge to climb especially seeing as I straddle that fit/unfit line, but “Mission Dune” was not for the weak.
Two hours, more stops than I care to admit and a lot of heaving later, I was on top of the world. Deadvlei, white and blinding, spread below me. The Naukluft Mountains stretched before me and the Namib Desert challenged the horizon as far as my bespectacled eyes could see. “Mission Dune” was complete leaving me with a sense of yearning for this beautiful country that pushed me past my physical limits.