Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

Dunes near Swapokmund, Namibia

Dunes near Swapokmund, Namibia

March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.
–Khalil Gibran

The sand dunes outside the town of Swapokmund, Namibia feel infinite. Grains of sand, for as far as the eye can see, stretch out forward into the future and behind into the past. While there, we couldn’t help but think about our tiny place in the universe. Walking up the dunes (especially carrying a sandboard, as in the photo above) was a challenge only met by putting one foot in front of the other, each step in the footprints of one who’d gone before. As we move forward, life lessons never cease. Each situation we face results in experiences that better equip us as we go on. This is progress. Every day, we should try to take one step in the direction of progress, ever moving forward, doing something different from what was done yesterday, taking chances and leaving footprints for those who will come later.

See more posts with the theme of “Forward” at the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge page.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

We’ve seen California Redwoods and Giant Sequoias (including General Sherman); towering ancient junipers in China, Strangler Figs at Ta Prohm, Angkor in Cambodia, and twin Ginkgo trees in Seoul.  Tāne Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) and Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest), Kauri trees in New Zealand’s Waipoua Forest were truly majestic, and we love those sprawling Banyans.  One of the most impressive trees of all, though, was the Omukwa Baobab Tree in Outapi, Namibia

Click this link to read the original post: http://turtlestravel.com/2008/08/18/omukwa-baobab/

What makes YOU think BIG?!?

Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon is the destination of a long drive day (640km).  The canyon is the 2nd largest in the world (the Grand Canyon is first).  It measures 160 km in length and 27 km wide at the widest spot.  It’s 550 km deep.  The scenery of the area reminded us of Arizona, with high, flat mesas and long expanses of sky with dustry roads running through scrubby brush.

Sunset was beautiful, as usual, and we hiked back to where the truck was parked to cook dinner at the rim of the canyon.  Spaghetti bolognaise with cabbage salad (veggie mince for the vegs).  The mood was festive, and the return back to camp on Shaggy was filled with laughter and singing (YMCA was a highlight, to give an idea).  More Savannah Dry, bottles of wince and olives were shared around the campfile at Hobas camp when we returned.  We seem to have started paralleling another overland truck or two as we near Cape town.  The girls from the Acacia truck bring their entire packs to the toilet, and they are filled with tubs of body butter, shampoo AND conditioner, moisturizers and styling product.  One even donned pearls!  We laugh at how even our own powder puffs have learned to do without to save space and time.

For more photos click here.

Sossusvlei: A Walk in Namibia with a Japanese Guide

Dune 45

We drove through Namib Naukluft Park on the way to our desert walk from Sesriem (gateway to Sossusvlei).This southern region of Namibia is dry, nestled between two deserts: the Kalahari and the Namib. The area of the national park spans 50,000 square kilometers, and comprises one of the largest conservation areas in Africa.

Sossusvlei Dunes

The mountainous dunes of Sossusvlei are numbered from the sea inland, and are some of the highest in the world. These are the classic dunes that draw artists and photographers from around the world. There are many types of dunes as well. The Namib dunes shift with the winds giving them the designation “dynamic dunes.”  There are parabolic, linear, hump and even star dunes.  We visited one of the most photographed of all later in the afternoon: Dune 45. Beneath the dunes are low, flat pans of salt and clay. These drainage basins are each a little different from one another, but the surreal landscape is the major tourist draw for the area.


Flora and Fauna

Our Japanese guide for the area, Yuri, had been in Namibia 11 years.  She began as a tourist, but her fascination with the desert soon took hold and she jumped at the opportunity for work in this magical place.  She married a local man, and plans to stay.  She visits her family in Japan every year or so.  Her love of the desert is obvious, and there was no need for her apologies or worry we might not trust her knowledge since she isn’t local. She was great!  She pointed out a trap door spider who came up to pull his door closed when sand trickled inside.  There were beetles, a desert mouse and various plants pointed out as well.  Some dunes are stable enough for grasses to grow on them. The history of the place, and details about the desert were interesting, as was Yuri’s detailed analysis of tracks and markings left by different animals, including a chat on the difference between pee/poo left by the male vs. the female springbok! The variety of fauna and flora able to survive with such little water is amazing.

Dead Vlei

Origin of Sossusvlei

Yuri explained how the Sossusvlei got its name, which means more or less “the place where things get stuck and go no further.” Indigenous tribes believed in the moon . . . and that all good and all bad come from it. During exceptionally rainy seasons, water built up and got stuck in the pans, the sossusvlei, creating a temporary lake.  Under the moonlight, the tribes used to see shiny stones in the pans.  When foreigners came to collect these stones, which they called diamonds, they were thrown into the collected water lake, and went no further either. An interesting story. Strictly speaking, the term sossusvlei refers specifically to the flat pan that lies where the dunes come together, preventing the waters of the Tsauchab River from flowing any further. The biggest water in recent memory was in ’97 or ’98, and while the river recedes quickly, the water remained in the pans for over a year.  Flooding like this only happens once or so a decade. Eventually, the shifting sands and winds will divert any new water to a new low spot, and a new pans (vlei) will be created.  The current sossusvlei will become a dead-vlei.

Walking at Sossusvlei

Desert Hike

We took a hike through the area currently called Dead Vlei.  It was stark and lonely, but beautiful. Black, dead acacia trees stand in stark contrast against the white, salt pan and the red dunes in the background. We struggled through a strenuous climb to the top of a dune and sat to rest and look out over the expansive landscape before descending again to the flat lands below. We thanked Yuri for the energetic walk.  She was happy to chat in Japanese for a bit, since the few Japanese tourists who come through are always with their own guide.  She told me a bit more about her time in Namibia, her love for the desert, and for her family in Japan.  All of these passions were equally clear.

We left Yuri for a gorgeous sunset at Dune 45.  This dune was classic, just what your mind envisions of a desert dune.  The patterns and shadows cast in the late afternoon light were endlessly photogenic, but we put our cameras down to watch with dropped jaws as the sun went down over the desert.

Additional photos of this part of our overland trip through southern Africa can be seen HERE.

Sandboard Namibia

Clearly Swakopmund is a tourist town. Hotel managers, activities instructors and shop-keepers all wait for the next crop of tourists to roll in be it on overland trucks or in group tours from Germany (most likely). Tourists are ripe for the picking, too, looking for adventure and ready to embrace a new experience.  At the same time there’s something comfortable about the place.  It’s young, exciting, energetic.  People play by day and dance and drink by night…a true party town.

Sandboarding was a great experience.  Never having snowboarded (or eve snow skied) before, we weren’t sure how we’d do, but with a little prepping and practice we were careening down the dunes in no time.  The hike back up was tough, but well worth the effort.  I was “goofy-footed,” leading with the opposite foot than most right handed folks.  That meant reversing all the instruction we got, but it did seem more natural.  Turns were tough, but everyoune was encouraging and supportive, and we had a wonderful time.  There was even a chance to take a few slides on the lay-down run at the back of the dune. People reached speeds of over 70 kilometers per hour lying on a flimsy piece of greased particle board.  A DVD of the whole day was part of the price, and it was ready back at the hotel that night.

Dinner that night was at Neapolitana.  My ostrich steak was amazing, and we al had a good time reliving our past few day’s activities.  I think the most fun was had by Esther, though, who snuck off with her skydiving instructor.

To see a wipeout click here