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Namibia #4 - Sossusvlei

December 2020

35mm film

On the eighth day, I wake up at 4 am to get to Sossusvlei before the heat. I start up the massive 325 metres of Big Daddy dune in the mist and it is surreal being here. Down below lies the famous white spread of the Deadvlei with its dead trees. They look small and insignificant from up here. I want to run down and be amongst these iconic trees that I have seen in so many pictures. But first, let's get to the top of Big Daddy. I slog up the snaking spine, its head hiding in the mist. The prize both above and below. There aren't many of us and I take my time taking pictures along the way. Soon I am alone on the ridge. It is quiet and everything is unreal.


The sun rises and the heat consumes the cool mist. Now exposed to the wrath of the sun with nowhere to hide on the back of the serpentine dune. Others bail out and take the plunge into the pan, but I have set myself a goal and I labour on. The dune gets steeper and for every two steps, you slide back one in the loose sand. 'Step by step and you will get there,' I tell myself, dripping sweat and breathing heavily now. I take off my sandals and the walking is easier and the sand is still cool and soft under my feet. I'm really feeling Namibia now.


I'm near the summit and a young French couple cheer me on. I take the last few steps with jelly legs and pump the air like I have summited Everest. The view from up here is magnificent. I sit with the French couple and catch my breath. We watch the only remaining couple still lumbering up what looks like the spine of a giant sleeping sand serpent. It turns out they are also French. It's a French day on Big Daddy.

Colourful lizards run around us and they look like plastic toys. I listen to the French and let the soft sand run through my hands and marvel at all the sand in Namibia and the world. I look down into the famous Deadvlei and can barely make out the iconic trees on the other side. That is the next prize. It's a long way down.

'Okay, I'm going down.' I say.

'Leave your camera,' jokes one of the French. 'I will take pictures of you running down. Then you must just come up to fetch it again.'

'Or you can just throw it down,' I laugh.

'Au revoir!' they cheer and I take the plunge.

I run down for a full 4 minutes and it's one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. It is so steep you are practically flying. With no sense of depth, you have no idea how long you will be flying for. It feels like an eternity before my feet hit the hard white pan at the bottom. In the pan, the heat has chased everyone away and I have Deadvlei to myself. I walk to the trees.

See the next step of the journey here: Between Spaces

© 2021 Barry de Villiers

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