Sossusvlei is one of the most beautiful places we have ever been. It includes the Deadvlei, or dead marsh, which once was wet and full of life but now is dry desert with just the skeletons of the trees to hint at the past. It lies at the end of a 65km dead-end road from the camp at Sesriem. The first 60km is tar which gives way to soft sand for the last 5. The gates to the national park open at 5am and if you want to see it at sunrise, before the sun bleaches out the contrast between the red sand, the white dried mud and the clear blue sky, you can join the daily 65km dash to be the first there. We did his last year and it was well worth the effort, especially as we were first at Deadvlei and got some fab shots without all the other tourists there (damn tourists, always getting in our way….). We decided to see it for the sunset this time (and have a lie in). It is a hauntingly beautiful place and we had it all to ourselves – not another soul around. If you are into landscape photography, you must visit Namibia in general and Sossusvlei in particular – you almost can’t take a bad shot here and that’s just with our point-and-shooting; if you knew what you were doing ….

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Sossusvlei – can you spot the Landy?

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The sand at the end of the road was much softer than last year and it was the first time we’d driven our landy in such deep stuff. When sand is deep you need to keep momentum up so that you don’t get bogged down in it, but wanting to avoid getting stuck out there on our own we probably worked her harder than we needed to. We also didn’t let our tyres down as it was only a short distance. We started to get a smell of oil and stopped on a firm(ish) bit. Now as any owner of a landy will testify, they all weep oil a bit. This one however was dripping a bit from the sump seal onto the exhaust and with the car working hard, it was smoking off. We couldn’t see any continuous dripping, so buried our heads in the surrounding sand and caned it to the end of the soft stuff. We took it easy on the tar road back to camp and we didn’t seem to have lost much oil. The plan was to continue with our two overnight stops before the relatively large town of Swakopmund as before, then find a man to fix the leak.

We stopped at the Sesriem camp for the night and rewarded ourselves for our escape from the desert with a large T-bone steak. We also felt fairly worthy as we’d stopped to help a fellow traveller fix his rental car, which had half the wheel arch covering hanging off. Out with our tools and some zip-ties and we had him sorted and back on the road.

The morning took us to into the mountains where camped under a huge overhang of rock. From there we headed to the Namib Naukluft Park and a camp next to a dry river bed in the Kuiseb Canyon, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn on the way.

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The camp site was very basic, with just a long-drop toilet (think deep hole with a rustic loo seat over it) and no other facilities. We filled up our solar shower (heavy duty black plastic bag with clear window) and hung it up in the sunshine to heat up. It worked a treat. We lashed it up on a branch overhanging the river bed and has a nice hot shower.

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Just don’t drop the soap in the sand…

Our next stop was Swakopmund. We tracked the river, passing tiny rustic villages and their livestock, still staggered that animals can find anything to eat in this landscape.

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Local shepherds in the dunes

In town we picked up some new brake pads  that we’d ordered from a Land Rover parts specialist and which we hoped would stop the squealing. We then headed for the Land Rover specialist. We turned up unannounced on a Friday afternoon and explained the problem with the oil. He popped it over the inspection pit, cleaned the engine bay and told us to take it for a spin so he could locate the leak. Yes, it was coming from the sump. It needed a new gasket. They fixed it there and then. Sump off, new gasket applied (for some reason Land Rover just use a sealant for the sump rather than a pre-made seal) and all sorted. There was quite a bit of oil left on the exhaust and chassis but they cleaned most of it off. The rest would have to burn off.

We’d booked a room for a couple of nights as the wind was up and we didn’t fancy camping on the very exposed coast. The main reason we’d come to Swakopmund was to do the Living Desert Tour where we hoped to see “The Little Five”, the desert’s answer to the Big Five that are traditionally associated with safaris. That awaits us tomorrow.

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