Kalahari to Sossusvlei

November 15, 2013 - Aus, Namibia

11 November (Monday )
We left Red Dunes camp and headed for Gochas.  As Farmer Piet had no card facilities, he had asked us to pay for our stay at his campsite by drawing money in this little town and paying it to ’Flip at the shop’.  ‘What shop?’ we asked.   We soon found out. Gochas has only one shop, and a garage and a bottle store, of course!  The ATM is in the shop, and we drew the last N$700 out of it!  So we were able to pay our bill to the very charming owner of the only shop in Gochas.  Goodness know what would have happened if we had got there a few minutes later and someone else had been to the ATM!

Then on to Mariental, a slightly bigger town with 2 supermarkets and 3 garages.  Terry managed to get the slow puncture which had been bothering us for the last few days fixed, and I did some shopping in the Spar.  On the whole, things seem to be a bit more expensive in these remote areas, but petrol, much to our delight, is cheaper than in S Africa.

The day was scorching by 11 am and we now  headed for Maltahohe.  There we were  very lucky to find Pappot Accommodation, B & B, Camp Site, Bottle Store, General Dealer.  This lady, Henriette van Zyl, has everything!!!  She even sells furniture.  Her parents started the shop in about 1960 at the height of  the karakul (Persian lamb) boom and there were then many rich farmers in the area (I should imagine rather like Oudtshoorn with the ostrich feather industry). Anyhow, her parents had a ladies outfitters, a gents outfitters and both ladies and gents hair salons on the present premises.  Since then times have become harder and many have moved away from the countryside into the larger town and cities.  So Maltahohe is slowly dying.  But Henriette and Mannetjie (her husband) are not phased.  They have a lovely campsite, all stands covered with shade cloth and a couple of rooms which you can hire and they do meals if you want them.  And all with lovely country warmth and hospitality.  They live on a farm a few kms out of town, so when she left we had the whole place to ourselves.

12 November (Tuesday)
We left Henriette, who pressed a lollipop into our hands (for a safe journey) as we said goodbye and headed for the National Park at Sossusvlei and Sesriem.  We knew that we needed to be at the gate of the Park by sunrise if we wanted to do justice to the amazing scenery, so we were looking for a camp site that was as close to the park as possible without being ridiculously expensive.  Camping inside the park is possible, but this camp is run by Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) and is ridiculously expensive.  If you camp there, you also have the advantage of entering the viewing areas an hour before they let the rest in.  What a rip off!

The drive to Sossusvlei and Sesriem is really spectacular.  The terrain is now mountainous and between the mountains there are vast plains.  Looking towards the horizon you see koppies and mountains in all shades of blue, pink and purple.  And then in the distance you start to see the huge red dunes of the Namib Desert rising behind these mountains and flowing down onto the grey green plains.  This is Africa at her most beautiful.  We felt so privileged to be able to experience this.  No picture can begin to do these vistas justice.

We settled on Betesda Lodge and Camp Site which was about 40 km from the gate to the park.  Lovely big camp site, wonderfully helpful staff and best of all, a sparkling pool!  Again a scorching day, and then a lovely evening.  But up at 4.30 tomorrow to be at the gates of the Park when they open at 6!!

13 November (Wednesday)
So it was up at 4.30 to head off to Sossusvlei.  We drove o the gates to the park as the sun rose behind us.  So beautiful that getting up so early was no hardship, really. 
We arrived at the gates to the park at just before 6 and there was already a queue waiting to get in.  Within a few minutes the gates were opened and we were allowed in.  We were now on the first bit of tar road we had seen in 2 days.  The drive from the gate to Dead Vlei (which is an ephemeral pan which seldom has water in it) takes about an hour.  The scenery is stunning - huge red sand dunes with sharp edges.  In the early morning light, the edge clearly defines the two sides of the dune. The sand itself is a deep red and the dunes are enormous.  This is a national park in which you are allowed to get out of your car, and all the bigger dunes had people climbing them.  The most famous is Dune 45, but there are many others.  You walk up along the sharp edge of the dune.  Apparently a rally fit person can get to the top of Dune 45 in about 45 minutes.  The thing is that this is really soft sand and you sink in up to your ankles as well as slipping back a bit with every step you take.
We reached the end of the tar and found that the last 4.5 km to Dead Vlei is for 4x4 vehicles only.  Thank goodness ours is a 4x4, as your other options are to walk it (and it was already starting to get warm at 7am) or else use the Park’s shuttle service at R85 each for the trip.  Another rip off!  The road was pretty hairy in parts.  Very soft sand and deeply rutted but well worth the trip.  Dead Vlei is best viewed from the top of the dune overlooking it.  We decided to walk part of the way up the dune.  After a while I started to get a bit nervous as one is walking along a knife edge and the dune is steep.  Terry kept saying that it’s only sand, but I could still see myself tumbling down a hell of a long way..  We ended up going up a good deal further than we had originally intended, but the views were so spectacular that all my nerves were well worth the climb.  Coming down was not so bad once we had got the knack of it.
So we had a picnic breakfast and were about to set off back along the very slippery soft 4x4 route when we found that our cars battery was completely flat!  One of the staff from our camp was at the site with a tour group, so he kindly gave us a jump start and we bounced off  back to the restaurant at the gate to the camp.   A Cup of tea, and we were setting off to view the Sesriem Canyon  which is also in the Park.  But again the car wouldn’t start.  So we had to get a couple of helpful workers to give us a push and decided to get back to camp to sort out our problems with the batteries.  (We have 2 and both were flat).  Back at camp Terry set up the battery charger and charged up the battery while we went and swam.  It was a scorching day again.
Various people from the lodge came and had a look at the car, but Terry decided to exchange the alternator for a spare which luckily he had brought along.  This did the trick.  Suddenly we had power and decided to go back to Sesriem the next morning to have a look at the canyon.   


November 16, 2013
I am soooo jealous!! Hope the battery problems are resolved..it sounds so familiar...
November 17, 2013
Hi, It all sounds and looks great, hope the rest is as good as your trip so far. Terry had lots of practice in deep sand. All the best.F and B
Sue and Colin:
November 18, 2013
Beautiful pictures and what wonderful adventures you're having! We've just had a VERY rainy wet weekend in Cape Town... all the Kgalagadi travellers lapping it up! travel safely, lots of love .
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