You can follow me anywhere now that I’ve visited over 200 safari lodges, but back when I was a mere Africa travel novice, you would have been and idiot to trust me. Here’s why….
Location Namibia Desert: the final 5km deep sand track leading to the famous Sossusvlei sand dunes in one of the most beautiful but unforgiving deserts on earth. Only accessible with a 4×4 which I did NOT have.
Here’s What Happened: having decided to walk the last 5km into Sossusvlei I missed seeing the sign saying ‘Hints To Visitors’, with such obvious tips as:
Within 100 metres I turned back to replace my open sandals with walking shoes, then once again for a larger water bottle. I came face to face with the third item listed during my unscheduled off-piste walkabout in the unremitting Namib desert!
Mistake Number 1.
When I spied hikers way ahead of me traversing the dunes I figured they had found a shortcut, so I followed. What fool would leave the path in a desert where each sand dune looks alike and each horizon offers ever more breathtaking nothingness. It soon became apparent that these crazy walkers were doing their own thing and I was following them!
For a moment, I felt a nauseous fear in the pit of the stomach, but like the true Girl Guide I once was, I’d noted the position of the sun in relation to the track and was hopeful I could get back to it. The solitude was immeasurable and my place in the great scheme of life, took on a curious insignificance.
Mistake number 2.
Feeling very vulnerable in this vast wasteland, I suddenly realised I was being watched. Quite alone in the shade of a single thorny Acacia tree stood there stood the Gemsbok – the one from the postcard. Taking a few steps closer to this magnificent unicorn look-alike, I marvelled at her long, exquisitely twirled, pointy black horns. I became close enough in fact, to appreciate that I could be impaled at any moment. Was she feeling cantankerous or did she always look down her nose and snort like that? With that pit-of-the-stomach feeling for the second time that day, I retreated physically intact but questioning how my brain had turned to mush and I had become a supreme idiot.
My joy at stumbling across the track churned up by 4×4’s was only superseded by a mirage that looked like a Pajero. The air conditioned tourists within, thought I was quite mad strolling around the desert in 40°C, and invited to accompany them for the remaining 4 kilometre drive to Sossusvlei.
As we rounded a curve and entered the great dry Sossusvlei pan, surrounded by giant orange dunes, I saw the lone Camelthorn tree from the picture postcard. The Gemsbok was missing from the scene, but I knew exactly where she could be found.