For some reason I have always had this irresistible pull to the desert and the ocean. I thought it was a tension like magnetism between the north and south poles. There is a resolution in Namibia, though. Towering red dunes spill out to the beach where they are met by crashing waves. You could walk for days and never see another person. I was in heaven.
Namibia's natural beauty helped me cope with the difficulty I had been having entering this developed Africa. The emptiness and landscape has aided in nurturing my desire for solitude. I deal with this sense of reverse culture shock and the disbelief that my time in Africa has gone by at a lightning speed. I am longing for time to be kinder, to slow down. I long for the more traditional Africa.
But laying there, alone in the sea of red sand dunes, I was in the flow of life again. Peace in the desert is a different kind of peace, a heavier, deeper kind. Everything is muted by endless bright red sand dunes and a stony grey sky.
I found that peace again in Sossosvlei. You drive to a certain point, then a four-by-four truck takes you to the actual pan, a dead lake surrounded by red dunes. Despite everyone thinking I was crazy, I hiked the 10 kilometers through the desert. I took off my shoes, felt the grains of sand, silky soft, slip through my toes. The sun relentlessly baked my skin. Sand is not an easy to walk over, so it made the trek to Sossosvlei feel more like a pilgrimage.
The colors were stunning; a sailor blue sky, craggy mountains, red dunes with animal tracks winding their way through bright green shrubs. Red, pink and purple dunes rolled out as far as I could see. Everything felt pure and crisply alive. The sight itself was anticlimactic, listening to tourists hollering about putting on sunscreen. The highly photographed Dead Vlei, the cracked pan surrounded by dunes with dead trees speckled over it, was stunning, but the real highlight was the walk through the desert – alone.