We ate lunch in the park and then jumped into the back of a truck that would take us to Sossusvlei, a famous dry clay pan featured on many of the glossy travel brochures of Namibia. One fast, bumpy, terrifying ride later we arrived at our destination. Our guide was a very informative local who knows everything there is to know about the Namib Desert. He told us a geological history of the area, explaining how the winds shape the dunes. The intense orange color of the dunes is due to their age: over time, iron in the sand oxidizes and turns the dunes a rusty color. Our guide demonstrated this high iron content by sifting a magnet through the sand and pulling away clumps of iron. He showed us unique methods for finding water, and he identified which critters could kill you and which ones you could eat. As we painstakingly trudged through the soft sand, we ruined the perfect wind-shaped ripples with our shoes.
After our tour of the Dead Vlei, we returned to the truck and journeyed to Dune 45, which rises to a height of 550 feet. The idea was to climb the dune and watch the sunset from the top. Yet again, my perspective of the sheer size of the dune was skewed, as it did not seem very high at all. As I started climbing up the crest of the dune, each step grew more difficult as I labored through the thick, soft sand. The further I climbed, the larger the dune seemed to grow. I finally made it to the peak, where the razor-sharp spine of the dune snaked downward and off into the distance. After the sun sank below the horizon, I descended the dune – this was a much easier task, as I could almost slip-slide my way back down in the loose sand. Finally, we made the short, dark drive to our campsite at the nearby town of Sesriem.