When most of us think of vast deserts and mountainous sand dunes, our mind wanders to the Arabian or Sahara deserts. Few people think of Namibia and sand dunes in the same sentence. But this country on the southwestern coast of Africa is, in fact, known for some of the most stunning sand dune landscapes in the world. Nathan Lump wrote about his experiences in the Namib desert for the NY Times travel magazine.
By the time I reached Kaokoland, I’d been in Namibia for a week, and had grown accustomed to wonder. I’d hiked up the gigantic sand dunes of the Namib Desert at Sossusvlei (said to be the world’s highest), by far the country’s most famous attraction, and found them suitably astonishing. It is hard to overstate the power of seeing these dunes in person — pyramidal with serpentine ridges, tinged red from iron oxide and standing hundreds of feet high so that from a distance they look like mountains.
The silence in this sea of sand is mesmerizing, and it is strange how the repetition of form creates a kind of dramatic monotony, one that makes minor shifts in perspective somehow seem momentous. At sunrise I was struck by how the play of light and shadow emphasized each dune’s individual geometry, while later, as the full sun marked them in sharp contrast to a cloudless blue sky, I suddenly became conscious of the entire network, of how the dunes relate to one another in shape and size to form one of the world’s most surreal dreamscapes.