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Wednesday, 01 July 2020

Sossusvlei, Namibia

Written by Richard Taylor
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“If you want to get to Sesriem,” said Mr. Duplessis. “You have to hire a driver. Or find someone who’s going that way.”

The trouble with Namibia is that nobody lives in Namibia. Notwithstanding the Intercape line, which links southern Africa’s major cities there’s not enough public for public transit. The big bus had wheezed to a stop in Mariental at five in the morning, depositing me outside a Wimpy’s restaurant and adjacent gas pumps. For the past twenty hours, between naps, I’d been chatting with Mr. Duplessis, up from Cape Town to visit his daughter and in-laws. Sesriem was the jump off for the great dunes at Sossusvlei. As for people ‘going that way’, most had already left or been picked up by family.

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Then our Wimpy’s waitress flipped her cell phone and told her husband he had a client.

“He’ll be here in about twenty minutes with his jeep,” she told me.

Peter was a former tour guide. His wife packed him a chicken lunch and we were away. After two hours the road had devolved from pavement to gravel to soft earth and we swerved from side to side, avoiding the deeper spots.

“Great place to get stuck in,” I muttered.

“This road…it’s the way the tourists want it,” said Peter and I brooded over this tiresome demand for authenticity. It was the same crater-pocked Martian red landscape that I’d seen a week ago flying down from Frankfurt and the only signs of life were oryx, a handsome antelope with a wicked set of horns. When Peter slowed a bit so I could aim my camera, they flashed their rumps and fled.

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By eleven o’clock there was nothing to indicate the town of Sessriem but a sign, a campsite and a service station with a small café and grocery appendage. The rest was the Sossusvlei Lodge and the Namib Desert. The lodge had a room for one night only and it was off site; Tent 231 at the Quiver Camp, which didn’t sound promising but I boarded the 4 x 4 with some staffers heading the same way. They asked me the usual questions about kith and kin and country and pointed to some grazing antelope. They were not oryx.

“Wildebeest,” they told me.

“Okay. Gnus to me.”

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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 July 2020

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