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Namibia, the Land of Contrasts September 20, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Home and away, Namibia, Weather.
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As I drove around the country with my family, I was continually surprised and amazed by the stunning scenery that makes up this wonderful country. In just a matter of kilometres you can find dramatic rock plateaus and a giant underground lakes in the middle of the flat veld, to vast salt pans of an ancient prehistoric lake. Damaraland alone is totally indescribable in beauty and contrast. The geology of the area lends plays tricks with your eyes, as the formations around you morph in shape and colour as you pass. Huge clusters of smooth and spherical Dolomite balls litter the plains like piles of giant beans. Other outcrops are aggressive and sharp, the result of thousands of years of techtonic activity and baking sun.

As we continued towards the coast, the landscape shifted again, changing colour and shape within minutes. As we descended, we could see a glow of fog hanging over the Skeleton Coast, with the peaks of sand dunes just visible. The Skeleton Coast, aptly named for its unwelcoming and inhabitable environment, is a cross between desert and moonscape, with a roaring ocean pounding down one side. The billowing fog and sharp cold winds blast around deserted diamond mines and shipwrecks which litter the coast, giving us the distinct impression that we shouldn’t be there.

At the end of this desolate drive, we enter Swakopmund, a cheery German beach town, which is just the sharpest contrast to “African life” that can be found. Turn-of-the-century German architecture line the quiet manicured streets, a reminder of the German’s hey-day when they ruled this country. This is also where you find huge peaks of sand rolling down straight into the water, where desert meets ocean. Along with this truly unique ecosystem comes truly unique species of plant and animal, which have evolved to adapt to this inimitable landscape. In the same day, my parents rode of on a seal-dolphin-pelican-spotting boat trip, whilst I was just a few kilometres away, riding down sand dunes; we convened a few hours later for tea and cake underneath the red and white striped lighthouse.

As we proceeded south on our adventure, we crossed the Namib-Naukluft desert, where again the landscape twisted and turned in ways beyond our imagination. Who knew the desert could be so diverse. And it was here that we saw the sights for which Namibia is truly famous – the world’s highest sand dunes. Rich in oranges and reds, the perfect desert dunes rise out of the rocky desert like an old Arabian fable. Whilst Sossusvlei is the dramatic dune that people come to visit, the nearby Dead Vlei was the one that really blew my mind. Picture a 900-year-dead lake nestled between orange sand dunes, the bed of which is parched white and cracked. Scattered across this “lake” are perfect standing trees, which died when the last water came here almost a millennia ago. It is too dry here for the trees to decompose, so they stand rigid in the basking heat, flanked by the red ridges of the desert.

To put images to your imagination, you can see pictures from our adventure on the Flickr link on the right. But I warn you, after seeing them, you may be compelled to come and discover the Land of Contrasts for yourself.

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