So if you’ve read “About me” you’ll have noticed that my insatiable need to travel is mentioned. “Insatiable” … what a lovely word. I love the way it just rolls off the tongue, filled with so much promise, stirring a hunger unlike any other. It encapsulates perfectly this deep felt need I have to explore the world. I really can’t get enough of it. Travel is my drug of choice. And what a drug it is. The allure of distant places, vast landscapes, incredible wildlife, foreign culture … how could anyone resist it? Why would anyone want to? But more about my greatest passion another time. Today’s post is simply a shapshot. A brief glimpse at one of the most incredible places on this beautiful planet … Deadvlei in Namibia.
I first visited Deadvlei in August of 2013 as part of a tour through a number of southern African countries. To be honest, I don’t know that it really figured too prominently in my list of places to see. It just happened to be on the itinerary of a trip that best suited my travel plans. Situated in the Namib Desert, one of the world’s oldest deserts, Deadvlei is accessible by 4WD vehicle. Well, technically speaking, the carpark is accessible by vehicle. From there you must walk about 1km through the stark, bleached-white clay pans and the soft, burnt orange of the sand dunes to reach the immense site itself. It’s not a difficult walk. Although, should you venture there in the height of summer, as I did on my second visit in January 2015, then be prepared for the heat. It’s that kind of stifling, heavy heat that makes the air hot & dense and hard to breathe.
As you crest that final sand dune and your gaze fulls on this massive expanse, words will fail even the most skilled of writers. For that is not a moment for words. It’s a moment where silent awe and wonder will take hold of you. Where you will behold nature at her finest. The magnificence is awesome. The first thing after the size that grabs you, is the play of colours in what seems a barren and lifeless landscape. The soaring orange dunes, set against the most clear and vivid blue sky you can imagine. The stark, dry white pan from which dark, twisted camel thorn trees emerge. From memory these old acacia trees are around 800 years old … not rotten, but petrified from the lack of water and the sun’s unforgiving rays. Come to think of it, petrified is a good description of my physical condition when I finally crested that hill in 45 degree heat (Celsius that is).
As an aside, just prior to my more recent visit, I developed an interest in photography. I wanted to be able to more accurately capture my travels, to somehow try to photograph the things I was seeing in a way that would do them justice. It’s the one thing I’ve noticed with photographing landscapes … the photo never really conveys the reality of it. It can’t capture the experience of standing somewhere and turning full circle to take in all the vastness that surrounds you. I had not yet purchased my first DSLR but instead was using a trusty Olympus “point & click”. It’s actually a fantastic camera and I still take it with me on my travels as a backup. I had heard of “depth of field” and wanted to try to experiment with this concept, despite my very flimsy knowledge of what it actually meant! The following photo was my first attempt at DOF and oddly enough, it has become one of my favourite travel shots.
I think the thing that most resonates with me when I ponder on my visits to Deadvlei is how it made me feel. I’m not a religious person but I do believe in spirituality. And this moment, this small moment in time, was deeply spiritual. I felt my own insignificance. I felt how tiny I truly am. A speck of dust. Floating around with all these others specks of dust, dwarfed by our world and her natural wonders. I was so overwhelmed by the vast emptiness around me, by the silence, by the beauty. It’s one of those places where you will feel the need to separate yourself from your fellow travelers and be alone to take it all in. Like many of my experiences in southern Africa, it has imprinted on me, changed me, left an invisible mark somewhere under the skin. I hope to return again one day. To experience that openness and wonder once more. And to anyone who would ask of me “where should I travel next?” my answer would be do yourself a favour (you can thank me later) … Namibia.
All photographs are the property of the author © Kim Richardson