Giant red sand dunes, apple crumble cake, Mad Max, and sushi — all in one day!
My last full day in Namibia started with an early morning wake-up call and a short drive to see the sunrise light up the giant red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the highest dunes in the world and arguably the most beautiful. We managed to stay a step ahead of the tour buses and had one of the dunes all to ourselves.At the base of this dune, off to the left, is a scene straight from a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie — a white clay pan pierced by the scraggly skeletons of scorched, twisted, camel thorn trees. The place is named, appropriately, Dead Vlei (“vlei” — “marsh” in Afrikaans) and was the location for pivotal scenes in the 2000 Jennifer Lopez movie, The Cell.I’ve seen photos of this place before (as well as in the Jennifer Lopez film) and have always wanted to see it in person. It appeals to my taste for the bizarre and other-worldly. Just having this place all to ourselves for a few minutes was worth the 30-36 hours of travel each way to Namibia and the several hours drive over rough gravel roads to get here. The colors, curves and stark scenery of this place puts it up there with my favorite landscapes, including Antarctica and the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If I have the chance I’ll visit it again!
The drive back to Swakopmund was anti-climatic, except for the apple cake and vanilla ice cream from the world famous bakery in Solitare….no kidding. Solitare is a small settlement about two hours from Sossusvlei. It started out as a general store serving the workers at a nearby ranch, then evolved over the years to include lodging, a gas station, cafe and restaurant, and perhaps most notably of all, a bakery operated by the late, legendary Moose McGregor. It is now a bona fide tourist attraction that deserves all of the praise it gets from travelers who have the good sense to stop by for a large square of Moose’s world renown apple crumble cake (a photo of Brad and Angelina was stuck to the bulletin board behind the counter). I topped mine with a generous serving of vanilla ice cream from the general store and ate it in the back of the van as we bounced along the gravel road back to Swakopmund. To add to the incongruity of the day we caught a showing of Mad Max: Fury Road in 3-D at the local theater when we got back to town. Much of the movie was filmed in the Namib Desert, which we had driven through on our trip to and from Sossusvlei. It was interesting to see familiar scenery on the screen, but as a resident of Los Angeles, and Venice Beach in particular, this was not an unfamiliar experience for me. As for the movie itself — aside from the uninspiring dialogue, weak plot and non-existent character development, it was fun to watch for a while. It did get a bit old in the last half hour once the novelty of the recognizable scenery and spectacular costumes, props and stunts wore off.
For our last restaurant meal in Namibia, we returned to my favorite restaurant from my previous trip to Namibia, the Jetty 1905 — at the end of a long jetty, hence the name — for excellent sushi and ahi tuna. The crashing surf of the Atlantic rocked the restaurant while we ate, reminding me of a 5.0 earthquake back home. Sushi and tremors — just like Los Angeles, a mere 33 hours of flying and airport layovers away.
(Don’s trip was organized, conducted and hosted by Pack Safari)