Terry's Top 6 Travel Moments
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5 of 6
From abundant water to arid desert for the next choice. Across the continent to Namibia, where the furthest west section of the Kalahari is known as the Nabib Desert. This extends about 50 miles inland from the Atlantic coast and is an area of huge contrast. In particular, two prevailing winds blow at right angles to each other with quite remarkable effect. In combination, they sweep the fine desert sands up into massive dunes, two or three hundred feet high; and working in opposition, they cut what would otherwise be smooth rounded tops into precisely defined crests.
The uninhabited area is a national park and your vehicle is only allowed in after sunrise - and that is the ideal time. In the couple of hours after dawn, the low level of the sun throws the dunes into sharp relief, one side in strong sunlight, the other in deepest shadow. The patterns and shapes that this displays are a huge art gallery - and staggering pictures can be taken with the simplest of cameras.
Climbing the dunes is very hard work; two steps forward, at least one slipping back - but the views from the crests across the desert are worth it. The slopes are steep and the crests just a couple of sand grains wide and after the sun has been up for an hour, say, you can kneel on a crest, put a hand either side, and feel one almost too hot to touch and the other, only a few inches away, still night-chilled.
If you have the nerve to take it at a run, the descent is wonderful sport; you feel like a giant as each stride slides you on; rather like, I imagine, bounding along in the moon's atmosphere. There are 'vlei' or oases in the Nabib, boosted by moisture from frequent sea fogs, to help maintain some remarkable and often weird plant and animal life but for me, the sand dunes are primarily an amazing spectacle.