*Ok, so maybe a ‘slight’ exaggeration on the whole dying front but I can assure you that I felt like it at the time!
Picture this…it’s 5.30am. It’s pitch black in the campsite, you’re trying to get ready in the dark and the moment you step out of the tent you put your BARE FOOT on an Acacia tree thorn…apparently blasphemy begins before dawn! But you’re up and you’re ‘ready as you’ll ever be’ to climb a 170m high sand dune just 30 minutes after stumbling out of your tent. The walk up looks pretty doesn’t it?…
Our group was the first to get to Dune 45 (named so because it stands on the 45th km on the road between Sesreim and Sossuvlei) since everyone queues at the gate at 6am to get into the Namib Desert where the dune lies. It looked like such a cool climb!
Well let me educate you my dear, dear friends. Dune 45, whilst amazing, is a TOTAL BITCH to climb! You say to yourself ‘it’s sand, this is going to be soooo easy’ but what you don’t hear is the Dune’s whispering ‘I will kill you mere mortal mwahahaha’.
- 10 paces up the incline I was already beginning to feel like an overweight 90 year old with smoker’s lungs.
- 20 paces up the incline breathing was becoming harder and more painful and my body started to feel like dead weight.
- 30 paces up and I’m wheezing like a dirty old man down a sex chat hotline, spitting up blood and deciding whether I wanted to throw up or pass out.
- 40 paces up and I sat down.
- This pattern continued all the way up!
I finally got to the top (a relative term for a sand dune with deceivingly high and continual ridges!) just as the sun was beginning to rise and spent the next 20 minutes staring into the landscape. I’D MADE IT!
Thinking we had reached the top of Dune 45, we then realised it carried on….and on….and on…. That dot at the very top of the sand dune?! Yep, it’s a person – the dune really IS that tall!
And to think…the dunes look so damn innocent when you seem them in the distance!
I’d like it noted that I wasn’t the only ‘unfit’ one climbing – we were all coughing our lungs up…climbing something like this isn’t like going for a run at home or paying a visit the gym – it’s exhausting stuff! I can, hand on
dying leg calves heart say that climbing Dune 45 was harder that when I climbed Mount Batur in Bali at 1771m last year. I have never experienced anything like it and I was glad when it was over that’s for sure.
Tips to help you climb Dune 45:
Wear nothing but socks (no, don’t go naked, I mean, wear just socks on your feet…you people have dirty minds!) – shoes weigh you down and get filled with sand and bare feet doesn’t give you enough ‘push’ like the ‘webbing effect’ a sock will have.
Wear layers. You will be (if you use a reputable company) be going before dawn and whilst it’s cool when you start, by the time you’re half way up it begins to get warmer.
Protect your camera!! When you’re sat down having that much needed
heart attack rest, people will be walking passed you and flicking sand with their foot steps…a lens problem is the last thing you want when you have the chance to capture the sunrise. Trust me, I began to have a nervous breakdown!
Eat something light before the climb. A lot of us felt that we would have felt a lot better if we had eaten something before we had climbed or had even had a couple of sugary sweets to get our energy levels going. Obviously, you would need to eat the moment you got up so that you didn’t get stitch on the climb but it’s worth it if it gives you extra energy and you’re not climbing on an empty stomach.
Follow others footsteps. The best way to climb a dune is to use other peoples footholes (where they’ve compressed the sand) because they act like steps so make sure you’re last in your group to go up. Likewise, it is easier if you take smaller steps than bigger strides…your calves will thank you for it.
Only walk on the ridge (i.e. top) of the sanddune. Even if your overland company doesn’t mention this, it is DISRESPECTFUL to walk on the side of the sand dunes as they are under protection so no running or rolling down the side of them because you’ll eventually stop everyone being able to enjoy them altogether.
So was the climb worth it?! You bet your glutias maxmius it was! If you don’t believe me, look at the view…