WRITTEN BY KRISTA BEAUVAIS
What does it feel like to trek up one of the highest dunes in the world? What does it feel like to sit on the top and watch the sun rise over Namibia? Find out – and find out how to get there!
At 4am on day 5 of our African Overland Camping Safari, our alarm went off. It seems that climbing a dune to enjoy sunrise is a job for the early bird. We left our tents where they were and kept breakfast for later. Hopping straight onto Big Mamma, we arrived at Dune 45 just as the sun was warming the horizon. I was worried we were too late, but the sun was only threatening to rise; we still had time.
From the side of the truck, I stood and looked in awe at this mammoth red towering dune before me. Then I noticed the little specs moving on top. Those were people! It is so big that those people looked that small! I wanted to stand and stare. I was sort of held in this motionless trap, unable to move, just staring and trying to process where I was. Nothing doing. Chop, chop, the sun is threatening to rise. Got to get to the top in time to enjoy the sunrise from on top of the dune. Move, move, let’s go. We were scurried along and, as though I had simply glided over the surface of the Earth without ever touching down, there I was, at the base of Dune 45. Up, up, up I looked. And then I started to walk.
I sort of expected to sink in the sand more than I did, but it was really quite firm. There were many huffs and puffs on the way up; I think I was amongst the wheeziest sounding trudgers. I felt so disoriented with the challenge of the walk that I felt lightheaded a couple of times and almost lost my balance. The image of me falling down this dune, possibly to my death, sobered me and I carried on. Perhaps I wouldn’t have worried quite so much if I had known then that falling down this thing actually takes some effort since you kind of sink into the sand with each indentation.
We arrived to the top just in time! The hot, bald head of the sun was just at bursting point on the horizon, ready to show everyone what’s been producing that warm glow in the sky. How do you sit on top of a sand dune? How do you make sure you don’t topple and fall? I felt remarkably unsteady – and still lightheaded from the climb. Thinking of no better – or safer – seat, I straddled the crest of the dune.
And so it was time to just sit. To just sit and be and watch the sunrise. On top of this dune, with nothing but mountains of sand in all directions, the world’s largest dunes surrounding us, I felt very small. I also felt very at peace. Everything around me was harmonious – apart from the still-wheezing people, that is. The image before me was like you would find on an artsy Christian card – the type that say God is all around. Well, in that moment, I felt very much like I was cupped in God’s cushioned palm. I felt like I was sitting in His palm and he was holding me up to the world, telling me to enjoy the beauty before me.
I felt like time had stopped. I felt like civilization had long since melted away from me. And I felt like there was some very faint classical music that had settled over us all, drifting through us as we sat there on top of that dune. It might sound weird, but it really did feel to me like there was music playing. Soft music. Delicate. Barely there. But I heard it nonetheless.
I have rarely in my life felt in harmony with everything in the way that happened on top of Dune 45 this morning! There is seemingly always something to worry about in life; something that needs planning or fixing. Here, there was nothing. There was just peace. For days we’ve traveled through nothingness, and so there is no noise, no light, no distraction. NO INTERNET. NO FACEBOOK. No shops. No stuff to buy. No adverts to tempt us. Nothing.
Just peace and silence. And life-affirming awe. This is what the world would look like even if we weren’t here. We didn’t make this. We couldn’t make this! Even if we had never lived on planet Earth, this place, right here, right now, would look just like this! Such a peaceful realization, felt at this moment on top of one of the world’s largest dunes in the world, in the middle of the Namibian desert, can sweep a person into the most serene of states.
An hour passed before I accepted the need to leave and join the others. Some were rolling down the dune – but I know what that’s going to lead to: weeks of digging sand out of your ears. So I chose to run down instead. Running quickly turned to puffing and then trudging. It’s actually hard work running on the side of a sand dune! At the base, looking back up, the enormity of it all struck again. The pictures won’t do this justice at all. But they will evoke in me the memory of what it was to be here. To experience this.
This was only day 5 of 21 on our African Overland Camping Safari!
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