The day we climbed Dune 45, went to Deadvlei and slept under the stars / by Mariam Harraz

Today our day started a bit earlier than normal, we woke up at 4:30am to pack up and head out deep into the Namib desert. The plan was to get there before sunrise and climb dune 45, barefoot because it’s easier. Colleen mentioned it takes 10 minutes to walk up the dune, so we headed there prepared with fully charged camera’s, my go pro on my head, camera on my neck, and silly me forgot to get a bottle of water. Thankfully it was quiet cold when we got there but we got the timing all wrong and had about 20-30minutes to sunrise, so colleen rushed us to head up quickly, we decided to run up the dune, I've never seen anything as pure as it, it glittered and felt so nice on our feet. Before I knew it I was the last one from my group going up, everyone except Anna rushed by, she realised how much I was struggling, it was so bloody difficult and we made the mistake of running up rather than taking it slow. My Go Pro video consists of 30 minutes of me breathing loudly, looking down and saying “I can’t do it anymore” and stopping to take a break while a few old people walk by (not being agist just saying they're healthier than I am.) The dune was about 90 metres high and theres a foot path at the side to go all the way up, every time you think you’ve reached the highest point you find out there’s still more.

I can’t describe the sunrise, if you’ve seen pictures or read articles on why it’s amazing to photograph and see the Namib desert it’s probably because it is 100% true, none of it is exaggerated. I didn't reach the top when the sun was rising but from my point I could still see while the sun was rising the different shadows and colours it creates with the sand from red to orange, I know I say this word a lot but it is truly incredible or let’s say magnificent. 

We are told that only 4% of the desert is sand dunes, which is amazing considering how much we saw of it, anyway without a doubt that has to be on your bucket list, at the top it’s just absolute serenity and considering how amazing my group was it was so nice spending sometime there with them overlooking the desert. 

Eventually we had to come down and that actually took 10 minutes but only because we stopped for photographs. Breakfast was put out for us so after eating we were now heading deeper than ever into the dunes, we got in the truck and because of Augustus’ weight he can only take us to a certain point and then we have to get 4x4 land cruisers. By that time it was only 9am and it was already 40 degrees and being in the desert it was even hotter than normal. The sand was way too hot for us to walk barefoot so our hiking boots were back on and you can imagine how it feels, the intense heat combined with boots and backpacks. As we were walking Colleen spotted out spiders and trees that open up once every few years. Apparently the bushmen in the desert have to leave the youngest and oldest when they have no food or water and they don't look back, they leave them and just keep walking, the reason is they can always have a baby and if they found food or water they can come back from them. 

We walked up and down small sand dunes and small salt panels until we can see Big Daddy, yup that’s the actual name of the biggest sand dune in Namib Desert, it’s about 300metres high, then there was a dune which is shaped like a lizard, and then Big mama. All these names made me crack up, but then there was Deadvlei it’s the most place photographed by National Geographic and I am not surprised. 

Dead Vlei is a clay pan which is surrounded by Big Daddy and mama, they are considered the highest dunes in the world. It was formed after rainfall when the river flooded creating shallow pools, Namib desert has seen drought for years and the sand dunes slowly moved towards the pan which didn't allow water from the river to flow through. The trees have been there for almost 900 years!! Yes holy shit, they are completely dried out. They are quiet haunting but really cool.

I honestly don't think any picture of mine does it justice but I will still share these to encourage people to go there despite how sweaty it gets ha. I met two girls from London chilling on the trees which we were specifically told not to do because of how old they are but they looked so cool and they were from my area in London. It felt like a bit of home was there for a second.

Afterwards we met up with the rest of the group to get back on the 4x4’s, we kind of pushed in which backfired and got us waiting another hour and a half or two to get back to the truck, not a proud moment but it was all quiet funny. After everyone was on Augustus we hit the road again to get to our campsite.

On the way we stopped at a small town called Solitaire, this bit is hilarious, the population of this town is only 92, Colleen told us they have the best brownies and Apple pies ever and considering we haven't had desert in a while we all couldn't wait to treat ourselves. I thank god I went to the loo because when I came back I found out that Jo and Beth have already bought a brownie and it was literally as hard as rock haha. Also this bakery has a picture of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when they came to visit the bakery, as their daughter Shiloh is from Namibia. After our hilarious stop and hard rock disappointing brownies we got back on to drive to our campsite.

This is a campsite that for the first few hours I was wondering why we were there, the heat was so unbareable and we were all so tired that us girls spent ages in the truck rather then sitting in the heat outside, we just lay down there joking about the silliest of things but it was just so funny because of our condition. The campsite was literally in the middle of nowhere so it can only pump in 500 litres everyday, and considering there are 24 of us who want to shower we had to be really careful about when we choose to shower and when showering. 

This is the one night Colleen said we would be able to sleep outside, under the stars, even though there was a water whole next to us where Zebras would come to drink and fight, it was still safe. Lulu made her mums recipe of Kudu steak, I am so picky with my meats, I hate trying anything new I just feel disgusted but today I didn't have a choice, she made me try a piece when everyone was away and I have to admit it was super tasty. It was the first time I have properly spoken to Beth, she asked me lots of questions about my religion and I knew this was coming sooner or later but it didn't feel weird or uncomfortable, it felt like she actually wanted to learn and was very understanding of it. It was really nice but I have to admit slightly awkward, just because I am awkward at times. When everyone got back we had a really nice dinner, Colleen briefed us on tomorrows events driving up to Swakopmund a town in Namibia which was founded by Germans before, she mentioned we will see a lot of German architecture and possibly a lot of Germans, I then said in a sarcastic tone (not meaning it) “Yay more Germans” everyone cracked up, only a joke because of all the Germans on our trip, and I have no hate for them, I was born there. 

After dinner and a yummy desert we lined up 20 mattresses side by side, I made sure I was sleeping in the middle because I didn't want anything to climb on top of me although insects and animals don’t really have a route. I laid out my sleeping bag and put my mosquito head net, which then really made everyone crack up they couldn't believe I was actually sleeping with it and because of my fear of insects I wasn’t going to risk anything touching me while I am sleeping, it was enough I decided to not put a tent up haha. We all got in our sleeping bags and watched the shooting stars and the sky. There was not one bit that wasn't filled with stars it was the most magical thing ever, I couldn't sleep for ages because I just wanted to keep on watching it.