Namibia: Gallop Across the Desert from Mammoth Dunes to Rubied Sands!

For some reason, I suspected weโ€™d really like Namibia (hence the reason I added it to our several months of Africa travels)…and that suspicion proved true!

All I’d seen years ago was some photographs of some sand and dunes in the interior of Namibia, and that’s all it took.

Why? Because it looked unique.

IF I am going to traipse around the world (esp with children in tow) exploring new areas, there had better be a

  • activity,
  • experience, or
  • landscape

that I can’t find anywhere else in the world!

Otherwise, I’d much rather save my money, time, and energy NOT getting on airplanes.

I repeat: airplanes are not the reason I love to travel to new places. Therefore, there’d better be something good at the end of that flight that made it more than worth it! ๐Ÿ™‚ Just a reminder to

consider your WHY before you takeโ€”nay, plan!โ€”any trip (of any kind, of any distance!).

Galloping through the Namib desert…the bucket list item I never knew I always needed! ๐Ÿ™‚

Thankfully, my family SUPER-enjoyed Namibia as well!

  • As Matt said, “It wasn’t on my list at all…but I’m so glad we went!”
  • And to quote my daughters: “I liked running down the dunes.” “I liked DRIVING down the dunes!” “The desert pool was freezing!” “Remember having to stop on those roads to do that?”
After landing in Windhoek, we had to drive our rental truck 5 hours into the middle of the desert, but not before catching some beautiful sunset views of the hills surrounding Windhoek!

We flew into Windhoek and got our rental truck.

Let me repeat: you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to properly get around Namibia! You’ll see why later…

But first, we needed to grab supplies. Have I mentioned how dangerous I am in foreign grocery stores? I’m always looking for locally-made and/or interesting food stuffs!

I am also always looking for chocolate.

My teammate displays the GIANT HUNK OF NAMIBIAN CHOCOLATE we found and promptly added to our Survival Supplies. PS: Love seeing her bracelets from Zanzibar

and Kenya!

Here, we split up into Father-Daughter and Mother-Daughter teams to attack our food supplies list, half and half.

If you have never driven on Namibian gravel roads for 5 straight hours, then you don’t know.

Even Matt and I didn’t expect it to be as tough as it was to get through. And no bathrooms or toilets along the way, just wide open spaces so you have to time your “stop by the side of the road” with letting any cars you see in distance pass you first…again, if you know, you know. Our daughters will never forget it. ๐Ÿ™‚

90% of all Namibian roads are covered in gravel. (Matt learned this in his “Namibian driver’s test.”)

We were self-driving around Namibia (one of the best African countries to do this in!)…but Matt had to watch a very long, educational video full of all the rules first.

There are a LOT of rules and things to know about driving in Namibia…

All those hours of gravel road driving (at whatever you find to be the highest speed you comfortably can do so) were worth it when we made it to our first stay in the desert!

As in most deserts we’re familiar with in U.S…

…once the sun goes away, the desert can get COLD. And it gets even colder at night…

…but you don’t care because you can take pictures of the stars like this…on your phone…

No filters, this is seriously just a picture I took on my wee phone one night after dinner, pre-bed warmth… The Namib desert sky at night was SO, SO GOOD! Remember too, this is the Southern Hemisphere…

…blows me mind, matey!

I don’t know how much distant from “civilization” you can get than the middle of the Namib Desert, there are very few places, so we were expecting stellar amazement, and we got it.

Looks a lot different during the day!

I’ve heard the Namib desert is the world oldest desert! My daughter also shared with me some interesting facts about the animals here and how they survive.

We decided to go see what dunes we could climb. What they tote as

“The Largest Dune in the World!”

is really only just one of the largest dunes in the world, but not the tallest. Maybe they also measure by volume? I forget. But even one of the locals we chatted to pointed out, how would they get people to come unless they called it the biggest? I agree.

Look at those tiny dots of people, all climbing up sand…

Honestly, we didn’t think we’d climb “The Largest Dune In the World” with 9 and 6-year-old girls, but we figured we could climb one of the nearby ones that looked interesting.

We were wrong! Upon arriving, we decided it didn’t look too ginormous for our daughters to attempt, so we went for it!

In case you didn’t know, sand is MUCH more difficult to walk up than regular old mountain soil and rock…

…but thankfully I’d had a text reminder from a friend back in California (who takes her kids up Half Dome) about hiking with kids. “Skittles in the pocket!” she says cheerfully, when I ask for tips.

We went for “Namibian mango in the pocket,” and it got those two girls up to the very tip top of

the Greatest Dune In The Wooooorld!

The ocean is far, far across that sand.

And then came the girls’ favorite part:

running DOWN the sand dune

to the famous salt pan area below (Soussusvlei – the Afrikaans “vlei” you’ll see in names often means a shallow seasonal lake or pond).

There they are! Two little dots getting quieter and quieter the further down they went. ๐Ÿ™‚

We met them halfway down and had so much fun taking funny laughing videos of all the fun. It was truly impressive to feel how far down we had to walk/sink to get back down to the bottom. The photos make it look like deceptively shorter distances.

Then to explore Soussusvlei on the way back (which I recommend: hike the dune as early as possible before the sun comes up!).

Blackened, dead camelthorn trees.

Soussusvlei (pronounced like sow-soos-vlay) is a salt and clay pan here in the south Namib desert. If you’re interested in visiting yourself, you can see more good info here.

“We were up there!”

After driving “home,” the girls complained about how cold the pool was, but you can’t blame the owners for not wanting to heat it. In the middle of the desert.

Our view of the sunrise in the Namib desert.

On a whim, I joined horse ride I saw posted near where we were staying.

The girls ride too, as you’ll remember if you’ve followed us from California to European horse riding, but this place didn’t allow anyone under 12 to ride. Strict rule. Didn’t matter their skill. Just age. So Matt encouraged me to go by myself and stayed with the girls by the pool.

We were a small group, the only others being the wife and children of a European diplomat who were on vacation. Their English was excellent and I had lovely conversations with the mother and their oldest daughter, who was entering university and feeling concerned about “what to do with [her] life.” Oh, how I remember that time! We had a nice chat, I listened a lot, and I still think of her and hope she was able to shift perspective just a tad and relax moving forward.

Speaking of relaxing…

…after riding through the desert and talking for an hour or two, we arrived at a table and chairs set up by a couple guys who had ridden out in a vehicle to set up for us. Snacks and drinks while talking and watching the sun set over the Namib desert…not a bad impromptu decision for mama!

Also, we parked our horses under this tree where a community of weaver birds had OUTDONE themselves. It was like an apartment complex for them in there.

Taking pictures while riding isn’t always the easiest ๐Ÿ˜Š (or something I really want to do while enjoying a ride…I have a love/hate relationship with mobile phones)…

…but I never wanted to forget this unique experience…

…and I’m so visual, I love photos to look back on and remember.

Progression of how the colors so quickly went from yellow to orange to purple and deep blue…

The next day we said goodbye to our desert casa…

…and packed up the truck.

Did I mention the tip of wrapping your luggage in garbage bags to protect them from (most) of the sand that will get INSIDE the protected trunk area?

That’s how intense these roads are.

We drove another 5 hours, this time to the Namibian coast…

Swakopmund is a fairly quiet town near the coast, and was our base for several days before we circled back around Namibia.

After discovering this refreshingly innovative restaurant for lunch, we ate here every day! So much to try…

Namibian salt is famous! Here’s one of the biggest areas: you big, beautiful mountain of salt.

Timing the tide so we could drive out to Sandwich Harbor…

With stops to climb up to the top, of course!

See all the fun people are having going near-straight-down the sand?!?

We had fun, to say the least!

Another top to take family pics…

And on the way back, this sand has ground-up rubies turning it red!

Namibia used to be part of South Africa, interestingly enough!

No mas, but we were heading to South Africa!


While you’re waiting for us to finish up our South Africa travels (starting by renting a house in Cape Town for a month!), you’ll want to check out our earlier Africa posts like

  1. Rwanda
  2. Tanzania & Zanzibar
  3. Kenya (minimal time spent here because of yellow fever warnings)
  4. Morocco
  5. Egypt pics (BC/before kids)
  6. South Africa (coming after that!)
  7. Madagascar (coming after that!)
  8. Mauritius (coming after that!)
  9. then to India…oh man, just wait for it! ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜‹

OR, if you missed it, you’ll want to see the European portions of our trip, such as

PS: Following these steps has enabled us to make our dreams a reality, create a home that worked FOR us (instead of the other way around)!

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