A Land of Contrasts

Much of where I have been in Southern Africa is the direct result of going on Geological Field Trips.  Lots and lots of field trips.

When I first arrived in South Africa to further my studies in all things “rock” I quickly cottoned on to the fact that the best way to explore the country, and earn some well-needed cash, was to offer my skills and services as a designated driver for the undergraduate field trips.  The best trip of any year, which all of us post-graduates vied for, was the Honours Field Trip.  In 1997, the foreign destination of choice was Namibia.

Despite visiting mine upon mine upon mine, and driving a ridiculous number of kilometers (~5000km in 1 week!), we still managed to take a day off to visit Sossusvlei.  We also stopped in at Luderitz – due to the alternator in my vehicle packing up and blowing a few fuses along the way.  At night.  Just for fun.

The route, approximately

The headlights didn’t work unless on full beam.  The indicators didn’t operate – but oddly enough, the hazard lights worked just fine.  The engine would cut out every time we approached a Stop junction; suddenly there seemed to be a great deal more Stop junctions.  The only way to keep the machine alive was to pull the choke out.  Luckily, the vehicle was sufficiently old enough to still have a choke.

Anyway, it was all fun and games, and earned us a few hours delay to breath in the cool, misty sea air.

Sossusvlei could not be a more different setting.  Rich red sands and electric blue skies – this desert just begs to be photographed.  Sossusvlei basically translates as “marsh of no return” – the river that sometimes flows into the desert gets this far, and no further.

If I remember correctly, the track from Sesriem to Dune 45 and onwards into Sossusvlei becomes 4×4 only, which meant we walked a good long way to see this remote corner of the world.  It was absolutely worth it.

Dune 45:

The view from the top of Dune 45:

A hint of an oasis:


Dune 45, again. I can’t resist – I love the dessication cracks in the sand here…

24 thoughts on “A Land of Contrasts

  1. 5000 km in 1 week??? Gosh! That’s a LOT of kilometers in a week. By the way the contrast between the color of the dunes and the clear blue sky is so beautiful!

    1. Thank you Bama – yes the colours were absolutely intense – so stunning 🙂
      I think the use of a polarizing filter helped that translate to the photographs. There were a few other shots I took without the filter, which looked completely washed out.

  2. Wow – the colour of the sand is amazing. Really beautiful. The last picture reminds me of a painting where the artist has used a palette knife to apply paint thickly!

    1. Thank you Sheila – it was quite the adventure indeed! Luckily, for us we didn’t have too many problems en route. The usual tyre puncture made the odd appearance though!

  3. Thank you Nicole – Namibia is so starkly beautiful… the only trouble is the vast distances that you need to cover to get the variation.. This is the first post from my first year in Africa – there are 15 more years worth of trips to come!!

    1. It looks like we ought to do a “destination swap” – I’m still holding on to the idea that we’ll get to visit the Kalahari some day!!

    1. Thanks Nigel – it was such a striking setting. I don’t think I’ve seen sand, or any other deserts for that matter, such a brilliant red!

  4. Amazing photography! I love the contrast of the neutral dark shades followed by the vibrant bold colours! This is a side of Africa I’d never imagined! Thanks for sharing the unexpected! =D

    1. Hi zoetic * epics – thank you for your kind comments – I’m glad that you enjoyed this “unexpected” side of Africa 🙂

  5. Wonderful photos Lu. I haven’t been to this part of the world, but will eventually make it. BTW, my professional career was as an Exploration Geophysicist, so I can relate to travel that might not be on someone’s bucket list. I was the Manager of Exploration for Sun Oil in Sudan for a couple of years in the mid 80s, and what with the coups and all, it was an exciting time. I enjoy your photos and will keep coming back. It’s great to find other geoscientists in the blogosphere. Best of luck. ~James

    1. Thank you James for all your wonderful comments! It is great to meet with fellow geoscientists – and yes, Sudan probably wouldn’t be on too many people’s bucket lists. I’m sure that was rather hectic!

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