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NAMIBIA

Living Sands of the Sossusvlei Dunes


By Jheri


     Sand dunes are fascinating, living entities, eternally shifting and moving. The sand dunes in Namibia, on the southwestern African coast, are approximately 30 million years old and spread over 32,500 square kilometers. Dunes grow about 20 meters a year, taking regular and irregular forms. The sand comes from river deposits in the ocean, which are then blown further inland. The port city of Walvis Bay in Namibia spends approximately 1 million dollars a year to keep the streets of their town sand-free. They place wooden sticks on the tops and sides of the dunes or plant a special bush, which must be watered only with seawater, to keep the dunes more stable.

     The Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp does not have any of these urban dune problems. When Dr. Robert Kelly and his three friends rented airplanes and flew around the Sossusvlei camp for a week recently, the dunes were, “ . . . really a wilderness moonscape, totally isolated, desolate, protected and interesting.” The dunes he saw were as high as 1,500 feet. The landscape was dotted with rocks, rolling hills, low brush, willows and trees along a dry riverbed. Some of the animals he saw drinking at spring-fed watering holes the size of football fields included antelopes, elephants, warthogs, orex, hyenas and springbocks (small antelopes who jump high in the air). Human animals were seen ballooning, skiing and snowboarding above and on the dunes (also jumping high in the air). Each dune in this semi-desert area was ascribed a number. So Dune No. 47 in Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp was where Dr. Robert Kelly garnered the soil for the Namibia component of Common Ground 191, fine-grain, slightly orange colored sand.

     Don’t think that Namibia is all remote sand dunes, though. The capital city of Windhoek has a population of 1.5 million, and many exotic peoples have lived in Namibia over time: Damara, San, Herero, Ovambo, Kavango, Caprivians first, followed by Germans, who took over. After much conflict over possession, Namibia gained its complete independence as recently as March 21, 1990, a very young country hosting these ancient sand dunes. The Kimberly Diamond Mines are located in Namibia. Walvis Bay is the major port city of Namibia—as long as the shifting sand dunes are kept at bay.

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