The Sun Scorched Trees of The Sossusvlei
Thought to be 24 million years old, the wind blown shifting dune desert of the Soussuvlei finally took its current form about 2 million years ago. Rivers originally ran through area but as the climate changed they dried out. Dunes were blown across other rivers cutting off water supplies and left Vleis (marshes) where camel thorn trees used to grow.
When the water dried up, river beds became arid, fissured and barren. Salt deposits laid down over the years were exposed and pans formed between the dunes. The dunes surrounded and hide the pans from sight for centuries until they were discovered in our recent history. The trees in the marshes died as the water evaporated and the sun scorched them black. Thought to be over 900 years old, camel thorn tree skeletons are outlined starkly against terracotta sand and blue sky. Twist blackened fingers reach upward for heights never to be grown into.
The Dead Vlie, overshadowed by Big Mama the highest dune in the world, is located in the national park. It is possible to either walk 4km through the dunes before veering off across the pans and cutting through more sand dunes for another 2km before reaching it or catching a safari truck for the first leg then walking the lesser route. Our guide gave us options:-
a) Walk all the way in the heat of the day, which would take at least 3 hours then catch a ride back to the bus. Possibly becoming a victim to heat stroke and/or a bit of scorching on the side.
b) Pay 5 dollars for a ride to the beginning of the 2km walk to the Vlei, save a lot of energy and see the sun scorched trees before the heat haze hits then catch a ride back. Saving a lot of time and energy.
Option A sounded like a grand idea until we realised that our driver thought he was a rally driver and nearly turned the truck during a death defying swerve into a sharp sand curve.
One group chose to take the hard way to the Vlei and walk up Big Mama, we chose the more sedate walk across the pans.
Once again an amazing sight and a photographer’s dream.