Among the towering red dunes of Namib-Naukluft National Park in the central Namib Desert is an area known as Sossusvlei. It is a strange and alien landscape where, over the thousands of years, the sand has literally rusted. Nearby here there is an even more ancient "place of no return":DeadVlei; its name means "dead marsh" (from English dead, and Afrikaans vlei, a lake or marsh in a valley between the dunes). It is a white clay pan also referred to as "Dooie Vlei" which is the original fully Afrikaans name.
The area is scattered with hundreds of dead Acacia trees that once thrived when water from the Tsauchab River soaked this piece of land. Some 900 years ago the river diverted its course, leaving Dead Vlei literally high and dry.
It became too dry in Dead Vlei for the trees to even decompose. They simply scorched black in the sun, monuments to their own destruction. The trees, now over 1000 years old, form a barren forest. The area, however, is not entirely without life. Salsola shrubs and clumps of Nara melon stay alive by subsisting off of morning mists. Dead Vlei has been claimed to be surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world, the highest reaching 300-400 meters which rest on a sandstone terrace.
It is a 44-mile drive from the park gates to the dunes of Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. One of the many reasons to go is to experience the sunrise (or sunset) over the huge red sand dunes of the Namib desert. The skies are among the clearest on the planet.
Photo credits: Cvancoillie, Malgorzata Drewniak, Photosky, Pytyczech.