Get stuck in the inhospitable Namib, and you’ll likely end up a skeleton. But Dale Morris meets a four-wheel-driving, desert-dwelling guide who knows just how to survive.
It was the third day of a six-night, 4×4 trip through 500 kilometres of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, and we were parked in stunned silence on the lip of the Wall of Death. It was a steep, coastal dune of frightening size, and ahead of us our desert guide (and a bit of a maverick) Volker Jahnke had driven over the edge, skiing his Land Cruiser some 200 hundred metres towards the ocean below.
I’d never seen driving skills quite like his. I’d never seen a car surf on sand before, and I had never seen a sand dune so scary. I swear to you, it was growling at us.
“Scientists still aren’t sure what makes these dunes rumble,” Volker shouted as his vehicle slipped along in an avalanche of roaring sand. “It might be static or air pockets or who knows what. But no matter the cause, it sure sounds impressive doesn’t it? Now come on Dale, keep the nose straight,” he urged me as I followed, behind the wheel of my self-drive. “Try not to camber. And whatever you do, don’t roll.”
I tried in vain to control my descent, but it was hopeless, and in the end I just let go of the steering wheel with a wail of despair and fear. Fortunately, the din from the rumbling dune (a sound reminiscent of a jet fighter on take-off) drowned out my girlish screams, and saved my face.
“Piece of cake,” I said, feigning nonchalance as I pulled my vehicle from the bottom of the dune onto the windswept beach.
Dale Morris continues his tale in the December 2014 edition of Country Life. For now, try your hand at identifying some of the wildlife he spotted on this Namibian adventure.