From the red dunes of Sossussvlei you slog your way up the sandy slope to Dead Vlei, the dried out bed of a swamp, or lake, with its dead trees crucified in the morning heat. This must be one of the most photographed places in Namibia, but still irresistible to the photographer, and a place of timelessness and wonderment to the observer.
Here are some images. I was going to do them in black and white, but Rob prefers them in colour. See what you think.
Luderitz, on the southern coast of Namibia, is a time capsule of German Art Nouveau architecture, a sleepy fishing port at the end of a windswept road across a lunar landscape. Our stay there, in December of 2006, after our explorations of Sossussvlei and the Fish River Canyon, was a bit longer than we had planned – in fact, we were lucky to make it.
Somewhere along the road, as we were overtaking a huge pantechnicon, at around 120km per hour, we had a blow-out, and came within microseconds of being killed. Fortunately I managed to bring the Land Rover to a halt – amazingly, the Discovery didn’t even swerve, although it shook as though a fist had struck it. We had to wait an extra day in Luderitz for a spare tyre to come from Windhoek – the original was shredded, and you can’t travel by road through Namibia without a good spare, preferably two.
All of which meant we had plenty of time to sample the Luderitz oysters and to explore the town. Here are some photos, taken on an early morning walk.
Sossusvlei is in the southern part of Namibia, famous for its high red dunes carved by the wind. The dunes are really only red in the early morning, when the sun rises over them.
We went there in 2006, on our first long road trip together, in the Land Rover, getting up early to be at the gate by six, when the Sossusvlei gates open. We took a lot of photographs, as you may imagine. But this image is from the early evening, away from Sossusvlei proper; we had stopped by the roadside for a picnic, setting up the gas braai (BBQ) and the camping chairs and table. This tree, and the line of dunes behind it, had attracted our attention.
I was browsing the other day through photos taken on our first trip to Namibia, back in 2006, when Rob and I had known each other for barely six months and she, to her friends’ dismay (horror?) had set off with this unknown South African in a Land Rover to tour the southern half of a desert country for three weeks – what was she thinking, they must have thought – and thought this particular image was interesting and a little different.
Not the dunes of Sossussvlei, but dunes inland (I think) from Swakopmund. What struck me about this image was the way the blown sand seemed like a stretched skin over the landscape – a kind of cosmic cling-wrap. That, and the surreal swirls and curves of the dunes themselves, the way the sand has just fallen away in places to create a sand-cliff, a pocket, a hollow, and then animal tracks, coming out of nowhere and heading nowhere….
Thanks to Mike Campbell for sharing this wholly recognizable and delightfully uninspiring vision of a most likeable city via Welcome to the new Toronto: the most fascinatingly boring city in the world | Cities | The Guardian
Without question, the most emotionally intense moment of our visit to Namibia in April was the morning we spent, in an open vehicle, with the desert elephants near Twyfelfontein. I have written about this already, in an earlier blog: here is a portfolio of photos that I hope will give you some sense of what is is like to be in their presence, to share their space and appreciate their behaviour.
I have been experimenting, in B&W, with some of the images I took after dark, in Etosha, hoping to suggest something of the elusiveness, silence, otherness you sense when creatures materialise out of the shadows, and go about their business, before melting back into the darkness again.
All of this is work towards an ‘at home’ that Rob and I are planning for the fall, when we will hold an open-house event to show some of my pictures, along with some of the artefacts we brought back with us from our trip in April to South Africa and Namibia: for those who are interested, there will be items for purchase. More importantly, however, there will be wine, and snacks, and an opportunity just to say hi, to reconnect, to chat and relax and enjoy the last of the late summer.
Here are what I think are the two strongest night images, so far.
You know that dream where you are about to sit for an exam, and you realise you haven’t been studying – worse than that, you realise that it’s maths, or chem, or even worse still, you don’t actually know what subject you’re writing? Well, there’s a variant on that nightmare, which is where you realise that your students are about to sit for their exams – and you haven’t actually been doing any teaching: you haven’t been in class, you haven’t marked their assignments, you haven’t prepared them at all. This must be a throwback, I think, to my guilt at having been such a poor teacher – and let me tell you, the ‘teacher’ nightmare is even more scary than the nightmare of failing.
So I rolled out of bed this morning – Rob is in Halifax, away on business – feeling a little bruised and discombobulated – in no fit condition to take anything meaningful forward. Instead, here is a look back at the weekend: I can report to y’all that we had a good time in Detroit, with sister-in-law Cynthia, along with a visit on the departure and return trips to Aunt Pat in Windsor (Aunt Pat is in good shape, and had us both chuckling) and a safe arrival back home on Monday evening. Oh, and by the way, I sailed through US Customs and Immigration with my new Canadian passport 🙂
While in Detroit we were treated by Cynthia to quite the meal at Republic – the top restaurant in the city, and in the top 100 in the US. Lunch the next day was a little more down-market – a Coney Island hotdog (squishy, and messy) at the best Coney Island dispensary in the city. Kinda fun, as you can see from the picture. And we had fun, too, exploring the Belle Isle park in the Detroit River, and admiring the fine fountain, newly restored and blazing white like the Taj Mahal in the summer heat and sunlight.
I’ve thrown in some shots from the Beatles exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum for good measure, and a shot of Rob doing her thing down at the Harbourfront on the Canada Day weekend.
We are off to Detroit in the morning, to spend the weekend with my favourite sister-in-law – Cindy to her friends, but Cynthia to her sister.
I thought – considering where we are going – I should leave you with a photo, as I will most likely be maintaining radio silence until we are back home after the weekend.
No, it’s not Trump – it’s about as good-looking, but it’s a helluva lot smarter. It’s a rhino, heading down to the waterhole at Halali in Etosha, Namibia, for an after-dark rumble.
Which about fits the bill, doesn’t it?