Sandstorm approaching; know when to hold it, know when to fold it and know when to run!

There were arctic gale force winds for 2 solid days and our flimsy tents and broken bodies could not take another assault. It was time to pack up and make haste! We left just in time. We closed the Koiimasis farm gate, and sped off down the beautiful D707 road in the direction of the red desert. It was a relief to be in the car with the fan blowing gently, shuttling down the dusty road through some of Namibia’s most spectacular landscapes, where the red desert meets the rocky Tirasberg mountains.

As with any road trip, some good tunes to accompany the landscape you are looking at, is a must! One of our favourite old school tunes was in full swing and the lyrics seemed just right for the moment!

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done” – The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

For there in the distance was something we’d never seen before, a wall of red sand blowing in our direction. It was only a matter of time before it would reach Ranch Koiimasis and we knew instinctively that that great big bellowing cloud of sand would be no good! It’s common knowledge in these parts that a sand storm can strip all the paint off your vehicle. When hiring a vehicle in Namibia, taking out insurance for this possibility is a must, especially in the South where the wind blows regularly and the dunes of Sossusvlei can eat your car alive!

Lucky for us, the D707 road turned right just in time for us to dodge the cloud of sand that was steadily moving towards us. I felt sorry for the cattle attempting to escape the cloud, knowing full well that in a matter of minutes they’d be in the thick of it.

Racing against a sandstorm in Southern Namibia
C27 road to Sossusvlei
Sandstorm coming from Sossusvlei

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that has nothing to do with you, This storm is you. Something inside you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up the sky like pulverized bones.” 
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Lianne Ashton Photography
Road C27
Sunday shopping on the horse and cart

It was time to head home – we had 2 days of solid driving ahead of us to get back to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. We really, really needed a good night sleep! So we stayed at the same place that we stayed on our first night, at the Goibib Mountain Lodge. We knew what to expect. The campsite was clean and well organised in the way of facilities.

But then the unexpected happened, again! Our tired tent started to flap and shudder. The wind had followed us. It had found us tucked away in the Goibib mountains just as we were wrapping our heads around the prospect of a good night sleep! And then it started to rain! It was wonderful that it was raining in winter in the desert – who were we to complain about such a thing? But tonight, sleep was the only card we wanted to play. A lack of sleep and the persistent gusts of wind over the last few days had been like Chinese torture!

We did the unthinkable! We decided to move ourselves and our mattresses into the men’s bathrooms! (They were very clean, with electricity, 4 walls and a roof – everything a weary camper could ask for! Importantly, we were also the only people in the campsite!)

Is it surprising that of all the nights in Namibia, we had our best night’s sleep in the men’s toilets at the Goibib Mountain Lodge campsite! That says a lot for a toilet!

This is one night that we we wont forget!

“It’s not a bad lesson to learn in the bleaker months: how you view a storm is a question of perspective; provided you find the right rock to watch it from, it could be the most incredible thing you’ll ever witness.” 
― Dan Stevens

11 replies »

    • Thank you 🙂 Sleeping in the bathrooms makes for a good story, at least! We told ourselves a few times that night! I’ve got to give it to the Namibian campsites in general, they’re pretty sparkly clean on a whole compared to the other African countries we have travelled around!

  1. My goodness, that is a cathartic post! I have had a fascination with dust storms since my childhood, and this piece is one of the very few that immersed me with its narration, not to speak of the splendid photographs. Finding shelter in men’s toilet has got to be unforgettable in more ways than one.

    • Thank you so much! Yep, for us it was a first! I’m very glad we only got to see the edge of it and didn’t need to travel through it! We timed our exit perfectly! And as for the toilet – I’ve got to give it to the Namibians – the campsites in general are world class, especially the toilets!!!

    • Thanks Mike. I’m sure you will have better luck than we did with the weather. Rain and wind like we had during winter is definitely not the ‘norm.’ Just before the gusts of wind started, we also went to Ludertiz which is known for being the windy capital of Namibia and had perfectly still weather for 2 nights. The calm before the storm perhaps! Will you be going to Kolmanskop? (the abandoned mining town near Luderitz.) I think you would love it and you’d have a blast with your photography!

    • Yes, Kolmamskop is on the itinerary as is Luderitz. I had trouble finding a tour which concentrated on the south and swerved away from Etosha – only a Namibian company could offer this. I hope my camera will be working overtime 🙂