Sossusvlei has waited for me long enough. Seeing it in the first light of dawn made me want to run along the crest of the nearest dune and not stop until I reach the sun. However, scaling the sand dunes is hard work. Eventually, I took off my shoes and, packing more and more red grains of sand into the thick woven fabric of my hiking socks, dug my feet into the dunes, crest after crest. Breaking the facets of sand mountains, perfectly shaped by wind throughout the night, was pure fun. I was first to get to the dunes that morning. Got up in the middle of the night, and were here long before sunrise and the crowds.

sossuvlei

That evening I tried kudu. The animal proved to be just as tasty as it is beautiful and graceful with its corkscrew-shaped horns. I dined with the acting manager — a very goal-oriented 22-year-old African woman by the name of Maria who left her 80-year-old grandmother and younger sister, after both her parents had passed away from AIDS, and came to Namibia’s capital at fifteen to find a better life. Her family had no idea of her fate for over a year. She lived on the streets, because the money she had saved up from selling cigarettes and candy was not enough at first, but she worked, saved, and eventually got a job at a lodge progressing from cleaning lady, to chef, to administrative worker, to acting manager. Now, she saves up her vacation days and goes up north to see her family every month. She has literally put a roof over her grandma’s head, a mattress under her, and a cell phone in her hand.