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Travel Namibia 29n7 t Explore Sesriem Canyon Four kilometres from Sesriem Campsite, gateway to Sossusvlei and the world of apricot sand dunes, is Sesriem Canyon, a narrow gorge one kilometre long and thirty metres deep. Carved by the Tsauchab River over millions of years, the small canyon was an important stopping point for early pioneers, travellers and explorers, who paused at its edges to collect water from the depths. Tying together six ' riems', strips of raw- hide, they were able to draw precious water from the pools. The river runs through the sedimentary layers of the canyon after good summer rains, leaving pools of cool water which slowly dry out in later months. Walking through the canyon, it is possible to feel the ghost of a river that periodically rushes down in flood, and has the force to chisel away rock walls. Pigeons and pale- winged starlings watch from above as you journey through time. by Beccy Mair nAMIBIA tORUISM Photographer Reuben Heydenrych took this picture looking south in the Namib. The photograph was taken over ten hours to reveal the circular trail of the stars' light as Earth spins on its axis

30 Travel Namibia Essential Namibian8 Wait for it to rain q Every so often it rains in the Namib Naukluft. Sometimes years go by without a drop, then it might rain three times in one year. When it comes, the water temporarily transforms the park. Executive Director at the Gobabeb Training and Research Centre, Joh Henschel, works in the heart of the Namib. He describes the phenomenon of rain in the desert. " It begins with a sense of anticipation, in summer, that is a peculiar mixture of hope without expectation. Eyes scan the eastern escarpment for clouds, usually in vain. Distant rainfall changes the tune. Enormous clouds build up and hover temptingly above the ground. Insects buzz frantically and many birds flitter about; springbok disappear, heading to where the rain is already falling. However, the ground under our feet remains parched and cracked and somehow feels even drier than usual as our imagination plays games. Then the rain comes, slowly at first but the pattering raindrops are pure music and the fragrance of freshly- wetted ground is deeply pleasing. We feel like singing, but then shy away from that as the serene, calm desert suddenly explodes into gushes of torrential rain, followed by jets of wind and lashings of lightning. Streamlets flood, eroding, pooling and soaking into the thirsty earth. Insects are silenced, and springbok hunch their backs uncomfortably. The thrill continues when the rain is over. Sunrays burst out of thinning clouds, illuminating a new world of damp, dark earth. The springbok break out in graceful leaps of celebration, and our feelings follow them. In a few days the landscape blushes with green grass, fattening succulents, and lilies that pop out of the sand. Creatures erupt all over with a rush of tiny feet. Then, all too soon, the grass turns gold and the desert gradually ebbs to baldness. Rain becomes a distant memory. Knowing what rainfall means in the Namib makes you appreciate it all the more. If you look closely, the desert's parched landscape is vibrant with tenacious life that is remarkably adapted for waiting… for the next time it rains". n9 Take a wildlife safari p The Namib Naukluft's shifting sand dunes and gravel plains receive between 15 and 100mm of rain per year. Yet, remarkably, life has adapted to survive, evolving to form its own unique ecosystem. The cold Benguela current travelling from the Antarctic meets the onshore winds from the tropics, creating the condensation that is vital to sustain life in the Namib. Precious moisture comes from the fog moving in from the coast. Like pixies, creatures venture out at night when temperatures drop. Tracks seen in the crisp mornings may include dune- dwelling beetles, lizards, snakes, spiders and scorpions. Approximately two hundred species of tenebrionid beetles live in Namib sands. The fog- basking beetle derives moisture by condensing the Atlantic mist on its body, positioning itself so that water droplets run down into its mouth. The large dancing spider called the ' white lady of the Namib' lives in tunnels lined with spider silk under Then the rain comes, slowly at first but the pattering raindrops are pure music and the fragrance of freshly- wetted ground is deeply pleasing Beccyeccyeccy Mair