A hundred million years ago this huge basin in the Etosha National Park was a lake, fed by the Kunene River in Angola, but 16,000 years ago, due to tectonic plate movement the river was diverted West to the Atlantic and gradually the lake dried up leaving this vast lake bed. At 4800 km² this saltpan, the largest in Africa, can be seen from space.
I’d wanted to see this surreal landscape for a long time, and surprising though it may seem to others, this appealed to me even more than seeing the wildlife in the park! There is this deep need within me to experience vast empty spaces; it’s all part of that humbling vulnerability that I seek. I wanted to feel minute, isolated and insignificant in every possible term. It was difficult of course with anyone else around but fortunately I had a sense of it with just Jani and her two cousins around. We drove out onto the lake (on an ‘official’ stick marked track) and stepped into the baking heat. There was simply nothing ahead of us, almost 50kms to the far side and almost 60 kms to the left and right – it was vast indeed.
The earth was soft and crumbly rather than rock hard. I can imagine in rain it would get very soft indeed. I’ve read that in prolonged heavy rain the whole lake bed floods up to 10cm deep creating an incredible mirror –like surface which attracts thousands of migrating flamingos.