The Sossusvlei (vlei=pan) is a salt-clay pan surrounded by dunes. In the Nama language Sossus means something like “blind river” and refers to the Tsauchab River, which when in flood seeps away in the desert without reaching the only 50 km far Atlantic above ground.
60,000 years ago the Tsauchab River presumably did flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Due to sanding up and cutting off of the river the whole 50 km to the Atlantic consists of different vleis, of which the Sossusvlei is the best known. To compound the situation the wind formed the famous up to 300 metre high dunes, which surround the vleis.
Very seldom, about every ten years after exceptional rains the Tsauchab fills the clay pan with water and forms a lake, which remains for some time thanks to the impermeable clay layers and which forms a beautiful contrast to the surrounding dune landscape with its turquoise water.
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