It’s a good thing we woke up early to leave Lone Pine to get to Death Valley before noon, because once the sun rises over the valley it gets hot…and you start to realise where the valley gets its name from…
The Gangsta’s Paradise song (and Psalm 24) refers to ‘The Valley of the shadow of death’, but the valley we found ourselves in, had no shadows at all, only miles and miles of dry dunes and open planes.
We stopped at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes before 10am and it was already a challenge to be out in the heat for more than 15 minutes. The cold bottled water I had in my hand turned to lukewarm tea-like water within 5 minutes of being in the sun; you could feel the heat in the air you breathed.
At this point Dirk felt adventurous and decided to hike to the furthest sand dune he could see (without water). I, being the responsible one, went to wait in the airconditioned car and found myself reading articles in the handout Death Valley newspaper about how you will not survive in the valley without water and how a wife and husband once went on a hike and the husband died form sunstroke. Needless to say I was watching the dunes like a hawk and calculating how soon I would be able to summon help from a ranger if I should see Dirk fall down on a dune in the distance. Luckily Dirk returned from his hike in due time without being harmed.
The main attraction of Death Valley is the Badwater Basin (In Afrikaans this would actually mean bath water); the hottest place on earth because of it’s height (or rather how low it is) of 86m below sea level. Badwater basin is a surreal landscape of vast salt flats. We reached this after 12 noon and could feel the temperature rise from the ground upwards. Death Valey holds the records for the hottest temperature of 57 degrees Celcius that was reached 1923. Needless to say, the 150m walk out onto the planes felt like the last walk you will ever take on earth. The salty earth had different textures along the route.