Big Daddy - Dune Climbing at Sunrise

Once the sun has gone down, we drive back to camp, cook a light dinner, the lads have a few beers (I'm not even up for that) and crash out. The heat has exhausted us all. And, more to the point, we're going to drive out again to the dunes the following morning, but this time by early morning light. By 9pm I'm out like a light and before I know it, Jeff is shaking me awake.

It's pitch black outside and we dress silently, by's 45 minutes drive out to the dunes and the earlier we arrive, the better. Slowly, as I gaze out of the window, I see the sun rising, the sky tinged pink and yellow. What is really interesting though is that, as with yesterday evening. as the sun rises and sets, one the dunes are alive with colour on one side yet completely shadowed on the other.

Somehow or other, and I really don't understand it (I wasn't even under the influence of alcohol!) last night the boys convinced me to climb 'Big Daddy' with them. All of my protests that I wasn't up for it were flattened by their counter-arguments – astonishing views (including Dead Man's vlei), amazing photo opps and (most tempting of all) the chance to tell people at dinner parties back in Europe that I climbed a monster dune - height 325 metres. Sold!

I've come prepared, with a backpack full of water, a floppy hat and some serious sunscreen. And so we begin our ascent, which takes us the best part of an hour, to the first plateau. It's not as difficult as I thought it would be, though I'm glad I'm fit (and laid off the beer last night). But it's only when we start the second leg, do I realise how arduous the trek really is. I gulp at my water. Jeff's twisted an ankle but is bravely hobbling on. As I look down (I don't have the best head for heights) I begin to realise just how far up we are. The sun is shining brightly now, and there's no shade to rescue us. I'm exhausted. but it's too late to turn back.

And so, one foot in front of another, I trek on, exhausted, aching, and wondering why I ever let myself be talked into such a madcap idea. Then suddenly, I realise we're there at the peak. We made it! I look at my watch – two hours, two and a half litres of water and one banana later, mission accomplished.

There's only one regret – I realise I've left my camera back at the camp ground. (I never was much of a morning person, unable to think clearly before several cups of coffee). But my comrades have theirs, and so we stand around, admiring the fabulous views and snapping each other. Only one thing remains – to run down the surface, like maniacs. This is the part I've been waiting for! After all that effort, I feel I deserve at least a few minutes of unadulterated pleasure.

We slip and slide and scream like maniacs... two hours to climb up, less than five minutes to make it down. I bounce the last few metres on my bum, laughing hysterically. And then the four of us find a little shade and break open some crackers that Pete stashed in his pack, as a reward for our intrepid trek. The sun is blazing, the shadows on the dunes are long gone and I'm ravenous. Lunch back at the camp beckons...and perhaps I'll even celebrate with a beer from the boys' cooler. After all, how often do you get to scale the heights of a Big Daddy?