Namibia – Fish River Canyon

We were surprised last night being the longest day of the year that it was dark by 8:30 pm. The morning sun made up for it shining through at 5:00 am and heating the air significantly. I literally rolled out of bed at 6:00 am since my hip was hurting and rolling was the only way to get up. My back had started to bother me before we left Hungary, but with all of the last minute university duties, I never had time to do anything about it. I held tightly to the belief that it was stress related and once vacationing, this would resolve on its own. I was mistaken in this assumption as it is getting worse rather than better. Outside, it sounded like a bird convention on the river with every one of them vying for the right to be the leader of the group. There is apparently no Robert’s Rules of Order for sure amongst this bird group. It did sound more like the British Parliamentary proceedings in a heavily debated session. With the sun shimmering on the river’s currents, the joyful noise of the feathered occupants was ultimately relaxing. Breakfast was not until 8:00, so we slowly meandered to the lodge, the same as where we had dinner last night. Our offerings included three different cold cereals, three choices of breads, and a wide variety of toppings: margarine, jellies, marmalades, honey, cheese spread, peanut butter, and Marmite. Bread is toasted in a hot cast iron skillet, a clever idea. Today, breakfast will be available until 10:00, later than what will be the custom for the duration of the trip, we were told. There is an optional river trip for 120 Rand for those who wish to go, so those who are will need to eat earlier than the rest of us. Ron decided he would like to do this trip. Bruce said it was not too energetic, a low energy relaxing trip, as the currents were mild. They would be gone for about three hours. Having concerns about my hip and the ability to sit in a canoe for this length of time, I begged off. Since there are two to a canoe, Ron was teamed up with Thomas, the student intern. My alternative choice was to sit on our patio outside the cottage and write, watch the birds, and just relax with the voices of the river’s currents. After a short time, I felt as if someone showered me with relaxation dust. I had not been this mellow in ages. I believe this was the best choice for me and hoped Ron was having as enjoyable a time. At the start of the river’s edge, there is a patch of vegetation directly in front of my view. Every once in a while, a bright red winged black bird flew into it. Each attempt to get a picture of it was fruitless, as the bird hid amongst the plants as soon as the camera is focused. Many of the other birds look similar to sparrows or starlings. A heron was sitting on a tree branch stuck into the bottom of the river and poking up to the sky. The heron was there for so long, I thought perhaps it was part of the tree, until it decided to fly off, leaving no doubts. By half past noon, the canoes still were not appearing in the water for their return to the dock. It was a little concerning, but they finally did start to show close to 1:00. Ron and Thomas were the last ones, which I had expected. I knew Ron would stop the canoe to take pictures along the way. When they did return, their canoe became stuck in some reeds and the guide had to go back to push them out. Everyone had complaints that the guide was not effectively guiding, but trying to rush them along and was way ahead of the group. The Swedish family of four, in the next cottage, were all back, showered, and dressed before Ron and Thomas returned. Again, we had lunch in the lodge and then packed up for our next long drive of four hours before reaching our next nights accommodations. On the way, we had our first flat tire just as we passed the Ai Ais sign to tell us where we were at. It took about 30 minutes for Bruce and John, just the driver, to fix. The tires are huge and it is a multi-person task. All of us stood around and watched for some minutes, then decided we should be huddling in the shade of the truck. It was getting toasty in the sun. Once were on our way again, within minutes, we passed a car with a flat tire also. None of the ‘highways’ are paved, but only gravel or dirt covered. We arrived at the Fish River Canyon National Park camp grounds run by the Namibia National Park system (www.namibia-travel.net). The cottages were certainly not as luxurious as last nights, but clean and sufficient. Each cottage sleeps four people in two bedrooms with a small kitchen area in between and a bathroom with shower to one side. We shared the cottage with Omo and Jean. We only had time to drop our things in the room, then we drove to Big Fish Canyon. This is the 2nd oldest canyon in the world, the oldest being in South Africa. It is the second largest in the world, with the Grand Canyon in the US as number one. The Fish and Orange rivers meet here. It developed predominantly during the pluvial times – a rainy climatic epoch – many millions of years ago, making it 180 km long, up to 27 km wide in some areas, and up to 550 meters deep. The Fish River Canyon probably formed about 500 million years ago. However, the gorge was not only created by water erosion, but also through the collapse of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth’s crust. Because the Fish River is being dammed in Hardap near Mariental, it only contains a small amount of running water. In winter, during the dry season, the river bed is often completely dry or reduced to only the occasional puddle. However, after rainfalls in summer the river can become a raging torrent. The early San people’s legend was that the canyon was gouged by a frantic snake, Koutein Kooru, as it was being chased by hunters. The Fish River is, at 650 kilometres, the longest river in Namibia. Its source lies in the eastern Naukluft Mountains and flows south-west of Ai-Ais into the Oranje.

We hiked part of the perimeter. It was amazing to see and since I have not been to the Grand Canyon, it was a treat besides. We waited in the parking lot until sunset where the vista point did not disappoint us with a splendid scene, then had dinner by the truck. Omo and Anna the nine year old spent a lot of the truck driving time playing hand games. This keeps all of us entertained with their rhymes as they play. After dinner, they did a “presentation” to show their advanced skills of hand coordination. The children are exceptionally intelligent and having lived in multiple foreign countries, they are well advanced for their ages. Yet, they still have the most endearing childhood qualities that immediately steal your heart. We stayed at the vista until 9:00 pm, then headed back to the camp. A group of the crowd went to the pool for a dip, Ron included. I was tempted, but it is so difficult getting pants on and off with my hip, I decided not to bother for such a short time. My other concern was losing my contacts at the start of the trip and it took too much hip locomotion to go back to the cottage to take them out and then back to the pool. The cottage was basic and the bedrooms had twin beds attached to each of two walls. The sheets were clean and they were comfortable, all that we could wish for.We have traveled 260 km today for a total of 990 so far.