On the Edge of Fish River Canyon

We were originally going to hike the Fish River Canyon – a five day hike in they canyon’s valley is possible between May and September – but then we learned that it’s really for intermediate hikers (which we are not), that there’s a strict hiking season (which it no longer is), that we might need permits and a medical clearance signed by a doctor in Windhoek (which we didn’t get), and we need at least three people to do it (which we don’t have).

We opted out. In fact, seeing how far south we’d have to backtrack from where we entered Namibia, we almost opted out of seeing the canyon completely. Boy, are we glad we opted back in.

Land Rover at edge of canyon
The Landy at the edge of the canyon

Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon boasts to be the second biggest canyon in the world, after the Grand one. We entered at Hobas, and then took the quick 10km drive to see the Main Viewpoint in time for sunset.

The Main Viewpoint is of the extremely photogenic Hell’s Bend. I closed my eyes and Moreno walked me to within a few meters of the canyon rim (no handrails here) so that I could get the full effect. Breathtaking. Stunning. It just looked so surreal that you almost couldn’t appreciate it.

fish river canyon heavens
The canyon expanse all heavenly before us

And it was terrifyingly windy.

kat and moreno at fish river canyon
You can’t really tell, but my hair was all over the place from the wind

A kilometer or two from there is the Hiker’s Viewpoint, where the hiking trail actually starts, and where you can get a much fuller view of the canyon. We opted to walk along the rim to take it all in.

The sunset didn’t bring out as much colour in the cliffs as we were hoping for, but it was still absolutely gorgeous.

sunset at fish river canyon
At least the colours in the sky were magnificent

The next morning, since there were no day hikes allowed, we opted to do the 4×4-ish (see bottom of sign below) trail that veers away from the two main viewpoints, and instead follows the canyon to the east.

4x4-ish trail signage
4×4-ish trail ahead…maybe….

While you should be able to do the trail in a high clearance 2WD, we were pleased with the Landy. The trail took maybe two hours round trip, and was a nice addition since we were in the area. We had no one around us for miles for most of it, and without the wind of yesterday, you could tell how silent it really was.

fish river canyon east view
The 4×4 trail gave us a view of the rest of the canyon

Except when Moreno started yelping into the canyon to register an echo: it bounced immediately off the wall to our left and then went on for a good eight seconds, bouncing off to both the left and the right sides of the canyon in stereo. We’ve never heard such an expansive and long echo!

cactus in fish river canyon
Lone red cactus in the dead of the canyon

I’m hoping all of our posts ends in “we’re so glad we did it,” and I know I’m saying it a lot, but we are!

yellow grass
Just another point of view…

Next up: Ghost towns and forbidden territory in Luderitz!

Week 4: New Frontiers, New Horizons

In week 4, we left the animal sightings of South Africa for the ever-changing extremes of Namibia.
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Our first border crossing!

On our last day in the Kgalagadi, we made our way north to the Mata Mata gate which is also a ‘tourist access’ point into Namibia. We had gotten stamped out of SA two days before at the entrance gate (you need to spend two days at the park in order to use the gate – ensuring there’s no commercial crossings), so they checked us out of the park, I lifted the gate, effectively letting us into Namibia, we filled in some papers and we were in. More like this please!

Lion on dune
A lion rests on top of a dune in the Kgalagadi.

New Horizons

Namibia was immediately a land of strange and different landscapes. The gravel roads dusted the dry grass and shrubs, giving them them a fluorescent yellow color. The green bushes dotting the red sand hills against a backdrop of blue sky….it was all so improbable and beautiful.

Yellow grass in Namibia
Namibia’s surreal landscape: almost fluorescent yellow grass and endless blue skies.

And lonely. Namibia has about 2 million people living in it, less than the number residing in Vancouver, so there’s almost no one filling up its great expanse. We past maybe five rental Hilux trucks (Toyota Tacomas) and one donkey cart en route to camp.

Another World in Mesosaurus

Not wanting to risk finding camp in the dark, we stopped at the Mesosaurus Fossil Camp. So bizarre! It was full of quiver trees (more on this later) and it felt completely otherworldly.

Our Land Rover at the Mesosaurus Camp
The bizarre quiver trees lined the perimeter and made for an other-worldly setting for our camp.

The only other people there were Hanas and Swenja, a German couple that had just started their holiday in Namibia, so we shared some beers, chatted and star gazed before going to sleep in the bush camp.

Fish River Canyon

Our next stop was Fish River Canyon, supposedly the second biggest canyon in the world, and we stayed for sunset. Just jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Fish River Canyon
(Possibly) the second largest canyon in the world. Breath taking.

And the next day, drove to the /Ai-/Ais hot springs (the ‘/’ is a ‘tsk’ sound) at the other end of the canyon. The signs were hilarious. They said: WARNING. EXTREMELY HOT…ABOUT 65°. About??? 65ish?

Luderitz

From /Ai-/Ais we took another crazy beautiful road to Luderitz, which is a tiny German town right on the coast, wedged between the sand dunes and the Atlantic. We stayed at Shark Island, which used to be a concentration camp, and it was wiiiiiiindy!!! We met a South African woman from Cape Town that had been travelling in the south for the past 10 months by herself (!) so the five of us (her, us, and the Germans, who we kept running into) huddled together by the braai (BBQ) pits and chatted until we were too cold to stay up.

Coast of Luderitz
View of Luderitz from Shark Island

The whole reason people go to Luderitz is to visit Kolmanskop, which is a ghost town – a deserted old diamond mining town. It’s the only place in the area which is  allowed easy access to tourists: everywhere else you are required to be part of a tour, or are simply restricted from entering. Everything to the south is the Sperrgebiet, literally translated to ‘forbidden territory,’ where there are still working diamond mines operating.

Houses in Kolmnaskop
Houses stand abandoned in dusty Kolmanskop

After a quick visit to Cape Diaz, a peninsula completely open to the Atlantic, where it was so windy that Moreno embraced being held by the wind (and I concentrated on not flying away), we went back to Shark Island to get away from the wind, really glad we didn’t leave right after the ghost town.

What a productive and amazing week! We’re still working out some kinks in the Landy, but Namibia is not disappointing one bit!

Fetching water from the Landy
Getting water in the Landy – there’s still some improvements to be done….

Next: Further northward, this time to Sesriem, the base town for the Sossusvlei dune park.