African shoestrings – Namibia Day Fourty nine – Fish River Canyon

Our goal was to get to the Fish River Canyon around 120 kilometres away and Keetmanshoop was the closest large town. The catch was that there was no easy way there unless you hired a car, which a lot of people did. We had looked at that this and found the cost too exorbitant. Thanks to the Lonely Planet we had found an alternative.

The Fish River Lodge offered reasonable packages including transfers from Keetmanshoop. We were picked up from La Rochelle by Riet just after lunchtime. Riet and Louie own and run the Fish River Canyon but with a strange twist. She (Riet) lives in Keetmanshoop with the kids and he lives at the lodge. An arrangement they have had for the last 3 years.

Tough on your marriage!

Both were from Cape Town and like many others had moved away from the turmoil of South Africa in search of better and safer life. As she told this we were looking out of the car window at a dull brown, rocky, flat treeless plain that somehow didn’t inspire us at all. Then she remarked that anybody coming here who has seen the Grand Canyon in the States must be so disappointed when they see the Fish River Canyon. Well, we had seen the Grand Canyon, so things weren’t looking good!

The lodge is located about 40 kilometres north of Hobas, the canyons main tourist and information centre. There’s another area of activity further south at Ai-Ais Hot Springs resort, so we were starting to have doubts as to whether we were in the right place!

As soon as we got there Louie gave us a beer each and whisked us off in the back of a Ute to the canyon 10 kilometres away. We drove down a rather bone jarring track onto the canyon floor and stopped there for a swim in the murky red Fish River. It was such a remote and desolate landscape, that the last thing you would expect is to see ten or so people suddenly appear along the floor of the canyon! This was a group hiking the Fish River hiking trail. Without exception they were all soaked in sweat and dust as they tore off their backpacks and all, bar a couple, jumped in fully clothed. Louie then took us back up to the canyon edge and to a viewpoint to watch the sunset.

The lodge itself was pretty basic. With just two showers and toilets between six rooms; it was a cross between an old shack and a backpackers hostel. Apart from the lodge there was a dorm set away down the slight hill that the lodge stood on. Converted from a stable, it was a lot cooler than the lodge.

And then there was Louie!
Rough and ready, there were no airs and graces about Louie. He was one of those blokes you’d find down any pub tossing it down and talking gibberish with the rest of them. That we could handle!
His singing was another matter!
After tea he would bring out the guitar and sing the only song he knew “The horse with no name” for those of you born since the heady sixties, this was a big hit by a band called America. And ever since Louie sung it, I’ve been scarred for life. Talk about or see a desert and that damn “In the desert you can’t remember your name” comes into my head.

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Fish river lodge, Fish river Canyon, Namibia

Fish river lodge, Fish river Canyon, Namibia

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