African shoestrings – Namibia Day Fifty – Fish River Canyon

There was, we discovered the next day, a second viewpoint. This had been recently found and developed by Louie and without doubt it was pretty spectacular.
Right on the bend of the gorge, the river was right underneath us, it was like looking down two canyons. Fellow guests, Alfred and Bridgett, had stayed in the more swanky lodge at Hobas, which was around three times the price, and had seen the hikers viewpoint, the main and most visited spot in the canyon. They reassured us that this spot was at least as spectacular, after we said that we wished we had managed to go to Hobas.

Alfred and Bridgett were from Germany and whilst Bridgett spoke good English, Alfred struggled to understand us and put his thoughts into English. They both however were travelling in a classier style, they had hired a car and would have still been staying at the lodge in Hobas had it not been fully booked.
To go from there to this rather basic and rudimentary lodge with the singing owner was a culture shock in more ways than one.
They certainly didn’t know what to make of Gertrude.
Gertrude is Louie’s mum and stays with Louie for around 3 months at a time and gives him a hand. She means well but she was an absolute pain in the arse!
Her persistent chatter, interference and fussing in almost everything would have drove me to first degree murder had we have to put up with her for 3 months.
In some sort of weird way she took a liking to Alfred, continually making sure he was happy and this is the weird bit, reminding him he was German. She was a sort of female version of Basil “whatever you do don’t mention the war” Fawlty.
It was with some relief, particularly to Alfred, that another German couple Jurgen and Sabrina turned up to spread her attention.

Louie may have been a rather average singer but he was a pretty good on the Barbecue. We had some good meals except one, Kudu steaks. Kudu are striking antelopes that are common around southern Africa and supposedly are good tucker. Sue couldn’t eat hers, mainly I suspect because of her love for any animal of the wild. I didn’t rush back for seconds. It had a strange soft liver type texture that made me wander whether it was ok! However there were no repercussions the next day so it must have been!

I don’t know how hot it got but it was unmercifully hot! During the day the sun just beat down cooking everything and worse still heating up this lunar landscape of dark rock. At night freed of the sun’s rays this rock almost glowed as it radiated heat making the night more uncomfortable than the day. We had hoped to do some hiking in the canyon but there was no way we were prepared to risk this sort of heat. But the heat didn’t stop the group of hikers we saw earlier, who eventually found their way to the lodge; actually Louie picked them up from a prearranged spot in the canyon. They all looked terrible.

After they had scrubbed up we got talking to a couple of them. They told us that they had run out of water at one spot and with a raging thirst drank from an old open livestock tank.
Yuck!

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Fish river Canyon, from a lookout, Namibia

Fish river Canyon, from a lookout, Namibia

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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