If there is anywhere that truly encapsulates the awesome expanse of nature in Namibia, it is Fish River Canyon. Standing on the edge of the world’s second largest canyon, you can only stare out with wonder over the chasm stretching before you. There is little vegetation, or water most of the time, and therefore all you see is the curving gash of the earth below rocky plains and ancient mountains.
All the way in the far southern part of the country, the Fish River, like many rivers in Namibia, only flows when there are heavy or persistent rainfalls. This was not always the case obviously and much of the canyon was formed millions of years ago when the African and South American continents split apart, causing a massive shift in the topography of this part of Namibia and allowing the then very full Fish River to carve its way through the terrain. Standing atop the rim near the tastefully designed visitor centre, you can’t help but gaze into the open space and wonder at the power of water to affect the natural environment.
Not far from the visitor centre is the start of a four day hike through the canyon, a rite of passage for many hard core distance trekkers as once you descend, there is no way out until you reach the end 85 kilometres later (unless you want a helicopter evac!). We did hike into the canyon from the end point of this monstrous hike, the Ai-Ais hot springs, and literally just going a couple of kilometres into the sandy, sun-baked terrain made us appreciate the achievement of the full hike.
Our campsite at Hobas was quiet and had lovely little pitches nestled under a few trees, perfect for escaping the harsh daytime sun. Plus it had a swimming pool, perfect for cooling off and meeting people. We had the good fortune to spend a few hours with Peter and Marijke, a Dutch couple with a similar spirit of adventure. It is amazing how you can meet people from far flung corners of the world in other far flung corners and have similar interests, especially having both decided to venture off into the wild.
Fish River isn’t as popular a destination as many of Namibia’s other sites, but that makes the experience all the more incredible. You aren’t jostling people out of the way to see nature at its finest. You are there, almost alone, with nothing much to do other than sit and stare out at something that makes you feel truly insignificant.
As the sun sets over the canyon and the light turns from the deepest gold to the darkest of night, you wish that the moment could last forever…