Hiking in Namibia
The Fish River Canyon in Namibia is Africa's longest canyon, and second in the world only to the Grand Canyon. Besides being an important conservation area, the canyon is home to a 90km hiking trail which attracts the young, the old, the fit and the not so fit. In fact the only thing all the hikers have in common is a desire to get from Hobas in the north to Ai-Ais in the south.
Unfortunately, such an early night (it was impossible to read by fire and torch light for long, even if we hadn't been shattered) inevitably led to an incredibly early morning. However, in spite of sundry groans in the dark, for example:
'Dad, it's half past five!'
the light soon began to seep into the canyon and, after munching small amounts of cereal bars and fruit, we realised that it might actually be a good idea to walk as far as possible before it got too hot, and then we could stop for a long lunch break. Accordingly we set off with the sunlight beginning to reflect off the river, while the banks along which we were walking were coolly bathed in shade.
Our aim for the day was to at least reach the Palm Springs... about 15km into the canyon, and we started off blithely confident. Complaints and bitching subsided for a while as Mum and I bonded at the rear of the train whilst watching two little dots move ever further ahead of us.
We soon became dispirited, however, as the bends in the canyon seemed to go on forever and we caught no glimpse of palm trees. We passed and repassed the same groups of people time and again, including a group who were taking 8 days to hike the trail (for the nth time) and who advised us to camp at the four finger rock on our last night as the 30km from there were 'easy walking we could do in a day.'
Shortly before lunch we were passed by a group of students who had left from Hobas that same morning. So the moaning restarted as it became harder and harder to struggle across the sand. We had been assured that after the first day we would be able to walk easily straight down the riverbed. Apparently, however, we had decided to hike the canyon after a good rainy season (summer and autumn), so the river was full and wide and flowing freely, rather than simply existing in small pools as it usually does. In between the work negotiating the best route over the boulders (which got larger just as the sand stretches grew longer) Mum and I began to discuss whether 'The English Patient' might actually have been better off than us... ok so he had a damaged ankle and no water, but he didn't have to carry a heavy rucksack and, anyhow, he was on a mission whereas we were rapidly wondering what on earth we were doing.
Our problems were soon increased by the need to find somewhere to camp for the night. The floor of the canyon had widened considerably so that the side we wanted to camp against for warmth was a long way from the river. Eventually we did find a site and Dad was dispatched to fill every water container we had with us while Mum, Sarah and I collapsed to catch up with our diaries and read some of our books (namely for the interested, an Antony Trollope, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and The Satanic Verses) as we really didn't want to have carried them for no reason. Dad was also possibly the least tired and stiff of our little group, but when it began to get too dark to read we managed to move enough to prepare a very sandy supper of pasta and gooey sauce. Suppers, and indeed all our trail eating was beginning to take on a relentless monotony: cereal, cheese and biscuits and fruit for breakfast, while lunch and supper were a variety of two minute noodles, pasta and sauces or flavoured rice with droerwors (dried sausage).