Feb 12 01
An adventure in Africa can take many forms, from a traditional trip perhaps a Botswana safari to a trek through Africa’s most unforgiving terrain. The Fish River Canyon in the south of Namibia began formation over 500 million years ago as sediment was compressed and endured extreme heat to form rock. Movements of the earth’s plates caused the valley floor to collapse into what is now reputed as the second largest canyon in the world. The ravine is just over 100 miles long, through which Fish River cuts it course during late summer only then to recede into a long chain of rock pools for the rest of the year.
Upstream Fish River runs through horizontal dolomite strata, it’s these strata that moved during plate movement over 650 million years ago which then began the formation of the Canyon. Further downstream the river runs over complex granite system with a north to south fault that results in sulphurous springs.
The area is rugged, unbearably hot for the larger part of the year and testing for those who want to challenge it. The Northern reaches of the canyon have fantastic view points of the ravine which unravels in front of you as you take your first step along the way of a gruelling 54 mile hike. The trail begins at ‘Hobas’ with a steep descent into the canyon of two or so hours which is often regarded as the hardest part. With the descent accomplished you’ll then start out on the hike the following morning towards Palm Springs. The terrain here is hard work under foot with the added obstacles of boulders and rock pools to contend with. Reaching Palm Springs around two days later should give you some respite as you can bathe tired feet in the thermal sulphur pools under the shade of large Date palms.
Once rested you’ll head on towards ‘Causeway’, en-route you’ll see the resting place of Second Lieutenant Von Trotha killed during a confrontation between German soldiers and Namibian natives in 1905. As this particular area tends to have a more reliable source of water you’ll likely see a variety of mammals, wild horses, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Kudu, Klipspringer, Leopard and Baboon. Additionally for the not so faint hearted there are a variety of snakes and lizards dotted amongst the rocks, look out for puff adders, and black spitting cobras and an abundance of lizards which are fairly easy to spot resting amongst the crags.
Finally there is then the ascent to Ai-Ais which should take on average 5 hours, blisters permitting. The effort of completing this trail is well worth the reward as on arrival at the end of the hike there are the sulphurous springs in which to bathe sore feet and warm water in which to relax tired muscles.
Walking for 5 days in this hot, rocky and unforgiving environment and sleeping under canvas can test even the fittest of hikers and therefore before setting out you’ll need to provide a current medical certificate. The hike demands that for around 8 hours of the day you carry your own kit, food and water supplies which can be up to 15 kilograms per person. Hiking in Fish River Canyon combines excellently with a few nights either along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, or with a few days on a luxury safari to relax and recover.
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