After thousands of kilometers covered in Damaraland and along the inner edge of the long PN Namib-Naukluft, the section on the B4 road departing at Lüderitz a truce is revealed in the slippery sand and overpowering dust of the Namíbia.
On immaculate asphalt, we arrived in Aus in three times. We pass Kuibis and Goageb. Seeheim follows. Keetmanshoop and the B1 that would allow us to continue north are close at hand to sow. We never saw them.
In Seeheim, the destiny we were chasing forces us to cut south. We leave the asphalt.
We only stepped on it again two days later, on our way back to the same junction.
De Lüderitz, on the frigid Atlantic coast, inland Nama-Karoo
We progress through the rugged immensity of the Nama-Karoo Desert, a patch of Namíbia between the coastal desert of Namib that gave the nation its name and the interior of the Kalahari. We advance with plateaus, some more preserved than others, in plain sight.
Soon, along excerpts that the dry season had spared the Fish River, the longest in the Namíbia, with 650 km from the Naukluft Mountains in the north of the country to surrender to the Orange, on the border with the South Africa.
Resilient bushes impose themselves on the arid landscape.
Here and there, quiver aloes dot and enrich the ecosystem and the scenery, with the beauty of their stiff, golden trunks, the whitish branches that fork and then fork again, upwards, to the sides, and thus form glorious lamp canopies. yellow-green.
They are also called quiver trees, the national trees of the Namíbia that the native San (Bushmen) of present-day Namibian and South African territory used to make deep holsters for their arrows.
In this same magical setting, flocks of ostriches, herds of zebras and olongos roam in search of pastures and other foods that sustain them.
We crossed a level crossing inherited from the time when abundance of Namib diamonds and surroundings justified the construction of a railroad that the settlers extended to the remote Holoog.
Gondwana, the Natural Park. Inspired by the old Supercontinent
In Holoog we enter the protected area of the Gondwana Natural Park. A private nature conservation domain, owned and managed by the Gondwana group of lodges that would welcome us there. We cut southwest and advanced to Hobas.
Halfway through, we stop at Canyon Roadhouse, a service station and inn strewn with jalopy and junk of various kinds, with extravagant desert relics visuals including a quiver aloe projected from inside the hollow front of a rusty van. blue sky direction.
There we have to look for the foreman for the picturesque service pump. And wait for him to return to his station so we can refuel the modern and dreary rental car we used to transport ourselves in.
We soon found Gondwana Canyon Lodge. We installed ourselves in a stone cottage elevated on one of the ocher rocks and surrounded by other hills, so characteristic of a good part of the country. Namíbia.
At that precise moment, the sun was rushing over the horizon.
We and a colony of hyraxes dispersed among the abundant pebbles admire your short retreat with the admiration and respect that you will always deserve.
Having already had dinner, we contemplated the celestial vault overflowing with stars, brilliant to match, from the terrace of the lodge, where we had settled down to enjoy the unexpected and surprising WiFi.
We slept enough to recharge the energies spent with the successive heated trips.
We woke up at seven.
An hour later, we're on our way to the nearest edge of the Fish River Canyon and its popular viewpoint.
The Geological Splendor of Fish River Canyon
Morning light stays as soft as possible. We're just not astonished anymore because, with a family living on the West Coast of USA, we had become accustomed to contemplating the even wider abyss of the Grand Canyon.
Be that as it may, the intricate meanders carved by the Fish River prove grandiose to match.
They keep us suspended for a long time, focused on the contours of the huge ravine.
When, finally, we recover, we begin a walk along the top of the shore that takes us to complementary observation points: one of them over the rapids of the river, a Tamarisk Bush.
Further south, an additional one on Wild Fig Bend.
Below, the Fish flow with the reduced vigor typical of the dry season, still far from the parsimonious rain of the Namibian winter from June to August, when sudden torrents flood its deep stream and can surprise walkers on the banks.
In the middle of May, part of the river is made up of separate lakes, but maximum levels still above 40º put trekkers at risk.
Still, since the beginning of the month, park authorities have granted walking permits to candidates determined to complete the four- and five-day itineraries between the Main Viewpoint and the mile points (50km or more) of the Three Sisters, of the Barble Pools, by Vasbyt Nek or German Soldier Grave.
For those days, the furnace was kept burning. We only detected a few adventurers willing to descend.
The same as, year after year, the ultra-prepared and crazed athletes who compete in the Fish River 100km Ultra Marathon completed in 2018 by South African winner AJ Calitz in just 08:28:45, and in 2012 (when it counted with less than 10km), by his compatriot Ryan Sandes, in 6h57m.
The formation of Fish River Canyon took infinitely longer.
It is estimated that it took place about 500 million years ago. It was mainly caused by tectonic movements of the earth's crust that caused the valley to bulge and the sliding of old glaciers, unthinkable today.
So, Fish ran around 300 meters higher than he runs today.
With the drift of the supercontinent Gondwana and the separation of the region into what would become South America and Africa, tectonic movements caused the river to sink.
It began to erode the base of the gorge to the extreme of 549 meters measured today.
The Deep and Pungent Territory of the great Nama ethnicity
Already in our era, the itinerant and animistic Nama tribe dominated the Nama-Karoo desert and the deep area of \uXNUMXb\uXNUMXbthe Fish River Canyon.
It has become a tradition among its members to place stones on top of Haitsi Aibeb, piles already formed as Haiseb's graves in previous passages.
Haiseb was a deity the Nama believed to have lived in primitive times when animals reigned and the dead could be resurrected.
The Nama believed that Haiseb, herself, had died and been resurrected several times and, in the process, saved the world from an evil monster.
According to oral tradition, this demon sat next to his hiding place and threw stones at anyone who dared to walk in the vicinity.
Eager to ensure safe walks and good hunting, the Nama left soothing goods to the goddess: diluted honey, water and even antelope meat.
Descendants say that, when making offerings, they used to say in their nama (or Khoekhoe) dialect full of clicks “Haiseb, khö tsi da” something that could be translated as “Haiseb, we bury you”.
The Epidemic Cruelty of German Colonization
The mythological tranquility of the Nama lasted as long as it did. At the turn of the 2.600th century, the Germans occupied what would become their vast Deutsch-Südwestafrica. At its height, the colony had a population of around XNUMX Germans.
These expanded their farms at the expense of the expulsion and massacre of the natives. They perpetuated this expansion with the successive revenges of raids that the natives carried out on their properties, but not only.
During what became known as the Herero Wars (named after another local ethnic group), the natives killed around 150 German settlers. In response, the German authorities formed a riot police that initially had only 766 elements.
Aware of the invaders' vulnerability, the Herero and Nama went on the offensive. Initially, they caused several casualties and substantial damage to European property. Until a Lieutenant General Thilo Lothar von Trotha was placed at the disposal of a Lieutenant General Thilo Lothar von Trotha an additional 14.000 troops controlled the rebellion at the Battle of Waterberg.
Some time earlier, Trotha had issued an ultimatum to the Herero and the Nama. He barred their German citizenship and threatened to kill them if they did not leave the territory. But, in 1905, he was killed during a confrontation between his forces and the Nama in Fish River Canyon.
The Abrupt End of Germanization
The Germans lost Deutsch-Südwestafrica during World War I, when, at the behest of the British, South African troops took it. Shortly after the definitive triumph of the Allies in the conflict, the newly created League of Nations dictated that the colony would come under the administration of the Anglophone South Africa.
Von Trotha's grave remains on the right bank of the river, at the southern end of the Kooigoedhoogte Pass. It is one of the unavoidable points of walks and the history of the canyon. Even a century after their surrender and disbandment, many families of pioneer settlers benefited from the consent of the South Africans and stayed.
At Fish River Canyon, I eat all over the Namíbia, Germanic names and terms are abundant. Horses used and later abandoned by the German expeditionary forces also survived. Today, the more fortunate hikers come across herds of these wild equines even at the bottom of the canyon, where the fish run and provide them with the water they need.
One of the most curved meanders as the river flows is called Horseshoe Bend. Not by the passing of the herds, due to its almost exact horseshoe shape.
We return at the end of the day to watch the light emanating from the ravine. Like us, an entourage of nature enthusiasts and the grandiose African sceneries are at their posts in the privileged places on the shore.
Gradually, the sunset sets in. Against the darkening sky, it shapes the silhouettes of large aloe quiver, euphorbia and competing tamarisk bushes.
Well above the speed allowed in the park, a multinational group of passengers pours out just in time to appreciate the magnificence of the landscape under dusk.
The current peace is broken by the fascination they cannot contain. Until the pitch sets in and leaves the meandering Fish delivered to its prehistoric canyon.
More information about Fish River Canyon on the corresponding page of UNESCO.