Fish River Canyon
The drive from Aus to the Fish River Canyon took us through a wide flat plain, then up onto a wide, flat plateau. Even bigger wide, flat mesas surrounded us. Only a few black-faced sheep or the occasional sighting of the strangely shaped Quiver Tree broke the monotony of the landscape. The Quiver Tree has an odd bulbous, pale, pock-marked trunk (as if it is practising to be a Baobab when it grows up), strappy yellow-green leaves reaching skywards on top of bare branches. The guidebook says it only lives in hot, dry, rocky deserts – and that about sums up the surroundings.
We turned off the main road at a town signposted Seeheim. We looked around for Seeheim but there was only a sign pointing down a side track to a hotel/taxidermist. Apart from a small, red, tin shed, that was Seeheim. And the road was quite busy – in the three or so hours, we saw as many as 4 cars, a truck and a bus!
We entered the Fish River Canyon National Park and headed straight for the lookout. Debs turned on a delicious lunch there: cheeses, salamis, hams, salads, and all sorts of tasty treats – the results of shopping in German supermarkets and delis!
The Canyon is certainly impressive – it is actually a canyon within a canyon with some serious geological history behind it. The red-brown river, far below, snakes and twists past cliffs with many-coloured layers of rock – think Grand Canyon in style. It winds this way for 160km but obviously we could only see part of it.
We drove along the canyon rim, stopping to look over the edge, seeing different parts of the river appear from behind large lumps of mountain. As we walked, dull brown grasshoppers flew off in front of us, disturbed by our footsteps. In flight they showed off their magnificent hot pink wings, wings to put any extrovert butterfly to shame. Amongst the rock-strewn ground with its scattered thorny bushes and sere grasses, small bright green lily plants with delicate tiny white flowers grew.
As the sun set, the contrasts between the cliffs and the layers of rock became sharply defined and the river turned to liquid silver. A few springbok, some baboons and a pair of ostrich came out in the cooler temperatures of the late afternoon. Where had they been in the heat of the day (it was 37 degrees in the shade of the Park Office veranda)? There are no trees and hardly any shelter to speak of – an incredibly austere place to survive.