The Other Grand Canyon

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After crossing the Mata-Mata border into Namibia we traveled for 100 miles over red dune after red dune seeing not a single other soul until a lone San tribesman rode towards us on a bike in his out of place blue workers jumpsuit politely waving with the characteristic big smile of the native people of this desert. And just like that, the dunes were gone, the red sand over and the timeless Kalahari blue behind us (but only for now).

Quiver Tree
This oddly beuatiful flowering quiver tree contains a large social weavers nest
The original plan was to camp our first night in Namibia at the Quiver Tree Forest near Keetmanshoop, but since the gravel roads were in such great shape we made it there for, when accounting for the time change, an early lunch alongside these oddly beautiful trees. After deliberating and a nice conversation with the man who owns both this land (a national monument) and the nearby Giant’s Playground (a collection of odd rock formations that, if you didn’t know better, you would swear were the ruins of a lost civilization) to discuss options up the road and the likelihood of availability (given it is the start of South African school holidays) we decided to push on and shorten our trip the following day.

It was very helpful to know the road was going to be 4x4ish
We managed to easily make it to the eclectic Canyon Roadhouse just 30 minutes up the road from Fish River Canyon – our next destination – even with a couple of stops to get our shopping done in Keetmanshoop and check out the remains of an old lime oven. With the frozen toes of the morning still on the kids’ minds, I even gave them a break for the night and ponied up for the last hotel room instead of the last campsite. The restaurant/hotel/campsite is part of the Gondwana collection of properties and is decorated with old cars, railway and auto paraphernalia and license plates from all over the world.

Rocky Roads in Fish River Canyon
The 4x4ish road did offer a few isolated challenging parts to go both up and down
Fish River Canyon stakes its claim as the second biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. I can’t vouch for that, but it is truly an impressive bit of nature where the Fish River has carved its way like a snake through the earth. With enough time to explore it properly we were able to take the various roads around the rim to hit all the viewpoints – including the 4x4ish track (there description not mine) with some nice rocky hills to maneuver our Land Rover up and down. The road is clearly not taken by most of the hoards that visit here which allowed us a private lunch spot overlooking the canyon and the through-hikers below on the five day, 90km trek – Avital was disappointed she wasn’t doing it. Having now visited Africa’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon, the Katse Dam (at least as impressive as Hoover) and taken a dip on the Cuddle Puddle I think we have relieved ourselves of any obligation to take the kids to Vegas and its surrounds.

Fish River Canyon
We enjoyed an isolated lunch on the rim of Fish River Canyon
For the last day we have been relaxing at Ai-Ais Hot Springs at the mouth of the canyon – part of the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park straddling Namibia and South Africa. We spent ample time in the pool and punctuated our Kalahari experience with a family viewing of The Gods Must be Crazy. The crowds traveling alongside us have definitely shifted from the pensioners to families as the South African school holidays have begun. We have had some nice conversation with them here – they always seem surprised and excited that Americans are travelling around their part of the world. I’m sure those conversations will continue as we head north into the Namib.

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