When we awoke at 5.45am to guide Manilow calling ‘Moro, moro’ in Himba fashion, the battlesnake and the people had sorted out their differences. All was calm and glorious. The view from the camp was mind-bogglingly beautiful! There was no possible way to describe its immense beauty, grandeur and artistic merit. All credit and kudos go to that great artist!
After a hearty breakfast cooked on the outside fire, the mules were led to the front of the cabin, the pannier bags were weighed and loaded (the mules only carry up to 60kg apiece, well-balanced on either side). We then walked with them along the ridge before parting ways. The strong and sure-footed animals are a hybrid bred from a female horse and male donkey, retaining the best traits of both. We were a large group and eight mules were led by ‘Strawberry’, a horse and alpha animal of the team, and a second horse followed at the back of the team as rear-guard. The sturdy animals walk at a swift pace and the hikers were happy to let them go on their way as we continued along the ridge for a while before descending down a gully where the master-craftsman had conveniently cut steps to ease our way down.
At the bottom, a spring edged by greenery welcomed us and created a magical scene against the canyon terrain. We walked to the confluence of the Fish and Löwen rivers, an auspicious spot. Usually forming a rapid at this point, the river was now a gentle stream. We were experiencing a dry cycle of the Fish River. The summer rainfall had been minimal and the Fish hadn’t flowed through the canyon. Pools of water still remained, one of which we would soon enjoy, but they were fast drying up. First in the water were the boys (and Manilow), then the two girls followed by our oldest member, Dieter. Mmmm hmmm, Life was indeed good.
But, ‘Good gets better’ as I had learned, and we followed a canyon wall that still revealed its ancient Earthly movement to reach bright yellow tents erected on the river bank, an outdoor toilet with a view and a dining-room ledge where chairs and a long table (on which snacks had been laid out) awaited us. Coffee and tea, and then cold beers followed. After hot showers in a Flinstone-designed rock cubicle, we watched the mules run down to the water to drink and the golden colours light up the canyon walls.
And, it continued to get better, if that’s at all possible. A three-course meal was followed by intriguing conversation about Owambo traditions around the fire and a sound night’s sleep under a starry sky. The master-craftsman was not stopping and the sky was studded with more stars than I had possibly seen before in my entire life. I watched Scorpio’s movement in the sky for a while and then fell asleep under the long ribbon of the Milky Way.
Ron Swilling is a freelance writer, based in Cape Town, writing for Namibian and South African publications. She is a regular contributor to Gondwana’s History and Stamps&Stories columns and documented the intriguing information of the Wild Horses in Namibia for Mannfred Goldbeck and Telané Greyling. She invites you to ‘Follow her footsteps’ on her journey from the Orange River, exploring the Gondwana routes through the intriguing country of Namibia.