‘Welcome to Namibia’. The sign at the border to Namibia glimmered enticingly. I turned towards Aussenkehr, into a moon landscape and a seemingly no-man’s land as the route passed through a gauntlet of rugged mountains. It was a medley of barren browns and more than a touch daunting. I pushed Eddie Vedder’s ‘Into the Wild’ into my CD player. It felt appropriate.
The tar ended after the vineyards bordering the lush riverine vegetation of the Orange River. I pulled over, deflated my tyres, took a deep breath and remembered something I’d read a few days before: ‘Trust is the spirit of adventure’.
A series of corrugations awaited me on the gravel and Eddie Vedder twanged along as I turned onto the C37 towards the canyon. The wind picked up, blowing curtains of sand across the road and the temperature rose. I didn’t see another car until I veered westwards towards Ai-Ais to make an obligatory stop at the hot springs, a spot which has lured people over the centuries for its healing waters. This 10km detour from my route to Gondwana’s canyon collection felt like a trip into the dragon’s lair as it dipped between the stark rocky hills. Ai-Ais, ‘Place of Burning Water’, marks the final point of the Fish River’s meandering journey through the canyon. On this visit, however, there wasn’t a drop of water in the river, an unfortunate discovery at the end of the rainy season. I walked to the eye of the hot springs (steaming at 65?C), amidst the acacia trees and palms, and threw a coin into the water for luck and blessings. It landed on a rock in the centre of the small pool and shone, as if acknowledging my prayers.
I took this as a good omen and after a swim in the outdoor pool and a cold coke, continued to Canyon Village for the Gondwana Canyon Park’s annual game count, to be followed by their mule trail through the northern reaches of the canyon.
The image of the sparkling coin stayed in my mind, as did the lesson of ‘the secret of adventure’. As the land eased into the gentle euphorbia-greens, apricot sands and granite koppies of the Gondwana Canyon Park, I could sense intuitively that good times lay ahead.
Written by Ron Swilling
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.