Have you ever felt so small, but so full of gratitude you could burst?
That’s how I felt on this walk, many times. I don’t want to get spiritual, but that’s really what it is. It is deeper than just walking. This journey will be experienced differently by each pair of feet that tread these grounds and herewith I would like to share mine with you. Which is not as easy as I thought it would be, I thought of one thing which we all love and have in common, and through which I hope to bring my unique experience alive: food, mealtimes and settings.
I set out, mainly with the hope to get clarity and lose weight. Both physically and the weight of thoughts and worries I had stored up. But instead, I only gained. Clarity, peace of mind and body, and so much time. Time to think each thought through as I whispered to myself “one step at a time”, “one foot in front of the other”. I gained patience. I gained understanding and gentleness. With myself, my body, my mind, my worries, my thoughts, my peers, my environment, and the world. I stood in awe of mother earth and the endurance of mankind.
The most important meal of the trip!
A breakfast table that everyone has a hand in preparing and where each one’s strengths are identified. Some love and are good at chopping, others are in front of the stove and preparing food ready to be put into the oven, some people are choosing music and others keep cups filled. And then you have those that make sure everything is cleaned and the table is set and those that dictate from the side-lines and others that keep the conversations alive. Each playing a part in making sure that it’s a wholesome and fun mealtime.
One thing that’s left to each individual to take care of for themselves, is dishing. Just like you need to dish for yourself when eating, for a comfortable hike, you are required to pack your own trommel and backpack.
It’s the morning of the hike. The weather is comfortable, and the stars are still up in the sky. The fire is burning, and cups of coffee are enjoyed accompanied by laughter. The sun’s kiss is just peeking over the mountains seeking your face to say good morning and as it makes first contact, you close your eyes to enjoy all its wonder and warm and whisper, “I’m back again”.
Whether you take a shower, listen to music or meditate, how you get yourself ready for the first and longest walk set out for today, is up to you. And the last hour’s drive, through rocky ups and downs, to this drop-off point, on this open vehicle, where the Fish Eagle Trail begins, is all the time you have left to do so.
The only things in my backpack are rationed snacks (nuts and biltong, droëwors, oranges and a protein bar), a beer or two for our lunch break, my 2-litre water bladder, water shoes and phone. Our luggage, bedding and food are taken by car to our first home - Battlesnake Camp.
With a walking stick, thermo and very carefully picked hiking boots (which I’m so excited about!) we hit the different landscapes of the Gondwana Fish River Canyon Hike.
We take it easy with lunch (🍻) breaks and laughs along the way. Afterall, it is the lengthiest day with the highest climb of this 3-Day Namibian Hike.
Think about your favourite meal, in the most difficult setting you’ve ever had to have it. The first thing that comes to my mind is, when I was in Cape Town at an ‘All-you-can-eat’ sushi night. The idea is that you order from the menu, and they bring it directly to your table. And of course, as I was starving, I ordered with my eyes. The catch however is that whatever you don’t finish, you have to pay the menu price for, in addition to your final bill. So, the pressure is on! The regulars to this restaurant left the lighter dishes for the end. This would be my favourite, sashimi . It was so hard to get to it and to get it down, and I thought I’d never have sushi or sashimi specifically again. Until the next morning when we hit the sushi again, wiser and more prepared.
This was much like the hike to Battlesnake camp on this first day. You walk through thick sand, climb big rocks and bathe in the cool waters of the Fish River Canyon - which was such a welcomed relief for my feet from their support vehicles (boots)!
And just when you start seeing home for the night, my favourite part, a panorama of flat land with sharp, small and medium-sized rocks starts paving the meandering way. This last stretch was a vivid flashback to last year’s hike. The recollection of all the sharp small rocks and the burning feeling under my feet and inside me, of just wanting to finish this and get there!
You just need to keep going. One foot in front of the other. This is what I repeatedly mediate in my head as I hear my colleagues cheering us on from the front.
On this day you brave all the terrains and emotions and that you will come across the next three days. And do you know what makes it worth it, this, this view right here:
And the next day you hit the terrains again, wiser, with the worst part behind you.
Set off 09:04 ☀️
Arrival at camp (for me) 16:35🌅
Covered roughly 18kms
The overall average temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (so welcoming!)
Home for the night is Battle Snake Camp, for which we climbed a total of 302m to reach!
Well ventilated cabins each with two single beds, a donkey-heated, double shower and toilet facility, equipped kitchen and with candlelight overlooking this mind-blowing cavity on this unbelievable gift of earth left me in awe and wonder.
Today starts with trekking back, like when you forget your spoon in the kitchen. It’s only about one kilometre to the point of descent and this makes for a great warmup to the slightly tight muscles. But as the soup goes round and round in the microwave, it’s only after the 2nd round that the core starts getting warm… Whether you choose to use the microwave or stove, in the end, we all get to indulge in a warm meal.
Right in front of Koelkrans Camp, the river runs and this year we had to walk even further to get around it to the camp, while some of us did took the route around, and others braved the walk through the river with backpacks on top of their heads, so slips and falls, but many great laughs. Eventually, we all got to indulge in the cool, Great Fish River Canyon.
As the name suggests, Koelkrans Camp’s crisp air comes from its location set in a mountain face, on the corner cliff of the Fish River Canyon with a rivulet running below it.
Albeit it’s nippy nature, the kitchen brings the heat. Here the cabin-style fittings and furnishes invites games, story sharing and family-style meals with many chefs! And the extended time spent here really allows for you to recuperate, replenish, and prepare for the last round in the microwave.
Set off 09:42 ☀️
Arrival at camp (for me) 12:20🌅
Covered roughly 9kms
The overall average temperature of 29 degrees Celsius today.
Home for the night, Koelkrans boasts closer knitted cabins each with two single beds too. The showers are on separate ends of the toilets, open-air concrete built and donkey heated. The kitchen built on the hill is a cosy, vintage nook.
The last day, the most challenging and rewarding day.
After leaving the cool pools of the Fish River, we head up about 304m, on a zebra trail to the most thrilling heights and views.
It reminds me of making an old favourite recipe. Tried and tested! With all the sought after, best ingredients and tools at your disposal. But just the mere thought of having to make this on a special day for many other people almost breaks the bank of confidence.
I stopped along the way, more this year than I did last year. I huffed and puffed more and blamed it on being a year matured. But when I finally reached the top, the child in me screamed like it wasn’t a day older!
Here’s where your pride glows as everyone around the table licks their fingers – your recipe has won!
I try to take deep breaths of this wonderful, seemingly endless, creation that keeps taking my breath away. Eventually, I catch it and from there it’s a light, happy walk to Horseshoe Camp. The ground beneath me and the goal ahead of me become fantasy and I’m floating on clouds of gratitude.
Bitter-sweet you reach home for the night, Horseshoe Camp. Everything becomes the last. So, you commit to, more consciously take everything in. And after a daring open-air shower, looking down on the path you just mastered, you raise your head to the last smouldering kiss from the sun on this hike and you whisper, “I’ll be back again”.
Set off 08:40☀️
Arrival at camp (for me) 14:40🌅
Covered roughly 11.5kms
The overall average temperature of 30 degrees Celsius today.
Horseshoe Camp is built on the ridge overlooking the horseshoe-like shape of the canyon. It is incredibly breath-taking! However, there are cabins are facing the mountains and not the gorge for those who would prefer that 😉
Author: Lynn Strydom