Cooled off and with much lighter backpacks on the shoulders, we face the gully and step into the next chapter of the hike. Climbing up the boulder-littered gully is quite fun. Our voices echo from the narrow walls while everybody conquers the rocks and steps in their own time. A ladder takes up to the last stretch of the climb. We pause to catch our breath and rest our legs a bit before climbing out of the ravine.
The remaining hike takes us along the ridge, offering spectacular views over the winding Fish River Canyon. It seems that the narrow barely visible path has no end, we expect Camp Battlesnake to show anytime now.
We reach the turning point where the path splits, one taking you down the Canyon again in the direction of Koelkrans and the other to Battlesnake. It can’t be far now. We can see the main cabin’s porch and long for an ice-cold drink, but the winding path plays with us, taking us around more turns before suddenly the cabins come into view. We steer directly to the cooler box and grab some refreshments while kicking off shoes and dumping our backpacks.
We settle on the benches in front of the main cabin, sipping our well-deserved drinks. It is midafternoon, there is time for a short nap and a good shower before dinner preparations begin. We find bundles of wood by the donkey and light a fire to heat the water, then grab our bags out of the trunks and pick our cabins.
We find our food supplies stored in the gas freezer of the communal kitchen cabin. The plan is to have grilled meat and salad tonight and we start preparations as soon as the barbecue is lit. Maybe this time there will be leftovers this time for tomorrow’s breakfast.
The sun has set a while ago, the stars appear one by one and finally, the milky way shows its beauty in the dark skies above. There will be no moon tonight, the perfect opportunity to capture the perfect sky on camera. The wind has finally died, which brings our earlier discussion of outdoor sleeping back to life. So, we carry beds out and line them up in a row a night under the Canyon sky. One of the best things about sleeping outside is that you wake up early and see the sun rise over the mountains to the east. While the first rays of light touch the cabin’s roof, we get busy in the kitchen brewing coffee and frying up bacon and eggs. The hike ahead is not too long, so we have time to enjoy a savory hot breakfast.
We start our day’s hike at about half past eight by backtracking one and a half kilometers to the turnoff to Koelkrans, climbing down an old and narrow zebra trails which takes us to a great lookout,and then further down to the river bed to the beautiful water pools against the majestic walls of the Fish River Canyon. The landscape is full of contrasts, the edges of the Fish River are lined with green tamarisks, and if you lift your gaze, you are reminded that you are in the desert, sand dunes and dry, and naked mountain walls pull you back into reality. We pause on the riverbanks to nibble on snacks and enjoy the peace and quiet. The next four kilometers will take us over mixed terrain, oversized pebble beaches, thick and powdery sand, tamarisk woods more thick sand, and finally through a huge pool, of which we do not know how deep it is. On the other side, Koelkrans awaits us. We have two options, walking another kilometer around the pool or wading through. We sent the tallest guy to scout and explore the waters. Smart move, I thought, as I am the shortest of us all. If his shoulders still stick out it means that I can still stand. I did not anticipate that the pool floor was uneven and slippery with algae and that every step could mean losing balance and taking a full body dip. Of course, none of us made it across dry but it did not matter, the camp was only a few meters away. We pulled the last cool beers out of our backpacks and enjoyed them while cooling off in the water. An improvised pool party in the middle of the afternoon. With Koelkrans being so near and the day still young, we take our time before occupying our camp.
Koelkrans is another quirky camp, with the main cabin nestled under a big rock, the seven cabins and shower further down. By now we have established a routine on who lights the donkey and who are the best cooks. Some of us take a quick nap, some play cards and the rest are busy preparing a mouthwatering dinner. After dinner, we play some more cards. The light of the candles is barely sufficient to read the card but who cares, it makes it just more fun. The camp is peaceful, promising a good night’s rest. My body needs it.
If you missed fascinating part 1, follow the link below:
Stay tuned for the third and final part of The Fish River Canyon is calling.