Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A Girl in a Canyon - Part 1

The story of the girl in the canyon starts long before the day she finally puts on her boots, loads her pack (weighing 15kgs) and takes the first excited step into the canyon.

It started a year ago when her husband announced that he would love to hike the Fish River Canyon. For the first week she thought they were going to the Wild Coast (note to self - The Fish River is not the same as the Great Fish River!). It was only after he started to send links to the Fish River Canyon, that she caught on that this was not all it seemed. She's always up for a challenge, even though her chances of a few luxurious nights at the Wild Coast Sun flew out the window!

So, as Lao-tzu, the Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC) said "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." We started this with a single step - and as the time got closer, the steps became more difficult and once I had the 15kgs on my back - heavier.

In this last year I have prepared for this "holiday", like no other - I lost 10kgs and trained harder and got stronger than I have ever been in the 37 years I've been blessed with life. I visited every website and blog ever written about hiking and the Fish River Canyon. Was I prepared ? - the honest answer- yes and no. How do you prepare to have your perspective on life altered forever?

So let me start off by telling you what I don't do in my "normal life" :

1. I do not walk barefoot - I HATE dirty feet.
2. I bath or shower at least twice a day- ditto for brushing my teeth and washing my hair.
3. I don't undress in front of any man (except my husband).
4. I certainly never cook using sand as one of the ingredients.
5. I do not use a spade and search for a place to relieve myself.
6. I wear clean clothes everyday - most days it'll be 2 sets.
7. I can't sleep without my special pillow.
8. I never have dirt under my nails.
..... This list does not even start to explain all the things I thought held my life together.

As it turns out - none of the above are essential to happiness. Fulfillment and happiness is something you experience when you step out of every box you have built around your life and just live.

So lets start with the first step of a thousand miles (okay it was 90kms, but who's counting).

We left Cape Town on a clear Tuesday morning - long before the sunrise. Check list in hand, everything packed - padkos (food for the road) and flask neatly packed at my feet. We headed North, first stop was Bitterfontein (Bitter Fountain).Bitterfontein is situated approximately 380km from Cape Town along the N7. The town derives its name form an extremely saline fountain that still exists in the area. The town, well known for its delicious mutton. Sheep farming is also the main agricultural activity of the area. An extremely rare green granite, known as the 'Bitterfontein Green" and found nowhere else in the world, are minded here and pictured below.

After a quick comfort break and petrol fill, we continued North - next stop Springbok. The "busy metropolis" of the Northern Cape. We stopped at the Wimpy and had the finest Wimpy breakfast anywhere in the country! The staff are so friendly and if you ever manage to make it there - ask for Cecil, his smile will brighten your day.

We managed to drag our full tummies up Monument Koppie, a hill in the centre of Springbok surrounded by Anglo-Boer War monuments.

As much as we loved Springbok, we had places to go and things to see, so we headed back to the car and got going to the border, across the Orange River. We were lucky to find some of the most unfriendly government officials (on both sides of the border) - it has been rumored that the last border official who smiled was fired! The Orange River really is a specular sight.

After having the passports stamped, paying our dues to the Namibian government, we raced on to Ai Ais. It is amazing to see the change in vegetation as you cross the border - we were in the desert now.

We arrived in Ai Ais just after lunch and got to work setting up camp. Once we finished lunch, we put on our bathing costumes and headed for the hot spring pools. They are busy re-vamping the resort, so the pools are above ground pools, but the water is divinely hot. We met some wonderful people in the pool - one being Norman Rotter, a Canadian backpacker, who would later join our group down the canyon and become a true friend, but more about Norm (AKA Indiana Jones) later.

So we were all set up, and waiting for the rest of our group to arrive from Jo'berg. The scary part is watching groups finishing the hike - knowing the final count down was on for us. We took a short stroll down to the river, but turned back after about 10 minutes - was that fear I saw in Keith's eyes or just excitement? - time would tell.

Here is our first glimpse of the Fish River....

The next day the rest of our party arrived and we had one day to catch up and trade training stories and injuries. There was lots of nervous laughter, good natured banter and of course a braai (BBQ)!
That's all for the start...I apologize if it's terribly long winded, but this diary is as much for me as for you.


Kit said...

Well done on completing such a huge walk on the wild side - I had no idea that it was up in Namibia that you were heading for - must have been tough terrain. Looking forward to reading more about it - armchair hiker that I am!

Rose&Thorn said...

Kit - thank you, I hope you my enjoy the trip diary.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

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