Fish River Canyon

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Africa » Namibia » Fish River Canyon
February 7th 2010
Published: May 15th 2010
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Drive: 370km south to Canon Lodge (D324 road)

After breakfast we packed our bags, said our goodbyes to the reception in the Zebra Lodge, Kalahari, and set off in our car.


I used my credit card on 5 occasions in Namibia and South Africa, and the following month I had a fraudulent transaction in Austria appear on my card, so the credit card details must have been stolen from one of these locations although I’d hate to imagine it. If you can, and if you are in a country that lets you, you can get a Thomas Cook ‘credit card’ which you load with foreign currency and it works just like a debit card and it has a VISA sign and has a pin number. Slightly better protection on your hols. I think it’s taught me not to use my credit card where they are not using a chip-and-pin technology.

When we drove off we thought 370km isn’t much. Should be a piece of cake and take us about 4 hours. We headed down the D1268 where I saw a meerkat stick his head up, and the C20 back out on the B1. At this point we were discussing if we were going to stop at the volcano en route or the Quiver Tree Forest near Keetmanshoop. As we didn’t have a lot of time and the guidebook said you need at least half a day for the volcano, and that it gets very hot by lunchtime, we decided to go see the Quiver Trees.
We took petrol in Keetmanshoop and had a light lunch at the same petrol station which we used on our way up, and then headed to the Quiver trees.

The road from Keetmanshoop was really bad. I have never been on a worse road. It had sharp gravel and massive rocks and the tracks made by other vehicles on the road made driving very difficult. Our guide book said it’s ‘just 12km down the road’. It was actually 24km which took us nearly an hour to drive. We arrived at a dusty farmhouse with no one inside and we could see that the ‘forest’ was within the farm itself. An ugly metal fence surrounded the area. As we couldn’t find anyone to pay (yet another natural resource you have to pay to see) we drove past the farmhouse down the same road to see if we could spot the forest. Indeed! I suggest to you that if you don’t have time to really stop and explore, just drive past the place and stop and take photos where you want. The road leads to the Giant’s Playground which is an area where dolerite boulders from millions of years ago have been stacked on top of each other in bizarre formations. It basically doesn’t look real. You can also see these from the road and take photos. We then drove for an hour back to the B1 again. By this time it was already well after lunch.

We took a right turn at Keetmanshoop onto the B4 where by Seeheim you turn right onto the C12. The quality of road was better until we got onto the C12 and realised it’s yet another gravel road. Still we thought we might get to the lodge in about 2 hours or so as the guide book said it’s not very far at all from this point. Half an hour into our drive we came across a small river. A car was up just past the river. On the other side a 4WD was standing watching the car. After watching two men try to push their car, Chris went to find out what the matter was. The river was not very deep, just a few cm but beyond the river the old river bed was just pure sand. The car had driven over the river, not seen the sand, and was now buried in the sand literally. The drivers were German tourists and they had tried everything to move the car out of the sand. What followed can only be called a really funny memory, but at the time it could have been much worse. It was baking hot in the midday sun and the area was full of mosquitos. The man in the 4WD quickly drove over with his car and left us to take care of the problem. We pushed, pulled, put things under the tyres, put the car in neutral... all in vain.

Finally another 4WD arrived. What luck. In Namibia it can be days before another car comes by! Fortunately this man was much nicer. He said that didn’t we see the sign saying that the road was closed?! No we hadn’t. Apparently the sign had blown face down at the beginning of the road so you easily miss it. He also said that many tourists had got stuck in the river bed too and the only way out is to drive all the way around past Grunau. He drove over the river and parked behind the guys and managed to pull the car out of the tracks with some metal wire that all 4WD cars seem to have fitted. Brilliant. We found out that the German guys were going to stay at the Canon Roadhouse which according to our guidebook was only a few km away from our lodge. We agreed to have a ‘beer’ that evening together.

So we couldn’t cross the river at that point. The map also couldn’t tell us if the road running alongside the C12 (just before Seeheim) would come out after the river or not. We didn’t have a choice, but to go back out on the B4 and back through Keetmanshoop and onto the B1 again. The round journey past Grunau may only be 120km, but it took us another 2 hours to get to Grunau and then onto the C12 from the other side past Klein Karas (small Karas mountain). The C12 from this side is a good quality gravel road and we enjoyed the scenery around us. It’s quite dramatic.

The guide book and the website for Canon Lodge said:
“Canon Lodge is situated on the 520 square km, privately owned Gondwana Canyon Park. It is only 20kms from the main viewpoint of Fish River Canyon and is built from natural materials, including local rock and thatch roofs. The lodge is an ideal starting point for visits to the Fish River Canyon.”

From the C12 we took the C37 which is a really really bad gravel road. We honestly thought we’d never make it on this road. But 20km is nothing, is it?! You could almost walk it. Not. I’m not sure who measured distances in Namibia and even if the distance is right, it means absolutely NOTHING in Namibia. The car you have, the patience, weather and road quality are what matter. We came to the Gondwana Nature park and saw Canon Roadhouse. This is where you enter the nature reserve. From there we still had another 12 km to go on extremely bad gravel roads.

However, the sun was setting, giving the area a beautiful orange-gold glow and the rocks surrounding the area, big boulders in rusty reds and oranges, were glowing. The photos I got were amazing. Plants growing in the area are aloe vera plants mainly and living plants, although these are 'difficult' to spot/find.

We arrived exhausted at Canon Lodge where we were met by the German owner. He took us around the lodge, which is really big, they also have a tourist shop, a bar a restaurant, a swimming pool area and then individual lodges around the main lodge. I have copied and pasted some test about the lodge below.

To our surprise, we met the same people we had met at Zebra Lodge at Canon Lodge, sitting eating! They had left after us and arrived before us! Grrr! We had a quick drink with them after we had our dinner - we were absolutely starving after our long drive. The other lodge with the German guys was too far away to visit, so the drink with them didn't happen.

Our lodge was the last one in the park and the walk from the main lodge is on man made paths through desert areas, and it took about 5-10 min to walk to the main lodge. We had a look at the swimming pool area, which is gorgeous. It's built into the rocks with boulders all around, with a sort of infinity pool overlooking the desert. The water is salt water and surrounding the pool is seating area in well watered grassed terraces. Really nicely laid out. There is a self help bar and towels are provided.

Our lodge was slightly dated and the bedlinen was something from the 70s. They also didn't smell very fresh. We slept really well though and didn't see any insects inside the lodge. The bed had a mosquito net surrounding it which of course made us feel more secure from being eaten alive.

Canon Lodge

The Canon Lodge's main area lies in the shelter of a granite hilltop, and the lodge itself has been built amongst enormous boulders, designed to blend in with the natural environment. The reception, an indoor restaurant and the bar area can be found here. There is a safe in reception for the safekeeping of valuables. As the building has been constructed by using mostly local stone, the interior is cool, but lacks natural sunlight.

The farmhouse has been decorated with various farm implements, evoking memories of the pioneering farming days. Guests can relax on the shaded terrace, or laze beside the swimming pool. Gaze at the Fish River Canyon's incredible scenery whilst enjoying a sundowner on the top of the lodge's own mountain.

An old farmhouse, originally built in 1908 by three Bavarian brothers, has been restored to serve as the Canon Lodge Restaurant. It has a magnificent view of the canyon landscape, which makes dining in the restaurant a truly unforgettable experience. Yoghurt, cheese, cold meats as well as your breakfast eggs are supplied by their own butchery, dairy and smokehouse, run by the Self-Sufficiency Centre. Light lunches can be ordered from their 'a la carte' menu and in the evening, hearty game dishes and scrumptious side dishes from the buffet are available. Their small farming business also produces fruit, vegetables and herbs, fresh from their own garden.
Spaced evenly amongst the tall weather-beaten granite boulders are 25 thatched, wooden bungalows. All units are equipped with comfortable beds, en-suite bathrooms, a fan and mosquito nets.

Activities include unguided morning hikes, Canyon and scenic drives, horse-riding and a guided sunset walk. Take in the superb scenery in this haunting, arid landscape.

This tranquil lodge is an excellent base to explore the wonders of Namibia's Fish River Canyon.

Fish River Canyon

The Fish River Canyon is situated in the far south of Namibia, close to the border with South Africa. The ravine winds over a distance of 160km, is 500 metres deep in places and 27km across at its widest point. It's the largest canyon in Africa and second biggest in the world. Only the Grand Canyon in the USA tops it.

The 650km Fish River is Namibia’s longest river. It rises in the eastern Naukluft Mountains and flows southwest through the canyon into the Gariep River (formerly the Orange). The river meanders so widely that a straight line distance of 32km is more than doubled by the river's course on the canyon floor. In the winter, during the dry season, there is little water often only small stagnant pools. Summer rains transform it into a rapid river.

The Fish River Canyon is thought to have been created over 500 million years ago by water erosion and movements in the earth's crust. There are several viewpoints along the western rim with splendid views of the dramatic canyon: a perfect position for watching spectacular desert sunsets when the steep cliffs are awash with colour. From the main viewpoint there’s a path of sorts to the bottom of the canyon. This is a popular hike at sunrise before it gets too hot. Be warned though: you need to be fit as it’s a rocky and strenuous climb.

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