Beyond the Canyon
Another spectacular sunrise is underway as we prepare to say farewell to Fish River Lodge and make our way to the restaurant by 7am, planning a long leisurely meal overlooking the magnificent craggy views for one last precious time. Fruit salad, cereal and a muffin make a great start to my day, while eggs, bacon and sausages are delivered to my fellow travellers by our ever-cheerful and smiling server.
Wending our way along the rutted track away from the Fish River Canyon, a lively debate arises as to whether we should turn left towards Aus and its promise of wild horses, or head straight towards our destination for the night, Keetmanshoop. Logic wins the argument, and in order to avoid a detour of several hours, we make our way towards Naute National Park where we will enjoy an early lunch.
Winding Roads and a Watery Destination
Two hours of meandering through barren countryside follows, with rocky flat-topped, terraced hills and dry grasslands dotted with rust-hued rocks as far as the eye can see, until we emerge at the gates of Naute National Park.
While the park itself is the exclusive domain of gemsbok, klipspringer, kudu, and ostrich, and is closed to the public, we are headed for the 600ha area on the south side of Naute Dam which has been set aside as a recreation area.
Naute Dam, which arises from the Löwen River, is the third largest body of water in Namibia, the site of the Naute Aqua Fish Farms Project as well as the Naute Fruit Farm, and the sight of all that water makes a refreshing change from the dusty scenes en-route.
With no shops to be seen we break into our stash of biltong and biscuits and indulge in a slap up picnic while admiring the views and the birdlife, idling away the time before our check-in at Pension Gessert in Keetmanshoop.
Keetmanshoop is one of Namibia’s better-known destinations, and we have a number of items to check off our wish list while visiting here, so no sooner have we offloaded our baggage in our allocated rooms at the B&B than we are on the road again.
The Quiver Tree Forest, located about 13km from Keetmanshoop, features about 250 of these trees, Aloe dichotoma, arranged together among the rocky outcrops. Some of these trees are over two centuries old and I can’t help but wonder what scenes have played out around them all this time.
Close by, the ancient Giant’s Playground creates the impression that gigantic forces have been at work rearranging the landscape into towers of precariously balanced granite formations. Walking among this maze of rocky constructions, snapping photographs, it is easy to lose track of time and we need to hustle in order to fit in our next sightseeing event.
The Mesosaurus Fossil Site is found about 40kms north-west of Keetmanshoop and reveals fossils which are identical to those found in South America and other areas of South Africa, making this place an important argument in favour of pre-historic continental drift. An hour long guided walk, among even more quiver trees, takes us to view these records of times gone by which have been cast in stone.
As the sun threatens to depart from the day, we head back to our homely accommodation at the Pension Gessert, where a refreshing shower is in order, before dinner at the Schützenhaus in town, where we indulge in some hearty local German fare. Although it is easy to succumb to the temptation of numerous fine German ales, the day’s exertions have taken their toll and it’s off to bed to rest up for the next leg of our epic journey from Cape Town to Windhoek.