A River Runs Through It


This blog entry about the events of Friday, April 02, 2004 was originally posted on April 13, 2004.

DAY 167:  Water is precious in Namibia; most areas only get enough water in the rainy season to last the rest of the year.  In fact, there were “Save Water” signs all over the backpackers in Windhoek — draught is a pretty common thing.  However, with an unusually long and wet rainy season in 2004, water flowed more than the country had seen in years.  While this was good news for farmers, it wasn’t necessarily good news for tourists unless they have a 4x4.

AFTER BREAKFAST AT SUNRISE, we packed up the tents, jumped in the 4x4 and headed off to the town of Keetmanshoop, populated mostly by the Nama people.  It was here we experienced the “Nama supermarket experience” by buying the necessarily items we’d need for the next two days:  fresh bread, Coca-Cola, brandy and lollipops.  The lollipops, called Fizz Pops, are awesome in Namibia; you lick off a top layer and reveal a little crack in the pop, where you can suck out the sugary powder in the center.  I had two in a row right away. 

“The farmers must be happy,” Samora said as we cruised southwest of Keetmanshoop on dirt roads to the Naute Dam in the middle of the desert.  The dam was overflowing from the abundance of rain.  Along with mining, tourism and fishing, farming was a major industry in Namibia — an industry Samora was planning to go to after a couple more years in tourism.  Whether or not the rains would be good in the future, we didn’t know.

One tributary of the Fish River was overflowing with rainwater and had risen higher than normal — inconveniently over one of the roads.  Even in our 4x4 truck with a trailer hitch, the river crossing was questionable.  Ben walked out to test the depth while other drivers on the other side did the same.  It was a spectacle for the locals living nearby, who came to observe the highlight of the day.  A little dog jumped in the river to paddle but was swept away by the current.  Luckily a man saved it.

Samora turned the four-wheel-drive on and slowly crossed the river, which was about two-feet deep.  Two cars on the other side decided not to risk it and went to look for a detour.  Our driver told us it was probably just as bad at the other crossing and they’d probably have to wait a week before the water settled down.

WHILE THE TOURISTS CROSSING THE RIVER was the highlight of the day for locals, the highlight for us tourists was the local Fish River Canyon (picture above) where the Fish River also run through at an unseasonably high water level.  At 27 km. wide, 160 km. long and 550 meters deep, it is the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon.  We hiked the three kilometers along the rim to a lookout point where the trail head for the 85-km. hiking trail was, which was closed until the African winter.  Hiking it requires a permit and medical certification anyway.

Ben and Karen took their time to look at the birds while I walked along with Samora, talking about American politics, McDonald’s, and Samora’s favorite contribution of American cuisine, Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Amongst his favorite films in all of American cinema, he raved about Eddie Murphy’s remake of The Nutty Professor.  I told him he should check out Coming to America.

“What is there to see in America?” Samora asked me.

“Hmmm… there’s the Grand Canyon,” I said.

“If you ask a Namibian to see a canyon, they say, ‘Why you want to show me a hole in the ground?’” he said.  I suppose seeing Fish River Canyon almost weekly turns you away from big holes in the ground.

“Is New York a nice place to visit?” he asked me.

“Sure, New York’s great.”

Samora was happy he had finally met a young American on his tour that he could possibly visit one day.  He knew if he visited the elderly Amercians he had met before, he’d probably just get a tour of their house.  I told him I’d probably be back in New York in March 2005 and that we should keep in contact via e-mail.

SPEAKING OF AMERICA, a hiker named Peter showed up to admire the view of the canyon at the lookout point.  Originally from the suburbs of Albany, New York, he was studying abroad at the University of Stellenbosch outside of Cape Town, living in a big house with other Americans, Brits and Germans.  I might have met him sooner if I hitched a ride with the two German girls I met during my first week in Cape Town; they were crashing at that house as well.

After a picnic lunch overlooking the grand Fish River Hole-In-The-Ground, the Chameleon quartet continued the way it came along the dirt road that led out of the national park.  We stopped for fuel at a guesthouse in the middle of nowhere where we bumped into Peter again.  In the rental car with him were some of his classmates from Stellenbosch, including Nina and Sarah, who were just waiting around until they saw me and my lollipop.

“Are you a guide?” Sarah asked.

“No, it’s just a coincidence I’m wearing the same color shirt as the company,” I answered wearing the dark green Windhoek Lager shirt I got free with my Namibian Breweries tour.  (It was the same color as Samora’s shirt.)  I offered each of them a lollipop and soon we were all on our separate ways.

Our way ws inhibited by another river crossing, this one more difficult than the one that morning.  With an appearance of being wider, deeper and stronger, we parked by the bank while Ben went to investigate.  He was already thigh-deep in the muddy, coffee-colored waters even before reaching the middle with its stronger-looking current.

We debated on what to do.  While the truck would have been heavy and powerful enough to weather the current, the trailer hitch behind wasn’t.  Samora went to go investigate himself, although very reluctantly — he was a total hydrophobe that didn’t know how to swim.  The only way he would go was if Ben held his hand (literally) in the river.  To keep his shorts dry, Ben simply stripped down to his underwear and led Samora into the river.  Karen snapped a photo from the truck.

“That’s one to show my mother.”

THE ONLY WAY AROUND THE RIVER CROSSING was to literally go around it — on a detour that would take one hour to get to the other side.  During that hour and a few others, I passed the time with my hand out the window making waves with the airstream.

After a stop in the town of Aus, the former German outpost in a unique geographic location that can experience the weather of all four seasons including snow, we pulled into our accommodations for the night, the nearby Klein-Aus Vista.  This campground/lodging facility was nestled in the mountains where the British used the higher ground to fight the Germans in a territory battle during WWI.  It was here that the British kept a prison camp where hundreds of German POWs were held.  In the end, the British won the then South West African territory and handed it over to the South Africans.

With World War I long gone, the owners of Klein-Aus Vista handed over one of their guesthouses to us for a two-night rental.  Secluded from the other houses and the campground via a dirt road, our house had beds, running water and solar-powered lamps, and it was a comfortable place to veg out for the night with pasta and brandy and Cokes.  It might have not turned out to be as pleasant a night as it did; later we learned that it was fortunate for us we took the hour-long detour — two vehicles had been swept away by the current.

Next entry: Sleepy Head, Sleepy Town

Previous entry: South With Samora

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Comments for “A River Runs Through It”

  • Erock: the town of Aus popup isn’t showing up (url not found)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  06:21 PM

  • wallpaper quality pics…i likes, but salt flats will remain

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  06:21 PM

  • yea drop the “.JPG”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  06:23 PM

  • Hey buddy!!  Glad things are still going well for you over there.  Just got back to the UK.  Hope you enjoy the rest of what Africa has to offer!
    PS I think this is the first time i’ve been mentioned on the interent!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  07:29 PM

  • I love the “crossed the river” picture while looking at the rear view mirror!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  07:30 PM

  • Ditto on SARA’s comment. First time we’ve seen the new camera. I really like the “mountains” pic, but I too am keeping the salt flats pic on my desktop.

    This is quite a tease, my friend; a quick fix… It’s been like forever! I’m glad you’ve returned from the NIZ, but PLEASE post more! It’s dreary here in Jersey… been overcast & rainy for days… ugh.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  11:13 PM

  • do the fizz pops come in different flavors? or is it just one flavor? those sound like blow pops with pop rock centers. that would be awesome. we need something like that here. and too bad you didn’t get a picture of the little dog. i would have like to see what he looked like. so cute!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/13  at  04:32 AM

  • Thanks for all the book recommendations. After much deliberation I?ve chosen ?Einstein’s Dreams? with “The DaVinci Code” a close second. So I?ll have to check it out either on the road or when I get back. Thanks again everyone!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/13  at  05:54 AM

  • hey Erik!  Good to see things are picking up again for you.  I like the nature shots (and the baby animals). Snowboarding season is over in Colorado (for the most part) and my **NEW** dot-com job is soooo boring- wish i was on safari :(

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/13  at  09:22 PM

  • PS:  what countries are on the itinerary through the summer + fall?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/13  at  09:24 PM

  • That canyon looks so much like an overlook above the Colorado outside Moab, UT - only that one is called Dead Horse Drop. The only thing I can think is that the horses would think that the river was close, and go for it, only to be suddenly dead.
    There you go - a piece of useless Utah travel knowledge. Gorgeous picture though!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/13  at  11:27 PM

  • LYNNIKINS:  HEY!  Summer - Europe, Siberia and China… from there it’s up in the air…  If LIZ is serious about an invite to Japan, then maybe there…  other than that, it’ll be India and Nepal until the end of the monsoon season, then SE Asia…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  09:00 AM

  • RHYS:  Hey man… hope you’re adjusting to life back home…  Now mix up that PB & J!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  09:01 AM

  • MARKYT / DTELLA :  Aus fixed.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/14  at  09:03 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Sleepy Head, Sleepy Town

Previous entry:
South With Samora


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