The Fish River Canyon is a wide, deep crevice cutting through the terrain of southern Namibia. At the bottom of the ravine trickles a river – the Fish River, unsurprisingly – that is probably more of a torrent than it appears. It looks almost stream-like from the top of the canyon 1800 feet above.
This was my first visit to a real canyon. A bit pathetic, I know, seeing as I live only a state away from one of the grandest canyons in the world. (Especially shameful considering half of our group, living oceans away, have managed to visit the Grand Canyon.)
Our first view of the canyon was from Imani’s rooftop seats. Yes, Imani is just that cool of a truck that she has two rows of rooftop seats. Every so often, we get to open up the roof seats and whoever wants to can sit up there for a while enjoying the African scenery speeding by. Adam and I took advantage of the opportunity – the last one we’d have with Imani – and buckled in for a bumpy, windy ride on the dirt road approaching the canyon.
We disembarked Imani and set out for a path that stretches along the side of the ravine for about a half a mile. Standing on the path at the edge of the canyon, I could see the rock layers of the cliffside that change color and texture as they get closer and closer to the bedrock of the gorge, illuminating the canyon’s hundreds of millions of years worth of life. In some spots, it looks like some ancient superhuman stonemason has piled many monstrous slabs of granite on top of each other. It was fascinating to see so distinctly just how long the earth has been around.
We sauntered along the path until we reached a viewing point at the end with far-reaching views of the canyon in three directions – the perfect spot for lunch.
Full of sandwiches and salad, we re-boarded Imani for our last ride with her. She wouldn’t be joining us in South Africa due to a new law requiring all vehicles driven into the country to be registered in the country that issued the vehicle’s “roadworthy certificate,” a certification necessary for all vehicles driven on South Africa’s roads. (I don’t know where Imani is registered and roadworthy certified, but I do know that she doesn’t comply with this new law.)
It was a bit sad to be saying goodbye to Imani, who had been our home for the past six weeks. It’s funny how giving a vehicle a name can almost give it a persona.
Imani took us to a campsite in the deep south of Namibia right across the border from South Africa. We set up our tents on a grassy hill overlooking the Orange River and South Africa on the southern bank of the river.
It was also our last dinner with Charles, the master of campsite cooking, and he didn’t disappoint. Steak, baked potatoes with cheese, grilled corn on the cob, steamed cauliflower, salad. It’s going to be really hard to live without Charles’ cooking.
The next morning our group split up into a van and a truck. (Adam and I boarded the van since no other truck could compare to Imani.) Before we knew it, we had crossed the border into South Africa. We were officially in our last country of the trip.
A quick chicken lunch and grocery store snack run in Springbok, a flat tire (again?!), and a few hours through the northern South Africa countryside, and we were at our last campsite of the trip.
Situated on a well-kept lawn bordered by flower bushes and grape vines with a landscape view of acres of vineyards, the campsite was clean and nice, the perfect spot for our last night in tents.
It also just so happened to be on a winery.
What do you do when you are camping at a winery? Wine taste, of course! We all sat around a table tasting an array from Klawer Cellars’ current selection, including its Pinotage, South Africa’s signature red wine grape that I had never tasted before visiting southern Africa.
The next day we headed on down to Cape Town, where we’d all be going our separate ways.
It was weird and sad to say goodbye to people we’d spent so much time with over the past six weeks, partaking in unique, mostly amazing experiences, developing inside jokes, sharing in the jobs that were necessary to make our camping and eating run smoothly. Many of our new friends were going home, traveling to other parts of South Africa, or continuing their travels on another continent. We’ll see them next in another part of the world – in their home countries, in our home states, or in some place where our travels again cross paths.
Despite adapting better than I expected to camping life, I’m not going to miss the continual putting up and taking down of the tent, the constant dirtiness of my feet, and the extreme early morning wake-ups. But I will miss my new friends.
Now that Adam and I are without guides, we plan to explore Cape Town before he has to catch a plane back to Seattle.