(For the previous blog of this trip see post here)
Day 3: Springbok to Fish River Canyon
Springbok seems to wake up very slowly on Mondays. We hit the local SPAR at 8 am to stock up on lunch goodies and stopped at the Wimpy for a quick breakfast. Luckily the Wimpy sort of redeemed the towns sluggishness and after a brilliant breakfast we headed towards Noord Oewer – the border post along the main route from the Cape to Namibia.
The road was quite and the ride was relaxing. It was nice to leave the bugs behind us. Even if it meant that the flowers had to stay with them.
We reached the border in good time, only to have a custom officer circle The Todd never-ending. It turned out he was looking for the license disc. Oh dear. Apparently we LOST it on the Clanwilliam gravel road! His “I’m sorry sir, but I have to give you a R500 fine” made me ill to the bone. Not a good start to the day. After we wrapped up at passport control we managed to convince him that stuff like this happens on motorcycles and he let us go. Lets hope the fine doesn’t arrive in the mail later on! But were grateful to have had someone so understanding.
The scenery kept changing and after another while on the tar we left it for some fine gravel roads. This to be our fate for the next three days. The road was wide enough for 4 cars and fairly smooth. Some sand here and there made Lisa squirm a bit - but nothing serious. We stopped a number of times to take a break and cool down a bit. Only once another vehicle passed us by.
As we needed fuel we decided to swing by Ai Ais for a pit stop. Ai Ais translates from the Nama language to “burning water” and is a popular thermal hot spring resort at the southern part of the Fish River. It’s only really a viable destination in the dead of winter because temperatures soar well into the high 40’s and even up to 50 ̊C. In fact, they close the resort for the biggest part of the year due to the high temperatures. The guy at the shop told us they have to remove every last can of food from the shop over this time because they used to find exploding tins and cooked condensed milk. So he said. =)
Ai Ais was true to its name and scorching! On top of this The Todd’s battery seemed not to be charging and this caused some problems using the electric starter. And Yamaha in their infinite wisdom, thought it well to remove the kick starter, thus leaving us with a hefty running start every time. Not exactly fun on sandy roads! I checked and double checked the charging circuit but couldn't find anything wrong.
We had picnic lunch at Ai Ais and set off towards the northern parts of the Fish River Canyon. Catching tantalizing glimpses of the Canyon as we drove we found our turn-off to the Canyon Lodge and with 3km to go the trouble started. Thick sand! The heavy bikes arch enemy. As The Todd ploughed through the first couple of meters, back end sliding around – I could sense Lisa’s panic. No wait. I could hear it too! She was 'expressing' her concern in a rather vocal manner! He he! We stopped and deflated the tires a bit which made enough of a difference and we made it safely to the Lodge reception.
The Lodge is part of the “Canon Desert Collection” and is primarily the abode of German tourists. We opted to rather stay at the Mountain Camp than at the lodge – which is 6 km further up a sandy two-track road. As far as we ‘re concerned a much better choice as it was a relaxed setup with eight en-suite rooms in an encampment style with a communal kitchen, dining room and braai lapa. Surprisingly we were the ONLY occupants of the camp. In retrospect no-one probably wanted to “rough” it! Still, it was a third of the cost of staying at the lodge and we had the run of the place!
The catch though, was the sandy little road. I think Lisa actually shed some tears on the first trip up there! Wow! Another crash course in being a pillion on sand. We made it up unscathed though and settled in.
Unfortunately we had booked dinner at the Lodge and Lisa couldn’t see how she’d survive the sandy track in the dark. So we caught a ride with the groundskeeper truck and arrange to be delivered back later that night after dinner. We lounged around at the bar drinking beer and playing some pool. No doubt to the absolute horror of the quiet German guests. By the way. It was an exceptional dinner!
So good in fact that we decided to hang around for an extra day to better explore the Fish River Canyon.
Day 4: Fish River Canyon
At 7am Lisa’s lift arrived to take her down to the Lodge. Alone I drove a light Todd down the mountain convinced Lisa that’s it not half as bad as when loaded up with luggage.
The weather look unpredictable at best and we were sure some rain would fall. However, we decided to tough it out and hit the road for the Fish River Canyon. Passing through the Park gates at Hobas we convinced the keeper to charge us Namibian rates. It’s rather absurd how they rip off the tourists but I guess there has to be a better price for the locals. At the time of writing it cost R30 for Namibians, R60 for South Africans and R180 for the rest! Either way it is SO worth it and the Canyon was fantastic. I’m really glad to have been able to share this experience with Lisa. One cannot help but be in awe of the spectacular greatness of nature!
We hung around, soaking up the splendour of the views; hiked around the edge of the canyon and had a great lunch right there. We only made our way back to the lodge late in the afternoon where we relaxed with the obligatory beer and pool. We had arranged some braai goodies and drove up to the Mountain Camp to watch the sun set from a nearby hill with a cold one in hand. What a wonderful day!