Doing the legendary 5 day Fish River Canyon Hike

Trip Start May 03, 2011
Trip End Jan 31, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hot Spring resort

Flag of Namibia  , Karas,
Saturday, June 9, 2012

In the afternoon after a bumpy road through the mountains we reached Ai-Ais. We thought it was a town but it was a resort and a nice one including some hot springs which we tried out the next day before commencing our hike. We grouped up with Eddy Douglas, a 60 year old South African who would walk the trail for the 18th time with some friends and offered us to start with them (since we were 2 and the minimum group size is 3).

What's the hike like?

You count on 5 days walking through a desolated canyon without any luxuries as electricity or phone coverage. You have to be self-sufficient for the whole hike and can only use the water from the river and the wood from the trees. During this exhausting hike you witness a beautiful scenery and a challenging walk over all sorts of terrain. Some characteristics of our trip:

-          Food: In the morning bread with peanut butter/ jam, lunch was noodles, dinner either rice or pasta with canned meat, tuna, tomato/onion mix, carrots, beans, onion, spices.

-          Drinks: We carried 1 liter of red wine, tea and some powder to mix with water. For the rest drink the water from the river.

-          Utensils: Plates, cutlery, cups, pots, gas cooker, toilet paper, sunscreen.

-          No showers, no toilets.

The hike starts with a 500 meter steep descend into to the canyon which took us an hour and 15 minutes. Accordingly we walked until 16.30 and put up our tent at a nice site next to a big rock. Although we thought it was protecting us from the wind the opposite was true and we were happy that we brought our tent. The first day we almost walked 10 km’s.

Second day, get up at 6 and start walking at 6.45. This day we walked for 20 km’s through beach, crossing the river, jumping over stepping stones, and took a mountain path. The whole day we didn’t see anybody which is quite special if you think about it. How many times do you have that in your life?

At night we cooked another good meal and decided that we could try to sleep outside without a tent. This was a cool thing to fall asleep while lying on a beach in the middle of nowhere staring at the stars.

Day 3, in the first hour walking we already bumped into a group of people and some other groups later during the day. We set our goal to walk 40 km’s this day on the map by using some short cuts. We walked partly together with a group of South Africans and Zimbabweans from our age and had fun. Eventually we spend the night at the same place (just before the 70 km sign) and slept all under the Namibian stars again. 

Our last day we started early again and left our friends which we would see again in Ai-Ais. We covered quite some distance but eventually took a wrong shortcut which took us more than an hour. We even took out the compass and concluded that we were wrong. On the way back to the canyon we bumped into the skeleton of a horse which was torn apart completely, a sinister sight. Because of this mistake we met up again with our friends but later on finished the trail 1,5 hour earlier. Wow, what a hike!

Eventually we had 1,5 day to relax, wash our stuff and prepare for the rest of our trips. Laurens is going to Cape Town and I am going to Luderitz.

Practical stuff

-          You have to book the Fish River hike in advance at the NWR and you have to be with a minimum of 3 people. If you are alone or with 2 inform at the Swakopmund NWR for options to get a phone number from a group with which you can probably join. We booked it 4 days in advance in this manner.

-          The hike is 5 days but if you are fit and fast you can do it in 3 or 4 days. We did it in 3 days.

-          Always start from Ai-Ais and not from Hobas: the place is nicer and it’s easier to arrange transport to the canyon.
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