After my great stay at Canyon Roadhouse on Sunday night I had just a very short drive down to my next accommodation for 2nights. Another of the Gondwana Collection, Canyon Lodge has a completely different feel about it.
A more conventional restaurant with a small bar which rather reminded me of an old English pub. The room was very cool indeed and has been built into the rock face and uses the surrounding boulders as part of the main walls.
A sundowner drive saw myself and other visiting guests down copious amounts of G and T using it anti malaria properties as the main excuse even though there is no malari in this area…..we had to be safe!
The following morning I was lucky enough to bag some time with the Gondwana Canyon Park reserve manager. A great guy by the name of Trygve Cooper. Tryg had retired after a lifetime involved in wildlife conservation all over Southern Africa including many years with Natal Parks. We took a drive around the reserve which covers approx 127,000 hectares. This is most definitely 4×4 country and not a place for a bike…unless you are Dougie Lampkin. We followed the newly completed self drive circuit during which time. Tryg told me the story of how the Fish River Canyon area had been decimated of wildlife around the time of the First World War when prior to that there had been a Springbok migration which took days to pass through the area. The sheer harshness of the landscape make me wonder why on earth anyone would ever want to try and turn it to farm land for livestock……..unless you can convince the sheep to eat rocks of course…there is nothing.
With many of the farmers giving up their farms and moving into towns the land was eventually purchased by a group of Namibian businessmen who between them had a vision to bring tourism and conservation to the area. Many years later this group was to become the Gondwana Collection who to this day are determined to make sure the balance to the area as closely as possible. Animals long gone from the reserve have been slowly reintroduced and are doing well.
Namibia seems to bee leading the way in conservation ideas which not only use the money from tourism to increase wildlife levels and improve the environment but also include the communities in all areas, from employment to consultation. I also met with Sue, Trygve’s wife who is very much involved with other programmes on the reserve. Sue showed me how they are growing trees local to the area so that they can be planted out in the reserve. Sue is also heading an in-depth study of the local Klipspringer ( small antelope that lives in rocky places) population.
It’s great to see some real positive results coming together from the Gondwana Park team and it was a pleasure to meet Trygve and Sue who’s dedication to working alongside the other teams and collectives can only be applauded. The hard work is slowly paying off and it proves that if people are dedicated enough then things can be changed!
I rode back to Canyon Lodge feeling extremely inspired by the positive results I had seen. I was also extremely hot so I thought I would take a dip in the pool for a while. It’s not all work for goodness sake!! Having said that I am already working on a new tour tour for next year that is so going to include the Lodge and The roadhouse!
So what else is there to do in these places part from ride to them and sit in the best located pool in Africa….. Well of course there is the Fish River Canyon which incidentally is the second largest canyon in the world coming second only to The Grand Canyon in USA. So it’s a must see…..so I left the following morning and turned left to head up to the view point just 15 Kms away. I didn’t really take any notice of what the mileage was as I set off as I figured it was going to be big enough to see anyway. After about 20 km…….I stopped and pulled out the map just to see how much further….. Ok so I should have turned right first then left. I didn’t say this adventure thing was perfectly planned. So after approx 40 km I was back where I had started and now fed up enough to not want to go…so I didn’t. Next time!
My next overnight was to be just outside the small town of Aus. Approx 270km ride on a mix of tar and gravel/sand road. Man it was hot!!! Not sure if I have mention the heat before but man……40+ again easily. Some very very wide open spaces along the route and the wind was getting quite hectic at times but eventually I arrived at Desert Horse Inn at around 1500hrs. Excellent rooms set around the property with a dinning area and bar close by. May just have to go and test both out now. Early start tomorrow as heading up to the famous Sossuveil sand dunes staying in Namib Desert Lodge. It’s approx 400kms on manly gravel and sand….wish me luck!
About 50km east of Aus on the tar road there is a little cafe/shop. Very low key but does home made Ginger beer!! the best!!