NEW POST!! For the past school holiday, most of May, I was able to do two phenominal hikes: Fish River Canyon and Namib/Naukluft Dessert. 13 days of backpacking, it was epic! Below is a link a fellow volunteer made of our journey through Fish River Canyon and a description of Namib/Naukluft. Both were so unique and such an epic experience with some truly epic people :)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtGhq_LTNN8
Namib/Naukluft Dessert Description (8 days):
Day 1: Park Office to Putte Shelter
The first day of the trail starts off with an easy walk down a dry riverbed. Beautiful pool just a half hour into walking. However, this feeling of ease is soon dispelled as the trail turns to the right and leads steeply up the mountainside. It is a meandering and somehow challenging ascent. This first challenge is rewarded with some beautiful views over the area adjoining the Naukluft park. When you get to the large fig tree take a break and have lunch or a snack. Eventually the trail reaches a saddle and levels out to follow a contour until it turns into a kloof. The trail follows this kloof for some distance until it reaches a plateau and Putte shelter.
The shelter was in a windy area so the night was chilly, well okay every night was chilly. This one had a great old fashioned water pump about 40 metres away. Make sure you find the trail for the next day before the sun goes down so you don't waste a half hour looking for it like we did.
Day 2: Putter Shelter to Ubusis Hut
From Putte the trail leads along a jeep track for some distance. The going is relatively easy for most of the morning. Once you reach the windmill you get close to the real fun. You start the descent down through Ubusis kloof. There are snakes in this area so make sure to throw rocks ahead and make plenty of noise to scare them away. Have lunch at Cathedral fountain and make sure to twerk on the chains. The challenging part of climbing down the chains was not being able to see where your feet were going. Just remember the next day you will be going up them and it will be much easier and more fun. There were about 5 chains on this day and only 2 were exceptionally challenging. We emerged in an area with beautiful quiver trees and walked for quite a bit longer. After you finish the kloof and enter into a boulder strewn river bed there were zebra running around the cliffs and we eventually found the hut close to the windmill in the trees. The hut is amazing. Running water, sinks, bunk beds and terrible china shop mattresses.
Take a walk around and there are great views of the road leading to the hut just a few minutes from the hut.
Day 3: Ubusis Hut to Adlerhorst Shelter
Return back the way you came through the river bed and past the quiver trees to the koof and climb up. This time was much more enjoyable and we were able to move through much faster. Once you reach the windmill the trail swings north and a steady, undulating walk in a valley leads to the next shelter. Back to roughing it at Adlerhorst shelter. We finished very fast this day which was perfect for us to use the clay rocks we picked up in the river beds earlier to paint our faces. The shelter was rotunda style and at night we were visited by a curious rhino.
Day 4: Adlerhorst Shelter to Tsams-Ost Shelter
Day four stats with an easy walk along a mountain track and we spotted a baby rhino with their mother following a mountain track close to us. We were advised to talk a lot amongst ourselves from days 2 to 5 so we did not surprise them and this was true until we actually saw one. Everyone fell silent and stopped and stared as the two trotted away from us. About an hour after the start the hiker reaches a split with the alternate route back to the park office. The main trail continues and soon enters Zebra kloof. After some time spent following the dry river bed the trail climbs steeply away up the side of the canyon until one reaches a vantage point with incredible views of the kloof and the surrounding mountains. After a short walk across the mountain top, the reason for the climb becomes apparent as the sheer rock face of a dry waterfall comes into view. The trail soon leaves the mountain tops and starts a difficult descent into the valley below. This section should be taken with precaution. At the bottom was an ideal spot for lunch and a few went to see the base of the waterfall which had a strangely beautiful black pool. The route down the kloof to Tsams Ost is much longer than one thinks, especially since the road leading to the shelter starts a few km before the shelter. At the end is Tsams Ost shelter which has a fantastic makeshift shower at the tap and sits in a wonderful area of trees but that means animals are also around. We saw a klipspringer walking around and many baboons as well. The end of day 4 meant our resupply as well which was a welcome sight!
Day 5: Tsams-Ost Shelter to Die Valle Shelter
The beginning of day 5 began with a climb. A big climb. From the top, beautiful views of the Tsams Ost valley are seen. The trail undulates for some considerable time before entering a long valley which one follows for the rest of the day. Beautiful panoramic views, this was a great time to stroll and take photos. Before the shelter there is a small man-made watering hole with a camera. The shelter is a kilometre further down the road with a fantastic entrance, tucked into the bush. The area was very windy but has amazing views.
Day 6: Die Valle Shelter to Tufa Tavern
From Die Valle Shelter one has a beautiful view up to the end of the canyon and the high waterfall at the end. After a short 1 km walk, the trail leaves the dry river bed and climbs steeply (mostly bouldering) up the mountainside for about 200m before a contour path is reached which takes the hiker into the kloof above the waterfall. This was phenomenal and passes right next to quiver trees. The kloof is then followed for some considerable distance, a chain again helps the hiker to overcome a difficult section. Slowly ascending up a path with lots of bouldering and vegetation. This is followed by an equally spectacular descent to Tufa shelter which is much much longer than we thought. Tufa Shelter is hidden near the riverbed and the water tape is across the riverbed.
Day 7: Tufa Tavern to Kapokvlakte Shelter
This epic day of the trail starts with an easy walk for about a kilometre to the entrance of Arbeid Adelt Kloof. As one progresses up the kloof the going gets progressively tougher with two chains for assistance getting through difficult sections until one finds themselves at the bottom of a 28m long piece of chain dangling down a near vertical dry waterfall. However, our experiences from the last 6 days prepared us for this obstacle and it was quickly completed by everyone in the group. This was when we sadly said goodbye to three of our number. They went ahead to reach the other shelter just after 10am then the end of the trail at 3pm. Perhaps a record, but probably not. We continued up the kloof for quite a while and eventually climbed out of the gorge to walk along the ridge of a mountain and enjoyed the panoramic views of the plains 500m below. We walked for some time battling the wind and finally reached the summit where we left our peace corps luggage tag with our names as a memento for such an amazing trip. The trail continued for some tie along the edge of an escarpment before eventually turning away to a green plateau area across the Kapokvlakte and the shelter was reached by lunchtime.
Day 8: Kapokvlakte Shelter to Park Office
The final day of the trail starts with a seemingly endless walk across the Kapokvlakte until we reached its end in another long and steep descent down a tributary of the Naukluft river. Here we came upon perennial water, lush vegetation and beautiful pools of clear water. Some of us decided to jump into the freezing water which was a wonderful end to such a great trail. A short while later after navigating the river we arrived back at the start of the trail.
Prepare for the cold and wind. Layers of clothing, a mat, and a nice sleeping bag (below 30 degrees F) Afraid of heights? I was and I was able to conquer those fears quickly, mostly because that was the only way to finish and get home. By the end of the trail I wanted more chains and more climbing. Don't expect the restaurant at the park office to have french fries like they said they would. Expect the bloody baboons to steal your ramen and nutella. Be prepared for blisters. Rubbing in vaseline to the toes an feet helped as well as baby powder but not together. Break in those shoes at least months before hand to avoid blisters. Ropes were helpful for lowering/raising bags to help some conquer the chains. Do this trail!