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False FURTHER INFORMATION Travel Namibia 31 “ Then, suddenly, there is the canyon. Its towering rock faces rise up 500 metres. The wide loops through which the river meanders south cover a distance of almost 160 kilometres” carry your bags. “ We’ve started to buy mules from various farms in Namibia. The eight best ones are right here with us,” says Mannfred. The mules are expertly cared for by Telané Greyling, a South African biologist who has spent years studying the Wild Horses of the Namib. A light blue morning sky is arched across the canyon. The scenery around us is bizarre. Massive rocks on both sides, with the dragon- shaped leaves of quiver trees peeping out from between them. Here we are greeted by the spiky arms of candelabra euphorbia; there a cluster of huge tamarisks stands guard. Herero violets line the path, tiny yellow flowers sprout from the sand everywhere. The flora in the Fish River Canyon is characterised by the Nama Karoo Desert as well as the Succulent Karoo, the most bio- diverse desert on earth. Mountain zebra, kudu, springbok and klipspringer are as much part of this desert’s portfolio as rock hyrax, who while away the day sunbathing on the rocks. With mules you need patience to make headway in this harsh landscape. But Goldbeck believes there is no animal better suited to cope with conditions in the canyon. No doubt he is right, because hardly anyone knows the canyon as well as he does. He has climbed down to the river dozens of times: on his own, with friends, and with guests. In 1995 he and some friends started to buy farms in the Fish River Canyon and established Gondwana Cañon Park which combines nature conservation with tourism. It has been a success – in 1997 some 500 springbok were counted in the area, now there are almost 5000 and the number of mountain zebra has risen from 20 to just under 500. The nature reserve is financed with income generated through tourism. Goldbeck tells us all this while we are trudging through the sandy bed of the canyon in the vicinity of the Gaap River. During four days of hiking you learn a lot about your companions. The evenings at the campfire have welded the group together. The only ones who still don’t want to be part of the bonhomie are the mules themselves. On our last night, just after midnight, two of the mules are spooked by something – maybe a rock hyrax, maybe even a leopard. It’s the last straw for them. They break loose and disappear into the darkness and the next morning they are nowhere to be seen. Without a mule I have to carry my own pack out of the canyon on steep zebra paths. Doggedly I drag myself uphill and across stony plains. I’m cross with the animals and curse my own lack of fitness. Back at the lodge Telané announces that the animals have been found just a few metres away, grazing peacefully. Mules, I’ve decided, are neither obstinate nor stupid. They are just plain clever. Best time toto travel: From May to mid- September when the days are mostly clear and dry. Day- time temperatures are around a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius but at night can drop below 10 degrees. The canyon is officially closed for hikers from mid- September until the end of April. The six- day mule trekking tour includes two nights in a lodge, three nights in the open and a mule that – rest assured – will be securely tethered at night. n www. mule- trails- namibia. com n www. gondwana- collection. com Gondwana Collection Nam ibia Tourismsm Main: It’s a long way up. Trekking along the foot of the canyon’s sheer cliffs This page: The spectacular rock formations of Fish River Canyon have been carved over 1,800 million years Fabian Von Poser

False Adventure 32 Travel Namibia sole Fran Sandham recently walked across Africa - starting out from Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. In this extract from his new book Traversa we find him tired and with sore feet as he enters the country’s Caprivi Strip. Although many of the people I meet on this trip assume I’m reasonably brave, in fact I’m scared of most things, including dinosaurs. The truth is I’m worried about crossing the West Caprivi Game Reserve on foot, so I visit Rundu’s Nature Conservation Office to get some up- to- date information on lion attacks. The staff here are extremely helpful; we consult a map of the park, which covers an entire wall. ‘ You will have to be careful over the last forty kilometres – all the reported lion incidents have been in that area,’ the officer tells me. I never realized before how sinister the word ‘ incident’ can sound. Statistically, the chances of getting eaten by a lion in Africa are pretty low. Yet someone has to get eaten once in a while for such statistics to exist. I have to remind myself repeatedly that most accidents happen at home – though not, admittedly, accidents involving lions. Leaving Rundu, I head east towards the Caprivi Strip. Once known as ‘ The Devil’s Finger’, this panhandle- shaped stretch of land once formed part of the German colony. It derives its un- African name from the even more un- African name of the nineteenth- century German chancellor, General Count Georg Leo von Caprivi di Caprara di Montecuccoli, thankfully shortened. Germany acquired the territory from the British in 1890 in exchange for Heligoland and Zanzibar, and were delighted with this strategically important link through the British colonies to German East Africa. In the First World War, however, it became the very first German territory to fall to the British. At the outbreak of hostilities, the unsuspecting German governor was dining with an equally unsuspecting British official from Rhodesia, the two men on the best of terms. The meal ended on a sour note when the British official’s aide passed “ Local people often travel by means of mekoro – dugout canoes skilfully propelled by long poles. ‘ He who digs his pole too deep will be stuck forever,’ runs a local proverb” Wandering