Namibia by car. Orange river and Fish river canyon.

3 months road trip in Southern Africa, 
Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
October - December 2014 

Average exchange rate: 1 € =  13,75 N$

From Aus to Noordoewer (South Africa-Namibia border) we follow first the Orange River, doing a detour north to the Fish River Canyon National Park. It´s around 600 km.  We did this route in 3 days.

Fish river canyon

The road from Aus to Rosh Pinah (165 km) is tarred. 
Rosh Pinah is a mining town, growing super fast, with a new shopping mall with supermarket, gas station, ATM, etc.
Not a great place (dusty and big mines around), but we saw a campsite and lodges in the area.

20 km south of Rosh Pinah, there´s a small border crossing to South Africa (ferry crossing on the Orange river), Sendelingsdrif. Remote area, giving only access for 4x4 to the Richtersveld National Park (rough area) and mines.

The road from Rosh Pinah to Aussenkehr C13 (100 km) is gravel but good, even without 4x4 (in dry season). After Aussenkehr, the last 50 km of C13 heading to Noordower are tarred.

Noordower-Vioolsdrif is the main border between Namibia and South Africa (Windhoek-Cape Town Road).

Really scenic route, as it follows the Orange River, weird to see a river in the desert. The road crosses the Ai-Ais/ Richtersveld Transfronter Park (no entrance fee applies when crossing the road).

   Aussenkehr  

Aussenkehr is the grape area of Namibia, on the Orange River. Green in the middle of the desert! Many new modern estates around (most of the owners are from South Africa), growing fast. Many black people come from far away looking for a job. So there´s a huge african village with bamboo huts around. A different place in Namibia.




There´s a new big supermarket but no gas station yet (november 2014). Bad news for us as the tank was empty... but this is the "real Africa" in the village and you find bottles of petrol. Thank you!
There´s accommodation in Aussenkehr, but expensive campsite.

We did couchsurfing in a grape estate with Antonie, camping near the river (busy time, november is the harvest time).

Note: fill the tank! No gas station in Aussenkehr, only in Noordoewer and in the Fish River national park camps. 


   Fish River Canyon National Park   

One of the biggest canyons in the world (they say, second after Colorado-USA). Dry, remote, steep canyon. One of the tourist spots in Namibia. It´s really impressive!

The visit consists mainly in getting to different view points on the top of the canyon. It´s part of the huge Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.

There are 2 areas in the Fish River Canyon zone: Ai-Ais (south) and Hobas (north).  

Ai-Ais is only a resort camp (rooms and campsite) with a big thermal pool, in the lower part of the Fish river.  Kind of oasis, but don´t expect to much vegetation. The scenery is not so great around. If you want to get to the proper canyon, you need to walk. And it´s hot! Not many tourist around.

Hobas is at the top of the canyon. There´s another campsite and then a gravel road (10 km) heading to the edge of the canyon where you have a few view points. The place to go and enjoy the views of the Fish River Canyon!

  • Access to Fish river canyon:

All the roads are gravel, some better maintened than others.

Coming from the south, from Aussenkehr, we took C37, D316, C10 to reach Ai-Ais. Around 70 km, the roads were ok.

Between Ai-Ais and Hobas, it´s 70 km, following C13 and it´s very bumpy.

From Hobas, the best road to connect with B1 is C12 (90 km to Grunau).

Most of the tourits visit the Fish River Canyon going only to Hobas from Grunau and back. But if you have time (it´s longer in around 200 km) and want scenic roads, and connecting with Sesriem (via Aus), the route we did was really nice and diverse! It was around 700 km from Sesriem to Hobas via Aus.

Price - entrance fee: 80 N$/pp, 10 N$/car (24 hours). 
There´s a control and gate entering Hobas.
They didn´t check the ticket entering Ai-Ais (also, gate).
Not possible to see the canyon driving on this east side of the canyon (the main road is too far), so you have to access the controled areas. On the west side of the canyon, there are private lodges, with access to the canyon (expensive). It´s a very remote area. No people or villages around, in many km.


  Things to see & do at Fish River Canyon:

  • Enjoy the views of Hobas´s canyon points.

Different viewpoints at the top of the canyon, there´s a road just at the edge. The views are different and it´s nice to drive around. 
You can see the map here

- There´s a main view point with a small exibition and picnic area  (10 km from the Hobas Gate and camp). 

- Then to the right, it´s around 3 km to HIKERS point (where the canyon hiking trail starts, steps down to the river). 

 
- From the main point to the left, the road continues for around 6 km, with several view points: sunset, rockies, the edge, sulphur srpings view. - Further west it becomes very bad, only for 4x4, for 12 km. 

There´s a nice short walk from one of the last left viewpoints to a rocky hill.

It´s forbidden to go down the canyon! Just winter time if doing the trail (read forward). 

In november it was really hot to walk too much in the area.

  • Take a bath in the thermal pool in Ai-Ais: 
We just went inside the area (the security guard opened the camp´s gate, no more control). We had a look around the camp and jump in the pool. It´s super hot, inside and outside ("Ai-Ais" means "burning water"), so in november it was not the best moment to swim there.You´ll sweat.

  • Trecking in the Canyon 

If you are adventurous and it´s winter time (only opened from Mai 1st til september 15th), you can hike in the canyon the Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail. It starts from the right of the main Hobas view point, going down to the river, that you will follow til Ai-Ais. 

You need a special permit that you need to book well in advance (check the NWR website) and the price is 130 N$. Very popular for white Namibian and South Africans. It´s 85 km long and you need at least 4-5 days. No services in the middle, you have to be sel-sufficient, you need to bring food and tent, etc. There´s water in the river.

There are also expensive private reserves in all this area (lodges, hikes and views), like Gondwana Canyon Park.

Where to sleep - cheap accommodation at Fish River Canyon:
  • Inside the park:

Managed by NWR. You can pay with card but bring cash just in case.
It´s better to bring water, you drink a lot around. The water in Ai-ais was safe to drink (there´s a fontain) but not good in Hobas.

We stayed in Hobas camp:
Price  for camping : 132 N$/pp.
There´s a small pool, great to refresh yourself.
Trees with shade (it´s really hot, at least in october). BBQ.
They are building a new accommodation area... with rooms in the future.


Other option inside the park is Ai-Ais resort:
Rooms and campsite, even events & conference hall. 
The campsite is more expensive than at Hobas, 143 N$/pp.
Big thermal pool.

  • Outside the park:

Close to the park, yo can sleep at Canyon Roadhouse.
Around 20 km north of Hobas camp, on the D601, heading to C12. Famous place with tours, rooms and campsite (quite expensive).


Where to buy?

It´s a remote area. Even no villages around, in hundred of km (in Grunau you will just find a few farms on the main B1 road). 

In Noordoewer, a small supermarket and gas station. 
In Aussenkehr there´s a Spar Supermarket. On the B1 (north) in Keetmanshoop (a town) you also find supermarkets and petrol and same in Rosh Pinah. 

Note: Bring enough food and cash.


   Noordoewer-Vioolsdrif border (Namibia-South Africa)  

Noordoewer-Vioolsdrif border is the main border betwee these countries. It´s on the main Windhoek (800 km)- Cape Town (700 km) road. The closest town  Steinkopf in South Africa is 70 km away and 50 km further south the bigger Springbok; Keetmanshoop is 300 km north, the first town closer to the border on the way to Windhoek. 
 Modern, organised crossing, trucks around but the crossing was very quick.

6 km before the border post, in Noordoewer (just a few houses) there´s a small supermarket and a gas station. There´s a resort-campsite too there. The area is growing with grape and tomato plantations.

Spread out on the Orange River (10-20 km away) there are many camps, famous with groups travelling between Namibia and South Africa. The place to do kayaking on the river. 

Also camps on the South Africa side and some accommodation in Vioolsdrif (not even a town, just a few houses too).

It´s a remote area.

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