Fish River Canyon: where time is written in the rocks

The landscape, immediately after crossing the Orange River at the Noodoewer border post, takes on a desolate appearance.

The route through to Grünau, in the Karas Region goes over gravel plains and then as we head to Hobas – the viewpoint for the Fish River Canyon.  Clumps of milkbush and granite outcrops form a backdrop to this arid Eden.  As we travel we wonder which animal will be our first viewing of local wildlife?  Take a guess?!

Yes!! Baboons!  How remarkable that they have adapted and can find enough to sustain life in this tough environment.  They are far leaner than the coastal cousins and their fur much finer.  I worried about their feet pads burning on the scalding stones, but they appeared to walk quite comfortably but nimbly over the rocky terrain. Their diet would include mainly insects – scorpions, beetles and tuberous plants.

How to describe the spectacular Fish River Canyon? It draws the viewer’s eye into a terrain of riverting and rugged convolutions, twisting and turning.  The information boards tell of ancient geological history, but i’m also fired by the local mythology and the story of Koutein Kooru, a giant snake frantically scrambling to get away from San hunters.

Impressively the oldest rocks here existed long before today’s continents were formed by the break up of the super continent Gondwana.  The basement rocks are believed to be 2,000 million years old!  At some point tectonic plate movement caused a huge block of the Earth’s crust to subside along deep-reaching faults and formed a deep trench.  The geology was further shaped through the eons by dramatic forces – erosion, volcanic and climate action.  The river has melded its way over millions of years and cut through the Namaqualand Metamorphic Complex exposing horizontal layers of quartzite, gneiss and sedimentary layers.

29 thoughts on “Fish River Canyon: where time is written in the rocks

  1. It is a lunar landscape! We canoed down the Orange and when we got out I was stunned to see such bleakness. The Fish River Canyon is extraordinary and I too like the story about the snake 😀 Looking at your photos I am reminded as how similar it looks to the Grand Canyon.

  2. Wow, impressive canyon, reminds me of the American west, eons of geological time recorded in those walls. How cool that you sighted baboons – they must be very tough indeed! How hot was it there?

  3. Wow, what a start, and yes, those ancient stories about how those landscapes are formed by mythological beings intrigue me as much as you Liz – it’s not just only about the land, but as much about the connection with its people.

  4. I have an image of all the baboons hearing about the coast and setting off on an epic migration to reach a plentiful land.
    The wildlife and landscape are stunning, but the mythology and anthropology really excites me.

    1. Wouldn’t that make a lovely tale for a children’s storybook. I can envisage the trek full of adventures!
      There’s a timelessness here and it’s interesting that the San animal engravings bridge time and space, landscape and images fit thro the ages.

      1. I think you should write that story Liz!I first learnt about Namibia via Attenborough, followed by Michael Palin, Ray Mears and Simon Reeve, and always wanted to go, it isn’t likely so reading your posts really is great.

      2. That’s an appealing idea Gilly. You’ll be the first to know if i can get it together. Glad to know you’re travelling along with me :). Though through all those marvellous documentary narrators you must have a pretty broad knowledge 🙂

  5. The geology of our planet is quite spectacular. Wonderful she opens up to give glimpses of her dynamic power. Fascinating to see some of the South African formations and to hear some of the local mythology.

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