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Author Topic: Fish River Canyon - preparation tips  (Read 6924 times)

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Offline Vivi

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Fish River Canyon - preparation tips
« on: May 21, 2011, 07:08:48 PM »
This is the communication my daughter-in-law shared with me when we hiked the Fish in 2008! Here's the Packing List we shared too .... hope you get a laugh, if nothing else out of it!!!!!

Pack list
Here is the official pack list - it is highly recommended that you pack your backpack and do some 10 km walks with all your gear to get used to it. Hiking on the beach will be great training for the canyon!
Backpack
· One tent for every two people (okay so we squeezed all four of us in our tent!)
· ** 1 high density sponge mattress (think yoga-mat).
· ** A light, but warm sleeping bag - My green (Spring) First Ascent 'bag was perfect for me.
· ** Space blanket x2 ( didn't have to use mine )
· Pillow (something small and light. I normally stuff my sleeping bag's cover with clothes).
· Strong hiking boots (these have to be worn in, and sturdy enough for the terrain)
· ** hydrating system Water bottle (max 1 litre, to carry on your belt/somewhere easily accessible -
· Map of the hike (can be bought at the base camp at Hobas)
· Tracksuit (optional) bottoms –
· Windbreaker jacket (light, light, light - I carry a drymac that is both waterproof and warm, and then mix that with a warm-ish pair of tracksuit bottoms)
· 2 pairs of shorts
· 3 light shirts (I recommend something with a sleeve, as sleeveless tops tend to cause chafing under the backpack's straps. Again, you'll figure out what you prefer on your training hikes)
· Underwear for 5 days
· ** Falke 4 sets of thick wool socks - these worked well, until the last day when I changed to lighter, thinner socks.
· 2 pairs of short nylon socks (just cut the foot-bit off an old pair of pantihose!) - we have found this the best way to avoid blisters - we wear the pantihose socks over the wool - the wool absorbs moisture, while the nylon takes any chafing or rubbing. Alternatively, you can invest in the professional version of this. Good sports shops tend to stock them. Socks are washed pretty much twice a day, once over lunch, as it dries quickly, and at night if needs be.
· Hat (cap or something bigger to ward of the African sun)
· Sweatband (optional, for that '80s look)
· Extra pair of light shoes (to wear at night and to use when crossing streams. Preferably something that dries quickly, but with a decent sole. Think Rocky sandals. Very orthopaedic-looking. http://www.rockydirect.com/productDetails/1019891/1000851/1000074)
· 2 Handkerchiefs (no idea what these are for, have never used 'em! :-/)
· ** Gaiters ("kamaste"). Our local outdoor shop stocks these, but they are a little pricey. If you can't find any, let me know and I'm sure we can arrange a pair. (normally issued in bright orange. Sorry. )
· ** Additional laces for your boots
· Swimming costume! (yeah, baby!)
· Toiletries:
· Small towel
· Sponge or washcloth
· ** Environmentally friendly soap/shampoo
· Comb
· Toothpaste and -brush (either buy a small tube of toothpaste, or just use one that's about three-quarters empty. For a toothbrush, I use one with the handle cut off. Weight matters! :-P)
· Deodorant (but a small tin! :-) )
· Foot powder (optional)
· Cream (body- or hand lotion)
First aid (not too much - people tend to bum off each other):
· Plasters
· ** Friars Balsam Antiseptic / Mercurochrome/ Methiolyte
· Cottonwool
· All-purpose salve (think Zambuk) or something for sore muscles (Deep Heat, aaaahhhhhh)
· Bandage (in the event of a sprain. Also useful to tie soles to shoes ..... )
· Anti-allergy stuff (if you need any)
· Eye drops (this helps for windy days!)
· Eardrops (if required)
· Needle, thread, small pair of scissors ( for those blisters - thread the needle, insert into one side of blister and out the opposite side, cut thread off, leaving a little thread dangling either side, and leave to drain. DO not cut the blister open!!!
· Painkillers (oh yes, baby!)
· Muscle relaxants (wintergreen or similar)
· Immodium
· Insect repellant (lots of mozzies and "muggies" last time)
· ** Sunscreen (the highest you can find - factor 50+ for my face and 30 for the rest of me)
· Lip-ice
· Biodegradable toilet paper
Utensils
· Plastic plate - something a little deep, that can be used as a bowl too.
· Mug ("blikbeker"!)
· Knife/fork/spoon
· Gas stove + windbreaker (normally a piece of corrugated cardboard covered in foil) - don't worry about this - we are likely to have issues carrying this in our luggage, so will buy/borrow there.
· Gas canisters
· Billy can or pot
· Environmentally friendly dish liquid - ideal if you can use it as washing powder to rinse your clothes & socks.
· Sponge
· Drying cloth
· Small flashlight
· Camera
· Hiking stick (optional)
· Sunglasses (don't leave home without them!)
· Small spade for toilet-digging
· Matches or lighter
· If you carry tins, tin opener ( tins are not a good idea if you can help it - hevy and u have to carry them out again, albeit empty!)
· Plastic bags - to pack your stuff in, and for litter.
· A couple of washing pegs - I use these to peg my washed shirts to my backpack so they can dry as I walk. Also handy for securing things when the wind blows.

And lastly you might want to take a "luxury" item or two for spoiling yourself ... like a tiny tin of Coke or other favourite drink ... these can be cooled in the river - it gets icy at night!
« Last Edit: May 21, 2012, 12:04:20 AM by crab »

Offline Vivi

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Fish River Canyon - preparation tips
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2011, 07:12:23 PM »
During droughts, there is very little water in the riverbed, and in rainy season, hikers often encounter flash floods.
Only 20 hikers are allowed down the canyon on any particular day At the most, you will need a really, really good pair of shoes, a comfortable backpack and your clothes. More on kit later.

The hike starts out at a vantage point, from where we then climb down to the actual riverbed. It is a very steep hike on treacherous terrain, and if your legs aren't trained, this climb will ruin the enjoyment of the rest of the trip, because you'll be too stiff to enjoy anything else for the next 4 days! The hike down takes between 2.5 and 3 hours. We camp on the first flat bit of riverbed we can find.

Temperatures in the canyon drop to around freezing point during the night, and can rise to around 30 or 40 degrees Centigrade during the day. Other than the first day's climb down, it is mostly flat, with only one uphill on day 4. But don't be fooled - the terrain is tricky. There are plenty of riverbed rocks (think the size of about bowling balls), and lots and lots and lots of sand (like dune sand). On the first full day of hiking, we will also do some bouldering, climbing and manoeuvring over large boulders. In fact, we will not encounter "harde pad" or "highway" until day 3. If the river is full, we will also need to cross it frequently, meaning taking off shoes and socks, wading through around knee-deep water, and then re-booting on the other side. The most we've ever had to do this was 14 times in one day!

Basically, its the solitude and quiet of the canyon that makes it special. There are plenty of geological features to see, as well as insects and birds. There are cheetah in the canyon (we've only ever seen their tracks), as well as wild horses and baboons. You will see more stars there than anywhere else - that's a guarantee!

The day tends to start around 7:00 am (or when the sun is up) when we get up for a warm breakfast (mostly porridge, but more on food later). We walk until lunchtime, taking a couple of short breaks in whatever shade we can find. Lunch is at least an hour long, with everyone taking off shoes and even swimming in the pools of water (ice cold, but very refreshing!). We then hike again until just before sundown, pick a spot and set up camp. On the way, we normally look for firewood and build a nice fire for supper and to sit and talk around.

On day 2, we will pass a natural hotwater spring (smells of sulphur, but who cares!), where we normally have our only hot bath of the hike. On day 3, we pass von Trotha's grave - a German soldier who died in the canyon, and on day 4 we climb a small hill (tiny!) to get to the Four Fingers. Major photo opportunity! On day 4 there is a low water bridge, built by a previous landowner but now no longer in use, and just across the bridge is a cluster of buildings that used to be a tuckshop. It's closed now, but welcome shade anyway!

From there it's just a short walk to the end point, Ai-Ais, a holiday resort and hotwater springs. There is a special bar at the entrance of the restaurant where hikers hook their backpacks, and pose for a traditional picture before having a cold beer (also tradition!) in the cafe. We then have a shower and a change and/or jump into the jacuzzis provided by the hotel (something to soothe away all the aches and pains!).

The most important thing is to be properly prepared for the hike. It is vital to be fit (you will need to show a special fitness certificate from your GP at the start, I'll forward a copy) and to wear shoes that can take the terrain (I recommend proper hiking boots). We have had hikers who have lost the soles of their shoes halfway through, and had to tie it on with shoelaces. Also, this is not a good place to get blisters. If you can, get hold of "kamaste" (not sure about the English translation?). This is a tube of sailcloth that fits over the top of your shoes to halfway to your knees. This keeps sand from getting into your shoes and socks and causing blisters and painful grazes. Because of the remoteness of the canyon, safety is paramount. No-one takes chances - always carry at least 2 l of water on you (people have died in the canyon of heat exhaustion and dehydration). Always wear a hat. The sun is hot, and there is very little shade. There are only two escape routes out of the canyon, one on day 2 and another at day 4. If a hiker gets incapacitated, the only way out is by helicopter. The overriding consideration for any of your kit is weight. A rucksack gets very heavy, especially over rough terrain! My dad has a couple of menus that we recommend, and there are lots of tips and tricks to keep weight down. Ideally, your backpack should be no more than a third of your bodyweight, or recommended 13 kgs for women (and even this is will make you hate it around day 3!). We tend to share things like stoves and gaslights, so you won't ever be without kit!

The only other thing you need to know is that we all subscribe to the "take only photo's, leave only footprints" ethic. You're environmentally savvy anyway, so you won't have any problems with that. If possible, use biodegradable soap and packaging. Don't carry or bury tins (they're too heavy to carry anyway!), keep your toilet area well away from the water table etc.

Having said this, if you are fit and healthy, this is a fantastic experience!

Ok, this is probably enough for you to chew over!

DOCUMENTS NEEDED• Passport (make sure it is valid andwill be during your time in Namibia)• Medical certificate signed by yourGP Conservation form• Good hiking shoes, river crossingfootwear, good hiking socks• Rucksack ± 80 litres, sleeping bag,• Survival bag (can be used to float kit across rivers, save yourself from hypothermia, even signal for help)• Torch, duct tape, knife, sun block,suitable clothing, small pack of wet wipes Prep (you can use it for everything),cooking equipment, medical kit, insect repellent, cable ties (various lengths).WATER TIPS• At least 2 litre water capacity/waterbottles/ hydration packs with repair kit (I took 2x 1,5 litre spring water bottles)• Purifying tablets or pen – don’t drink the water straight! • Re-hydration formula (take one a day if its very hot just as a precaution.) FOOD SUGGESTIONS In theory one could take almost anything. For most people however, Soya mince seems to dominate the menu. • We suggest you take couscous, pasta, rice, boxed veggies e.g.: beetroot, sousboontjies, curried carrots, sun dried tomatoes, dried fruit & nuts, energy bars, salt and spices. sherry, whiskey, boxed wine (available in tiny fruit juice cartons – your yuppie friends wont be there), tea/ coffee, powdered milk and small shaker, sugar (I always take condensed milk decanted into a plastic container which takes care of milk & sugar but have to guard it with my life!) • Cereal (instant oats works well) • Cool drink powder! (Take at least 1 sachet a day, be sure to mix it correctly though or you may hurt your kidneys).
« Last Edit: May 21, 2012, 12:05:08 AM by crab »

Offline Vivi

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Re:Fish River Canyon - preparation tips
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2011, 07:15:27 PM »
I was very happy with the Salomon boots I bought especially for the hike - I wore them in for a couple of months prior to the trip (went for 6km hikes along the beach to wear them in ) ... another tip is to apply some methylated spirits to your feet (the whole foot) with cottonwool for a week or two before the actual hike - this strengthens the skin and prevents a multitude of blisters... it worked for me anyway. I did lose the middle toenail on either foot a couple of days after returning home ... my boots formed a little ridge of sand in the layers on top, just near the top of my middle toes, and this put pressure on those toenails. Not painful, and really this was the only injury I suffered ... The walking sticks Great-Grandpa makes for the family really do help, especially for added balance when crossing the river on stepping stones... it can be tricky with a heavy backpack if you're not accustomed to that extra weight. No need for expensive "proper" hiking sticks if you're short on cash.
Have an awesome time !
« Last Edit: May 21, 2012, 12:07:15 AM by crab »
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