Lessons Learned the Hard Way – No. 12

22 12 2008



                        “Okay guys, let’s fill her in.”   (Fish River Canyon, Namibia)


Never let your drinking problem interfere with your sightseeing.


Namibia’s Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world and reached only after a long drive through the southwest African country’s arid and sun-baked landscape. Apart from the odd quiver tree and occasional one-tumbleweed town, there’s not much to see…other than perhaps a solitary ostrich or antelope.


We had arrived in the late afternoon and gazed across the rugged fissure that wound before us as though the earth had just violently split apart in a mighty and meandering crack. Hundreds of metres below, we could see the canyon floor and watched as the lengthening shadows slowly swallowed the enormous crevasse.


We were the only ones on the isolated rim and sat in contemplative silence. There were no souvenir shops, no expensive lodges or restaurants perched on the edge, no paved roads and no barriers to compromise the sense of unspoiled wilderness. As the sun finally disappeared and took the canyon with it, there was also no electric light to interfere with a breathtaking vista of stars.


Even the most amateur of astronomers could easily identify planets and constellations. We stood in the darkness gazing awestruck at an incredible celestial display and watched intently for shooting stars and satellites. Being a city slicker, a great view of the heavens is rare and shooting stars are particularly coveted. That evening I stared skyward until my neck locked, desperate for a glimpse of a meteorite. As we headed back to the campsite over the bumpy and dusty dirt road, my vigilance didn’t wane for even an instant as I continued to survey the sky like a man demented. My eyes hurt from the effort and my throat grew parched from concentration. I reached down and grabbed my water bottle, carefully undoing the top without my eyes ever straying from their cosmic duty.  I hoisted the bottle to my mouth and took a generous swig of the warm liquid, the bottle obscuring my view for just an instant.


“Look,” someone shouted. “There’s one!!”


I dropped the bottle and followed the outstretched arm while my companions oohed and aahed but alas, the show was over and its star had already disappeared. While all around me excited exclamations of “magnificent”, “best ever”, “superb tail” and “fantastic” filled the air, I could only stare malevolently at my water bottle.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan