Desert Song

Sometimes one has to extend yourself into places that makes you feel uncomfortable; in order to retrieve parts of yourself you might have lost along the way........

The opportunity to join a group I had never met before to walk through the Fish River Canyon seemed and answer to a calling and the timing seemed perfect.

Thus the adventure of walking the Fish River Canyon, the largest Canyon in Africa, with its gigantic ravine, in total about 160 km long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 meters deep, an answer to a quiet prayer.

The longest interior river in Namibia. It cuts deep into the plateau. It was dry, stony and sparsely covered with hardy drought-resistant plants. The river flows intermittently, usually flooding in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow pools. At the lower end of the Fish River Canyon, the hot springs resort of Ai-Ais is situated. Our home after a long eight-hour drive.

Walking with a group of strangers was rather daunting and I have learnt previously, that only those who have pogromed

understood this private, sacred journey, making the body mind connection while immersing oneself in nature; and allowing it to speak and hear its song. It was thus that it required me to walk mostly alone alongside a sister who knew me well.

Many times I’ve spoken about how whatever was in our back-packs was like a metaphor for stuff that we physically carrying in our lives. My pack was heavier than I had ever carried before, even when I have had to carry for many days with water. What did this mean for me? The heaviness of indecision which had been holding me back these past few months felt as though I had been stuck in cement. The fear had held me rigid and inflexible unable to move forward. Overwhelmed by all the responsibility and to be reminded to break the word into two halves response-ability.

Although some relief had come to me while being in the Middle East just two weeks prior. I knew that I was still carrying a heavy load from the past four years and somehow it had been just like wading through this heavy sand. My pack, the heaviness of responsibility holding me from the lightness of my being. The constant pain in my heel yanking me back into the present.

And so the journey began walking down the steep Canyon into the splendor of Ancient Gneiss bedrock, eroding over millions of years. Entering into the Right of Passage which had taken over 650 million years to sculpt.

Upstream, the river ran through horizontal dolomite strata; these metamorphic rocks which formed part of the canyon had snaked its ancient way paving the path ahead for me to experience and enter into.

The Fish river which would flow and eventually erode a flat plane which is today’s Upper Canyon. It was incredible to imagine that I had walked through areas of the Dyke glaciation, and gave witness to how the Karoo Ice Age further deepened the Canyon, or how South America and Africa had separated during the continental drift, and Africa had risen so significantly; consequentially increasing the gradient of the Fish River enabling it to erode the lower canyon into the hard gneisses, forming the current deeply twisting, meanderings of the lower canyon.

This ancient river which each day woke me up as we lay in her water cleansing me of my heaviness and bringing me into this astounding Scene as though I had joined Robyn Davidson finally, but without my camel.

The absolute joy of finding myself in a hot pool of water spewing from the deepest recesses of the Inner earth to sooth my tired body; Ai Ais, place of burning water, the miracle of Nature and then, cooling off in the icy water of the river.

That surreal moment that arises when you find yourself in another movie with a scooter incongruously hanging over a rock

How blessed to have to drink from the water through my purifying straw, the brilliant technology forcing me to pay attention and honour the water of life. How blessed to lie in the warmth of a down sleeping bag each night and feel the sand beneath me. How the sand would present itself each day blowing fine dust in our faces, or the grinding sound beneath our feet as we walked each day through the Amphitheaters of the Million-year-old back-drops. Each day my pack got lighter and each day my heart got bigger and sometimes the deep sadness poured out of the recesses of my soul and the tears cleansed me as did the fresh air.

Oh, to be so blessed to walk in such a harsh desert terrain and feel safe, supported and totally in control of every step I took, the dancer inside me was present, not missing a step. Each day animal’s trails would tell a story. A lonely Baboon would keep us company and sometimes even guide our path: how the wild ponies endured this place, thin, small and hardy, tired and barely alive, or some trees which held onto each drop of water as it’s roots could be seen stretching over meters, walking on the earth, searching for sustenance.

How well I have felt in this environment like I too was connecting with some part of my ancestry. I never doubted that all that was required was to be kind, be patient even though I felt I was being chased by the group, and yes, I would have done it differently had I been on my own, but this too was a challenge. There would always be expectations and others demands on me and that this too was a lesson in autonomy.

Over the next five days I was able to sink into my rhythm, be grateful to my body for carrying me, grateful that I could arrive in these places of surrender and grateful for each person that taught me through the mirror of reflection and projection and sometimes I even heard the Deserts song.

Thank you Randall and Hiking Capers for allowing me to participate on this incredible journey.

Robyn Davidson is an Australian writer best known for her book Tracks, about her 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of west Australia using camels.