Three generations walk Fish River Canyon

three generations walk the fish river canyon

fish river canyon africa's grand canyon

walking down into fish river canyonwalking on boulders the canyon - a lot of rock taking a rest small person big scenery fish river canyon sleeping under the stars fish river canyon seeking shade fish river canyon sculpted rock fish river canyon purifying water fish river canyon flowring vegetation fish river canyon fish river walking on sand fish river views finn fish river canyon finn and john fish river canyon finn and grandy campfire cookingthree generations complete fish river canyon

For quite some time my dad and John have talked about walking Fish River Canyon in Namibia.  At some stage they decided it would be very special to do so with one or both of our boys, making a three generational trek.  The Fish River Canyon hike is largely unknown outside of southern Africa.  It is a 90km unsupported walk in the bottom of a valley with a strict permit system – walkers must be over 12 years of age, must pass a medical and must pre-book up to a year in advance.  The 40-plus degrees centigrade in the canyon bottom means it is only accessible from April to September each year and, even then, permits are only granted if there is enough water for everyone to survive.  Numbers are limited to a maximum of 30 hikers per day.  Once the 550m to the canyon bottom has been negotiated on day one there are very few opportunities for escape and everything you need has to be taken in with you.

We did consider waiting another 12 months until Angus was old enough too but felt it safer to have a ratio of two adults to one child given that anyone injured or ill would have to wait (and survive) until one of the three could trek the distance back to the beginning or end to fetch help and even then help would only come in by foot.

Dad, John and Finn did the walk at the beginning of August when the rest of us flew back to the UK (having finished our wonderful holiday with our last few nights at Erindi).  At this time of year the daytime temperatures were lower and the number of trekkers reduced as it’s outside local holidays but there’s the corresponding disadvantages that water levels are at their lowest and it gets very cold indeed at night.

They spent the night beforehand at the far end of the walk and hitched an early morning jeep-ride to the trail-head.  The initial descent took up the morning and didn’t count towards the distance shown on the map.  The terrain at the bottom was sandy ground interspersed by boulder fields and rocky outcrops at the sides of the valley.  Walking until late afternoon they had only covered around 7km towards the total when they set up camp.  By then the canyon walls had already seen the last of the sunlight and it would only be an hour or so before they were engulfed in darkness for the next 12 hours – dad fried steaks (they adopted African-style first night back-packing with vacuum packed steak!), John spent the hour pumping water to filter it (followed with iodine to make is safely potable) and Finn worried about scorpions.

Evenings were clear and at this time of year there is zero possibility of rainfall so they had excellent opportunity for stargazing while huddled in all their clothes plus sleeping bags during the long winter nights.  Early morning required more water pumping and the unseizing of my dad’s knee (12 months later he’s due a knee replacement, after many years of abuse from rugby, ski-ing and trekking……a less stubborn person wouldn’t have made the trek).

They did have a copy of the official ‘map’ – which John reported as little better than a colourful artist’s impression, so route-finding is tricky with some trails leading to nowhere as previous walkers have tried a route and then had to double-back.  Much of the time walking was on sand which was heavy going especially for the two who were considerably heavier than Finn’s 34kg.  But for a 12 1/2 year old it was a serious undertaking, and although he didn’t carry much compared to the two adults he took as much as he could and tackled the challenge in classic Finn-like attitude.  His positivity was tested a couple of times though, once when he accidentally ingested some river water while cooling down and instantly worried that he was infested with parasites (which he could have been though the effects wouldn’t have been quite so immediate as he believed) and secondly when a baboon stole their favourite chutney-marinated trail mix………however this counted as a low-point for his more mature companions too.

Dad, like me, isn’t too enthused by endless rock and sand and, I think, by day four felt he’d had enough of canyon scenery (whereas John revels in as much barrenness as he can get).  On the last day (day five) they realised their previous night’s camping spot had been very good judgement indeed as they passed no water at all on the last day – emphasising to them how much of a proper wilderness trek this is.  They saw no other people during the whole five days – which combined with the wild scenery and complete self-reliance made for a very memorable trip for them all.  Finn naturally, given the age limit, is one of the youngest completers – he may be a scrawny wee thing but he’s pretty tough.

Summer holidaying

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This year we stayed very close to home for our holidays.  We had a week with my family staying at Brodie, just across the Moray Firth from home.  It was lovely not to have to travel any distance!  Sixteen of us, with eight children aged from 13 to 10 months, made for a very busy, noisy and fun week.  I took very few photos, remembering to use my camera or phone wasn’t high on the list of priorities!  The photos above were taken on Findhorn Beach. IMG_4020 IMG_4023 IMG_4029 IMG_4042 IMG_4041 IMG_4034IMG_4033IMG_4031 IMG_0026 IMG_0025 IMG_0017 IMG_0016IMG_0070 IMG_0045 IMG_0072IMG_0040

A couple of weeks later we spent a week on Skye with John’s parents.  We had a lovely time despite them being quite elderly and not very well – it was pretty tiring at times as we had a fair bit of caring to do but good to see them enjoying the trip and the children having fun.  We weren’t able to do some of the big walks we had hoped for, not feeling we could leave John’s mum and dad for a whole day at a time, but we had several smaller walks and lots of pottering around.  The weather was mostly very very wet although that isn’t entirely clear from the photos I took!  However Skye is always stunning no matter the weather conditions.

The photos above show us walking in the rain up to the Old Man of Storr, in and around Fiskavaig Bay where we were staying, Glen Brittle and Fairy Pools, Dun Artreck (walking from the house) and lastly sunset over beautiful Fiskavaig Bay.

I do hope that you have had a good summer. There is a definite nip in the air here now – I think early September definitely seems to be signalling a change in season this year.


Tova Top


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It’s quite a while since I did much dressmaking…..I’m always thinking about what I’d like to make next, and the list in my head is endless, but the actual making seems to go in fits and starts.  I do think that following this post, earlier in the year, I’m a little more focussed on what I’ll actually use and what makes me feel happy to wear.

This top ticks both those boxes.  I made a Tova top several years ago and it is one of my most worn hand-makes.  I knew that another would be a good plan and used Christmas money to buy this beautiful Cotton and Steel cotton lawn – it is an older print that I’d had my eye on for a while (sadly I don’t think it would be very easy to track down any more).

Pattern: Tova Top and Dress by Wiksten

Fabric: an old Cotton and Steel print in cotton lawn (from the Mochi collection)

Size: Small

Sewing: I found the cotton lawn a little tricky with some of the more fiddly parts of this pattern, in particular the inset placket and the neckline.  I adapted the neckline so that it lies flat without a collar.