Saturday, September 13, 2014

Naukluft Hiking Trail #9 - Up a waterfall

The next morning a few of  us took the slight detour that leads to the base of the impressive Die Valle cliff before starting out on the day's hike. Only a thin, silver trickle of water was dripping its long way down to the pebble-strewn base of what must be a breathtaking waterfall to behold after heavy rains. The cliff is more than 200m high and almost as wide, which means an awe-inspiring curtain of water  tumbles down here after a good thunder shower, only to dissipate into the gravel within an hour or two and return the scenery to the waterless landscape it is most of the time.

This morning's climb included a challenging 500m uphill, first to the top of Die Valle waterfall and then further up the canyon to a small plateau.   The climb was, as I suspected, a very steep up and up, and to make it manageable I broke it into 50m sections, stopping for a minute or two at each point to catch my breath. Two or three times a deceptive ridge would make it look like I was nearing the summit, but each time I was fooled and another upward stretch showed itself.

The climb ended more or less right at the lip of the Die Valle waterfall. A large, clear rock pool enticed two or three of the braver walkers to shed their clothes, and in their undies wallow into the icy cold water for a few minutes before settling in the sun to dry out. Straight below us the extensive, flat valley we'd crossed the day stretched to the horizon.

The landscapes you see in Naukluft are as varied and unique as the time you spend there; no two vistas that unfold are ever the same. You may spend a few minutes admiring the view, walk a few hundred metres further, turn around, and what you see will have changed completely since you last looked.

It was only slightly past lunchtime when we started the steep downhill that led to the Tufa Shelter, tonight's stayover. The route wound its way along an old mountain pass that had been remarkably well laid out many, many years before, connecting a sheep faming outpost at the top of the mountain to the farmstead below. It was once well surfaced and bordered by a neat stone wall but now its gravel surface was deeply eroded and at places strewn with rocks that had tumbled down the mountainside.

After a while glances in the direction of the setting sun made us realise we had to step up the pace in order to reach the shelter before dusk. We'd totally under-estimated the time it would take to get to the bottom of the pass. I was a bit disappointed because not only do I dislike rushing a hike, especially one I'll probably never in my life do again, but also because the scenery along the way had a special ambience, imbued with a feeling of melancholy for the toil of the hardened farmers who tamed the land here for a while before it started slipping back into nature, as we saw now.

Once we reached the base of the mountain pass it took a while to locate the shelter - blame bad signage and the approaching nightfall. Thus far trail markings have been almost perfect, and in all the time we'd been walking we only missed the ubiquitous painted yellow footprint guiding us along on no more than on two or three occasions. All along it was clear that the trail was being well maintained and looked after.

Familiar foot marking hanging from a tree.

The mood at the shelter that night was slightly downbeat and less boisterous than before. Nothing had changed - the toilet was no more dodgy than before, and everyone was still getting along fine. But I could sense the six days of hard trekking was taking its toll. And, I discovered my first foot blister. Nothing to worry about, but there it was, covering half my left foot big toe. So far I'd managed to stay blister free, but due to the fast downhill pace through the mountain pass I'd pushed my feet a little too hard, and this was the consequence. I made a mental note to stick to a foot-friendly pace for the remainder of the trail. Last thing I want are feet that pack up with the trail end in sight. So I duly doctored the blister with a fancy zinc oxide plaster kindly donated by someone who had a few extra. It worked like a charm, because it never bothered me for the rest of the trail.

You can see all the pics from Naukluft in my Flickr gallery.

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