Marking the border with South Africa, the Orange River carves its way west through ancient rock to the Atlantic. Just before the border post on the B1, the tarred C13 heads west to Aussenker, 50km downriver, a settlement surrounded by a vast and ever-expanding emerald carpet of grape farms, which provides a striking contrast to the otherwise desolate but scenic desert hinterland. Many of the reed huts empty at the end of the grape harvest in December, with workers mainly from northern Namibia returning the following June.
In the dry season in particular, it’s easy to be put off by the barren landscape, though the verdant ranks of grapes, butternut and peppers hint at the lush riverine environment that lies beyond. Reed-lined banks hide warblers and flourescent bishops, while kingfishers, fish eagles, cormorants, darters and herons gorge on the fish-rich waters. On the opposite bank, in South Africa, a metamorphic escarpment overlooking the river provides a picturesque backdrop, making it a perfect spot to enjoy a day or more of canoeing.