Tuesday, May 22, 2012

28 April - 01May: River Rafting on the Orange River to Luderitz

We were up early. I didn't brave a cold morning shower. We packed up our tents, had our cooler boxes filled with ice, grabbed some breakfast (egg & bacon rolls) and hauled our gear down the hill to our boats waiting for us at the water's edge.

Okay, so the first day was tough. I've probably never spent so much as even an hour rowing non-stop in my life. Today we went 18kms before stopping for lunch. Also, there felt like there were millions of other groups on the river with us. We past some, others past us. (We were a fairly small group at only 18 people). Thank goodness they get so much of the rowing out of the way while it's still a novelty. We didn't go thru any too hectic rapids today at all so our stuff stayed safely stowed in our boats. We stopped for lunch where they made us delish tuna-mayo sarmies (was pretty hungry by this point and that may have made these the most tasty tuna sarmies I've ever eaten!!). During lunch we also got to nappy-run the rapid we had stopped next to. This means we'd pulled up our boats and floated down the rapid in our life-jackets. Great fun! Thankfully the water was a very nice temperature for our whole trip - I was a little worried about the sleeping in tents next to a river and being drenched at this time of year, but it was perfect.

After lunch we paddled another 10km. When you hear that over the 4 day trip you travel for 68km down the river, and you realise you have already done 28 of them in day one, you know it gets easier from here :)

The bit that makes it not quite so easy tho is waking up stiff and sore (my hands were aching, I think I have a pretty good idea of what arthritis is going to be like now. I could hardly bend the fingers on one hand). I also found I had to adjust my grip on the paddle over the few days as parts of my hands that had never really been used before took strain - that connecting skin between my thumb & fore finger took serious strain after day one!

Anyway, we arrived at a lovely sand bank for our evening stop. We picked out our spots and set up our tents (although at least 8 people on our trip were camping under the stars - we were recommended not to do this by a friend of The Trucker's because of the bugs, and after our experience of freezing next to the Okavango River in Bots, we weren't taking any chances of getting too cold with this river-side sleeping). We swam across the river to "The South African side" (this was a regular joke/observation of our trip) and back. We relaxed, we snacked. We had a delish dinner - I forget specifically what and won't go into much more detail about our eating on the trip, but let me tell you, Felix Unite is organised. We were treated to things like french toast and banana bread baked on the fire for breakfast. They cooked gammon on the fire one evening for the following lunch. Needless to say we ate well and I think everyone was impressed, if not amazed, at what could be made alongside the river on a fire!

We had a group of 6 guys who were traveling together having not seen each other since varsity days however-many years before and they took it upon themselves every evening to build us the biggest bonfire they could. And let me tell you they were generally quite massive!

Unfortunately the days do blur a bit and I'm sorry I was too nervous to have my camera out while we were actually paddling. There are some spectacular views. It is a beautiful experience! Sometimes the scenery looked like a painting instead of real life!

On one of the days we went down the Sjambok Rapid ... which is the most hectic of the 4 day trip. No one in our group made it down upright ... except The Trucker & I! OMG was I ever thrilled with my boy at that moment. Don't misunderstand, you get wet on these rapids, soaked even, especially as the person in front as the waves crash over the boat. But I was still not enthralled with the idea of upending everything in our boat into the river and testing out the water-proof theory of their buckets - honestly everyone's stuff seemed absolutely fine, but I wasn't keen on taking the chance.

We reckoned it's because our boat was leaking so much for the entire trip we were experienced when it came to balancing to stay upright after taking on so much water from the waves in the rapid. Haha. That or we're just super skilled!

There were bits where we had almost no current and had to paddle for long stretches, there were bits where we hopped out of our boats and floated next to them, enjoying the current pulling us thru the water. One night we camped next to a closed Diamond Mine.

On Day 3 we only paddled till lunch and got the rest of the whole afternoon to relax and walk around. On the evening of day 3 we had a lovely fire and all sat around in a circle talking ... seemed a little sad that we only got to that on our last evening together. On Day 4 we only paddled for an hour or two before we reached the pull out point at Aussenkehr. This bit got a little tedious as there are many groups leaving the river and you have to queue and wait for buses to arrive back from the main camp. We were in a particular hurry because we had to drive to Luderitz before evening and we had decided to take the 200km shorter dirt road thru the Richtersveld and we had no idea how long that would take us.

We rushed thru lunch back at the campsite and our goodbyes ... we did buy the photo-booklet tho (R380 - not like we care about the booklet, I dunno why they don't just let you buy the card that gives you the only download details for a lesser rate?!). There were some *hysterical* photos in there (they are taken as you go thru the Sjambok Rapid). The Trucker maintains a calm and joyful smile thruout ... I look terrified tho - haha. Everyone else had some really nice photos of their bailouts too.

The drive to Luderitz was actually really nice and we had the added bonus of suddenly switching to Namibian time and gaining an hour (so our worry about arriving at destination before sunset was really unnecessary). The Richtersveld is quite spectacular to drive thru. We missed the turn-off for the Garub Wild Horses (will go on our drive past again tomorrow) and eventually I could point out Kolmanskop and before we knew it, we were in Luderitz.

We checked in at Kratzplatz Guest House and then went for a drive. We headed to Shark Island and enjoyed the sunset and then went for dinner at Ritzi's. I had some delish sole and The Trucker had the biggest piece of schnitzel I have *ever* seen.

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