So I’ve done it, I’ve conquered the Orange River… The mighty Sjambok, pah, it was a breeze!
At the beginning of December my younger brother flew in from balmy London to have himself a well-earned holiday, and attempt to get himself something resembling a tan.
A few days later, he and I and a (sizeable) bunch of his buddies from school days, drove all the way up the N7, across the Namibian border, to Felix Unite’s ‘Provenance Camp‘, high up on the banks of the Orange River.
We were going river-rafting. Four days on the river, three nights on its banks – an adventure!
I don’t think it really started to sink in (excusing the pun) until we hit our first rapids, which were pretty much directly opposite the camp (awesome place, by the way, with beautiful views over the river and a very cool bar with R10 G&T’s).
Unbelievably, my brother and I survived the entire experience without capsizing, largely due to my brother’s superior steering skills rather than any rowing prowess on my somewhat unfit part.
Three nights sleeping under the stars were good for this city slicker. And come the end of each day of paddling (sometimes against rather fierce winds) I was generally too tired to care overmuch about the increasing numbers of scorpions lurking about in the bushes.
Here’s something I didn’t know before I cruised down the Orange: if you shine black UV light at scorpions, the creepy critters glow bright neon yellow-green. For real! One of our party had clearly read up on the subject, and crafted a nifty UV torch of his own to try out at camp.
First night, fine, barely any of them about. Second night, a few more, but still quite far from camp.
Third night… well, let’s just say I spent a large part of that full-moon-lit night sleeping in a chair with my feet on a cooler box (until the crick in my neck seemed somehow less painful than a possible scorpion sting and I eased down onto my groundmat and passed out).
Never again will I go camping without a blow-up mattress. Sleeping on nothing but a ground mat might have seemed enticingly hard-core (and I slept really well), but the thought of scorpions and other heat-seeking critters making a cosy home in my sleeping bag has lost whatever novelty appeal it might once have had for me.
Better yet, I’ll get me one of those collapsible stretcher beds that the guides all slept on – smart fellas).
Some highlights from the epic voyage:
- Climbing up a mountain in the blistering heat to take a long look at this view…
- Spotting giant kingfishers and goliath herons along the riverside.
- Seeing my very first lunar rainbow.
- Not capsizing or wrapping our canoe around a rock.
- Discovering that the creature crawling stealthily under my pants at 3am one night was in fact a large spider, and not an overzealous scorpion (when in the wild I’ll settle for the lesser of the two stings, thank you kindly).
- Seeing the full moon come up over the rocky mountains and illuminate the entire river valley.
- Having coffee served to me in bed by the Felix guys on the last morning.
- That first shower after roughing it for several days.
For anyone planning on going rafting, I can definitely recommend the folks at Felix Unite. They were professional and friendly and went to great lengths to make it a fun (and safe) trip. And their camp is awesome – so even if you’re just heading up to Namibia, it’s a good place to set up a tent and camp out for a night on your way north.