Orange River 2013

August last year, the annual Gravity Adventure Festival, I didn’t even want to go but my mates Greg Southon, Mark Manchip and Chris Bond convinced me otherwise despite my moaning of the crowds and general lack of motivation. The weather was excellent, with winds gusting 140 km/h. Our tent tore, it poured with rain – very interesting. But we went so massive on the Friday night it didn’t even matter. Greg drinking some five beers before a trail run on the Friday night and coming in the top 3 and half frozen brings back a smile to my face. He showed those slackers.
Saturday the cycle was roughly repeated in terms of reckless abandonment but something special happened – I met Lauren. I slickly managed to pass across my business card and get her number and within a week we had our first date set up. In true Adrian style it was a hike up Table Mountain. So up the India Venster route, then I produced a chilled (kind of) bottle of white wine and a few hours later we idled down the easier Platteklip Gorge. What a woman. I was hooked already!
Gearing up.
Lauren early on in the trip, already smiling 🙂
Me chilling out. Luckily I was sponsored by Sawyer paddles before so I had a lovely light weight paddle to use for the trip! Bonus!!
Rock art from many, many years ago.
Stopping somewhere on day 1 to check out the weird rock art.
Afternoon of day 1.
Not far from camp 1 we sat in the boat and drifted a while. I could sit here and do nothing for a long time. What an incredible place to be.
Long exposure star trail photo. The centre of the stars is dead south, in the southern hemisphere. Time was around 29 minutes, shot at 10mm, probably f/3.5 and probably ISO 200 is what I usually use. Very easy to do these photos. Just need patience and a few other tricks. It’s a single exposure by the way. Long exposure noise reduction set to on as well, that is important.
Less than two months later I decided to join Lauren and a bunch of her veterinarian friends on the Orange River for a 6 day trip. It was a bold move. The trip is a known relationship breaker of even the most hardened of couples. My friends warned me of the potential outcome but being an experienced whitewater kayaker for over 10 years and having been in a few tough situations on day and multi-day trips both in terms of logistics and personal conflict I was reasonably sure I’d survive. Besides, if it wasn’t going to last, then this test would be a quicker route to be where one would want to be, right? Right.
We loaded up her car, and managed four of us, plus we fitted in some 25 odd litres of alcohol and made an easy border crossing. This was for personal consumption and not trade so we were doing nothing wrong in my books!
Good morning day 2.
Camp site view. Yes the fishing is also good. I only fished once. I hooked a yellow briefly and lost it. Some of the others caught yellowfish and catfish. Next time I’ll put more effort in.
Scouting a rapid. I forget the name now, but it was quite fun.
Lauren and I making it nicely. Thanks for the photos Matt!
Typical scenery. The rapids are usually followed by gentle pools, at this level. I think we had about 70 cumecs.
Day 2 afternoon., still the best website for kayakers!
Hiking up for some views. I want to come and paraglide these spots on day.
Lauren and I. Seems so long ago now.
This is the bend above the infamous Sjambok rapid.
Some of our group. Lovely bunch of people.
One more for good measure. This was not very common on our trip – wind. We had a bit of wind one afternoon while paddling but it wasn’t too bad.
I would imagine this was night 2 by the camp fire.
Another one of my stair trail photos. The yellow streaks are fireflies. Although the foreground is a stuff up, I still like this photo. I guess I could crop out the orange bucket and what not.
Good morning day 3! Ahhhhhhhhhh
A typical lunch spot. Meals were excellent…
Entering the Richtersveld area. Also stunning scenery.
Me avoiding the sun. You cannot paddle without being covered. Summer times can get to just above 50 degrees. Be prepared.
Lazy afternoon on day 3, shortly before camp. The pools are clearish, and warm.
Camp for night 3. I use a Mountain Hardware Hammerhead 2 tent. The best tent for almost anything.
Me, enjoy the great outdoors (and some whisky…)
Whisky and camping. I love it. Life doesn’t get better than this. Many fond memories.
Good morning day 4. The view from inside the tent.
At the foot of the tent is another window, through a mozzie net. Ahhhh 🙂
Day 4 about to leave camp.
A morning swim. It was hot, beer is needed to keep cool.
The trip down the river was with Felix Unite and an absolute pleasure, starting at Noordoewer. We had more guides than a normal trip because some were undergoing some training. Everyday was more or less the same. Wake up, have a grand breakfast, lazily pack the boat, then head off for a chilled day of paddling. River levels were low so we had to paddle a bit but it was easy going. Rapids are tiny but still can present some challenges with these heavy, cumbersome craft we were using and this made it quite entertaining. As a matter of educating you, the reader: a canoe is any boat paddled with a SINGLE bladed paddle, typically in the kneeling position. A kayak, is any boat  paddled with a TWO bladed paddle, and usually sitting. The difference in number of blades is what gives us the definition. But South Africans seem to be so retarded that we even have the CSA (Canoe South Africa) and in fact canoeing as a sport is actually tiny in this country. Hence those long, terrible fibreglass hulks are called K1’s, and K2’s etc. The K standing for kayak. And then people still call it canoeing – idiots… So basically we were on a kayaking trip, believe it or not.
Evenings were perfect with little to no wind, and not once did I wear a jersey. Every night we had a lovely camp fire and a trip like this really is the stuff of dreams. The stark scenery has a real beauty to it and the silence is something I really do appreciate and enjoy very much. All in all the trip was really excellent. It did not break the relationship and even now it still continues along beautifully! In fact I could not be happier!!! I think if you add 20 knots of head wind on a few consecutive days and the the outcome will be somewhat different.
Day 4, camp number 4. A real pity about the road on the right hand side, but still beautiful and still peaceful.
Our guide Ryan enjoying his music every night. Excellent guide.
Me taming a wild, uhm, well, a goat then.
Another long exposure. Yes taken in the dead of night. I over cooked this one a little. The moon was shining, which always presents problems in long exposure shots.
The end of day 5, near to our campsite.
Day 5, next to a little rapid which was fun for swimming, and fishing.
Final night on the river. Enjoy the solitude.
Massive t-bone steaks for the last supper. And potatoes (with mustard!)
Lauren, forever the lady, tucking in as gracefully as she could. One tip: BRING YOUR OWN CHAIRS. The only thing we (I?) failed on.
Transport back to the campsite.
Inside the bus and heading back.
The views on the road back. By the way, the campsite is stunning on the river itself. You have to check it out too!
I should have written this article a long time ago, when all the little details were clearer and perhaps when I had more motivation. But time is always a problem. So mostly it’s just about the photos, which I hope you have enjoyed. Until the next little adventure!

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