South Africa - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 36

Fiddler's Creek

Thursday 17th April

Our first complete day (excluding yesterday’s travelling) on the Safari trail is now drawing to an end and all is well. We really enjoyed ourselves today and many of the concerns that were plaguing me yesterday are distant memories for now. Today’s activity was canoeing on the Orange River. We are currently situated about two hundred kilometres inland from the Western coast at the border between South Africa and Namibia. The Orange River marks the boundary between these two countries. Our canoes were actually not really canoes but more like river rafts. The entire group elected for the half-day river trip and we arrived at the departure spot still a little sleepy from the restless night before. Luckily, the rambunctious group of drunken louts in the neighbouring camping field (about 30 feet from our tents) departed this morning but everyone was still a little fatigued from not getting enough sleep as a result of their partying.

It soon became evident that we were going to get very wet today as the rafts were designed to sit in the water with water inside the raft up to the line of the water outside of the raft. Our guide had not briefed us on this and I was a little annoyed about this, as we would otherwise have dressed in our swimming clothes. They did provide watertight drums to keep our backpacks and cameras.

We were told that the strongest paddler should sit in the front of the raft with the person who will be responsible for steering in the rear. Accordingly, I sat in front and Sandy behind. For some reason, however, we simply could not get the raft to continue is a straight line and ended up going round in circles in both directions. It was extremely frustrating and we were both starting to get very irritated with each other. Eventually, the guide had us swap places so that the heavier person was in the rear. This did the trick and we soon got into the rhythm of things. From that moment on, we started to relax and enjoy ourselves. We stopped for a fifteen-minute pause after about thirty minutes on the water and several of us stripped down to the bare minimum of clothes (a black t-shirt and long-legged underwear in my case – what a sight!) and got into the water. It was absolutely divine and I was in heaven.

At several point during the raft ride, we went down some very soft and gentle rapids, which was a lot of fun. Only the guide was unfortunate enough to get stuck on the rocks briefly.

Our exit spot on the river was the bank of our camping site and I swam the last few hundred yards in nothing but my underwear and lifejacket. Since I was already soaking wet, I just stepped into the shower as I was and let the heat of the afternoon dry me off over the next several hours. Eventually, Sandy made me put on a pair of shorts but I would have been quite happy to remain scantily clothed for the rest of the evening.

Dinner tonight was a lovely feast of pan-fried chicken cooked over a camping wood fire with various bits of salad and rice. It was a really nice meal, very well prepared and everyone enjoyed a really wonderful evening around the open fire under the sky Africa sky. Yes, this trip is turning out to be a truly enjoyable time for the whole group who are binding really well together.

We all sat around the fire and watched the slideshow on the laptop of the photos we took during the day as well as some of the other photos that we’ve taken over the past few weeks. I think this will be a regular fixture with this group.

Tomorrow, we are off across the border into Namibia. After a four-0hour trip, we should reach the famous Fish River Canyon. This is a fantastic chasm in the earth that is rivalled only by the Grand Canyon in scale. If our guide’s briefing this evening is anything to go by, we should have an enjoyable time there.