Kayaking the Border
Dec 11, 2008
We left the Fish River Canyon campsite early en route to the Al Ais Hot Springs at the south end of the national park. We were all looking forward to enjoying the springs on the edge of the canyon, but we were turned back at the gates. Unfortunately, the hot springs were closed for renovations. A little disappointed, we continued the drive south to the South African Border. We drove out of the desert, leaving the sand dunes behind, towards the hills, farms and irrigated fruit tree orchards of southern Namibian border.
We stopped at campsite right on the banks of the Orange River, which runs along the border between Namibia and South Africa. The Orange River begins in the Drakensberg, high up in Lesotho, and flows across South Africa, dividing it from Namibia before finally emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
We arrived around noon and quickly set up camp, ate lunch and played a few games of hand Saskatchewan with the volleyball. We had the option of a guided 3 hour kayak trip down the river that afternoon. The guide, who was a member of the South African rugby team, described the trip as an easy float and we signed up for the tour.
We were driven a number of kilometers up the river and were given hard plastic kayaks that really were more like big canoes.
The scenery along the river was beautiful. We were able to see mountains rising up in the distance with green fields and orchards along the riverbanks. To the right was Namibia, and the left side was South Africa.
We started out fast – we’ve kayaked quite a bit this past year and are probably more experienced than the others – and right away we pulled ahead of everyone.
We waited at the start of a small stretch of rapids for the guide and the rest of the group to catch up. The guide took the lead down the rapids and we followed behind. He suddenly yelled out, ‘keep left!” but it was too late for some of the other boats. A couple boats got caught on the right and we forced into the side of the banks. The guide had to paddle back to help them out of the situation. Elaine and Small Lee even capsized as we stopped for a break.
At some points the river was so shallow that we had to get out and pull our kayak through the water. In the afternoon, the wind shifted and, although we were going downstream, paddling into the wind became difficult. We went through a few more small sections of rapids that were fun and provided a little bit of excitement. However, in the afternoon, the paddling was a lot harder than we had expected. It wasn’t really the ‘drift down the river’ we thought it would be! We were happy to see the campground coming up along the right shores of the river. Overall though, it was a nice, relaxing afternoon.
It was our last night in Namibia and our second last night in a tent. We now begin our final journey down to Cape Town.