Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon

I'm a bit behind after spending most of last week in the Northern Cape for the three-day Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon. The event takes place over three days and covers 100 kilometres on the Orange River between Upington and Augrabies.

I first visited this area in 2001 when I ran in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon. This was my first multi-day staged race in a semi-desert, sandy environment. It is also a self-sufficient race where you carry everything with you for the week. AND, one of the six stages was an ultra, which I ran throughout the night and loved it. This race very much changed my sporting direction and was instrumental in where I am now and what I get up to.

I had the fortune of returning to this area many times over the next few years for other events; but it has been many years between my last visit and now.

It was up here that I met and befriended Gawie Niewoudt - he's the organiser of the event and owner of Khamkirri, a wonderful accommodation and activity venue on the Orange River across from the town of Augrabies. Gawie launched this canoe race three years ago and so it was my absolute pleasure to join his team and to write (and Facebook) on behalf of the event.

Aside from this being a superb event, what it has done it to make me crave kayaking and I'm dusting off my K2 to ready it for paddling this weekend - and beyond. I can't think of anything else! The beauty, grace, speed, rhythm of paddling... It has been a few years since I paddled regularly. While paddling is a physical discipline, it is also quite meditational. I enjoy paddling with a companion in a K2 but perhaps this summer I'll finally get the hang of a K1 (I got half-way there a few years ago).

Here are some photos from my time in the Green Kalahari last week.

'O die donkie' - sightseeing in Upington
The event invited children from nearby schools to cheer for the paddlers at bridges and at the finish. It gave the event a wonderful vibe - the paddlers felt like rock stars - and the children delighted in seeing the paddlers in action.
A three-boat sprint for the finish at the end of Stage 1 - incredibly exciting

A four-boat diamond

People really make an event. This trio from Craddock (David and Michael with Kirsty as their support) had different designs painted on their every day.
VERY exciting racing on the third and final day. Watching this raft of kayaks charging at full speed for the daily bridge prize - like Oh wow!
The water level was very low, which made for more portages and bumpity-bumpity sections on rocks. There are a number of rapids on each stage. This was fairly tame.
Graeme Solomon's brand new kevlar boat took a knock on Day 2 and took them out of the running for the win.
We made a quick pass after the race to see the Augrabies Falls. I accompanied the foreign teams. Even though the water is low, this is a sight that I never tire of.

I first visited Khamkirri in 2001 during the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon. I hadn't bathed for three days and I was incredibly salty, sweaty and, certainly, smelly. The lush green lawns and the inviting water of the Orange River... I've always felt very much at home here and this time was no different. This is Khamkirri on Sunday morning, as I was departing.
My media buddy Cameron Ewart-Smith took many beautiful photographs of the race. You can see them in the albums on the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon Facebook page.

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