Friday, 24 March 2017

Orange River adventures

What do paddling friends do when they return to SA after working abroad for a few years? They organise a group of friends to head to the Orange River for the weekend. And so it was that I spent the long weekend on the Orange River at a delightful spot - Egerton River Camp - just upstream of Hopetown in the Northern Cape.

Celliers used to go here often many years ago. Back then it was a fairly rustic spot. New owners took over a few years ago and they upgraded the facilities to create the most charming place. The property is a game farm so in addition to having the river with a great stretch of rapids to paddle, there are beautiful antelope to view.

We arrived a day ahead of our friends - both Celliers and I had it in our heads that we would leave to drive there after school got out on Friday. We were actually only booked in from the next day. We only realised this shortly before getting into our car but as it was packed and we were so totally ready to head off, we phoned the owner Amie and he said we were more than welcome to come early.

This turned out to be so in our favour. We got there just before dark on Friday night and woke to a quiet and peaceful Saturday. They had spotted a roan antelope cow with an injured leg and had called in the vet to assist. We went out with them to find her. They darted the antelope and the vet took a look at her leg, which had a massive cyst on her 'heel' joint. The vet drained it, cleaned it, added treatment and gave the animal the tranquiliser antidote. Where the poor thing was hardly able to stand on her leg, she could get up and walk on it. We saw her again the next day, walking with the herd and feeding; and again before we left. It was very special to be up so close to this large and beautiful animal. And to touch her.

On the drive in, I'd spotted a trig beacon. As a number of buffalo bulls had been moved into this camp a few days before, Amie wasn't keen to let me free range in that section of the property. He took Celliers and I out there with the plan that he'd drop me near the hill - in the open grass where no naughty buffalo were hiding - and I could run up the hill while they drove around in search of the animals.

It was excellent fun heading up and the view from the top was superb. I waved to them on the other side from where I'd started. Apparently Amie sends workers up there with a radio occasionally; they look for game down below and radio through the location. Amie says he drives around and waits to see them at the top. This is the first time for him that anyone (me) has gotten to the top faster than it takes him to drive around. Very funny. 

While waiting for them at the bottom I made a great find - a cluster of tortoise eggs that had been dug up and raided by some kind of critter. This egg was still whole. We expected the egg to be a stinky one when cracked but it was actually quite fine but clearly unfertilised. 

The whole weekend we had incredible game sightings with an assortment of springbok colour variations, roan, sable, blesbok, giraffe (two on the property), red hartebees, buffalo, gemsbok... and a pair of white rhino that had been dehorned the week before. What a treat to see them close up!

Of course, we were there for the river too. On Sunday morning I was in the raft taking the children down the river. It was a nice way to check out the river and to paddle with friends. The next morning I went down on the sit on top whitewater kayak. On the rapid that I was most likely to flip on, I thought that I had made a clean run - through the more challenging section - when a wave zapped me and sent me swimming. I really have a lot of work to do on staying in/on a kayak. 

A really great few days with special people. Egerton is a place I look forward to going back to. 

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