Wednesday 26 December 2018

Three days on the Orange River

It feels like an age since I had a real break; and nothing beats three days on the Orange River. Almost better than the cool water of the river, the stunning scenery and excitement of rapids, was that I has no mobile reception. This meant no email, no sms, no whatsapp, no Messenger, no calls. Bliss!

Three days on the Orange River have been superb. Goliath herons and fish eagles flying above, kudu and springbok on the river banks, and two nights spent under a nearly full moon that painted the landscape in shades of silver.

The paddling exceeded expectations with good flow, interesting sections and some rapids to spice things up.

I have paddled this section once before; in October four years ago not long after I started seeing Celliers (a test for our fledgling relationship). It was my first time getting to know his children and also my first time paddling a whitewater sit-on-top kayak. My Vagabond Marimba is a far better kayak for this trip.

Our Vagabond kayaks came into their own, carrying us and all of our gear for this trip. I had the fortune of paddling our newest kayak, the Marimba. This is the longest, narrowest and fastest of our kayaks and I've been eagerly waiting for it. I recently sold my Epic v7, which I really loved. The only downside was that the v7 didn't have any space for Rusty! This green Marimba is my personal kayak and will be making its way to my rack at our Likkewaan Canoe Club. I just need to put a foam mat in the rear tankwell for Rusty and then it will be ready for us to go paddling.

The group for our trip included me, Celliers and his children. We also had our two Vagabond Kayaks business partners and their families along (including some siblings and their families). All in all about 15 adults and 10 children (from 4 to 14). Here are some photos from our trip.

Packing my green Marimba. I like to separate my clothing, gear and daily snack bags into smaller (5l) drybags. I find that it makes it easier to keep track of things and is also easier to pack. This is what had to go into my Marimba (plus a few communal items like a small gas cylinder, water bottles and the like). I could have packed double and still had space to spare.
The packing space inside the two main hatches really is remarkable.

The Marimba has a bucket-like Day Hatch in front of the seat for easy-access items. My camera went into the front pocket of my PFD. In the hatch, I put shades, glasses, lipbalm and binoculars.

The Marimba has three hatches; two that go into the hull and one day hatch in front of the seat. Of course, hatches can leak, which is why everything should be in drybags. I was super impressed with the hatches on the Marimba. Three days of opening and closing and NOT ONE DROP OF WATER inside. I did always make sure to tighten the hatch covers properly. Celliers had the same; not one drop either. I need to use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the fine sand from the bottom of drybags and sandals that got into the hull during packing. The sand is bone dry.

At the Hopetown bridge - waiting for the drivers to get back after dropping the cars at the take-out. Sights like this make all the mega hours of the past 18 months, from beginning to create Vagabond Kayaks to launching this company and our first phenomenal designs five months ago.

The very first bubblies after we put in under the Hopetown bridge. The novices were a bit nervy but going through this was smooth. By day 3 they were charging through waves to get the most out of them.

Me and my marvelous Marimba.

The rocks of the Orange River are spectacular. The shapes and patterns of these black rocks change as you go along. Thunder Alley, which we went through on Day 2, is striking.

We had two rafts along with us for the families with small children.

Day 1 lunch stop.

This was a really nice rapid. Sounded worse than it was. Turned out to be lovely wave trains.

The oldest in our group is 55 and the youngest is 4. Ruben (in the foreground) and Kyla paddled Tarkas. Bigger than the children's Kwando, the Tarka is manageable for bigger children and it has the packing space for overnight trips like this. They took all of their own clothing, tent (split between them), daily snackpacks, sleeping bags and mattresses... Totally independent. Just perfect.

Hubbly Bubbly rapid has a hole in the middle and a good line on far river left - if you can catch it. With the water at a good level, we were able to paddle and bump most of the kayaks down a tiny channel near the right bank (not in the picture). Of course, a couple of our team did run it, making it look really easy.
Hell's Gate rapid, the entrance to Thunder Alley. Water at a good level but not for novices and children. Experienced paddlers took turns paddling all of the kayaks down.
We walked the kayaks through on the far river right and got in at the eddy just visible above the left shoulder of the guy. Then a bunch of us paddled all the kayaks downstream to the bigger eddy where everyone could then get on to their boats again. I paddled two Tarkas down. I had a clean run with the first but swam with the second when I got tipped by a big, sneaky boil. I managed to swim the kayak into the eddy. For the rafts, this was child's play.

Picnic spot on Day 2. There is no shade for a long time once you're through and out of Thunder Alley.
We started Day 3 by walking a bit upstream from our overnight camp for a leisurely float down the river.
Floating in the cool water of the Orange River is divine. From early morning it cooks. Outside, temperatures were upper 30s, even up to 40 C!

Last day on the river. 
We did about 20km on Day one and unintentionally did around 25km on Day 2. We'd planned on 15km for Day 2 but had to do more to find overnight stop with shade. Our last day was very short - only a few kilometres - but very pleasant nonetheless. Back in Hopetown we enjoyed a swim in the pool G&Ts and I has a leisurely afternoon in my hammock - reading and napping.

Kayaks like ours make a trip like this a breeze. Without the rafts we could have moved a lot faster and next time we'll do a no-raft trip, going all the way to Douglas (an extra 30-odd kilometres).

Can't wait!

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Off to the Orange River

It has been over a month since my last post - a clear indication of how my year has been.

This year has beaten me black-and-blue but I'm still breathing and there has been progress but it has been tough. I've done little but work-work-work and fortunately I have had my Rusty dog to get me out and to keep me sane.

Swimming in the quarry with Rusty. 
I'm off for a few days to the Orange River for a three day trip. This is a much needed escape - sans internet, emails and phone reception. I am very excited about paddling our newest kayak, the Marimba. This. Is going to be my personal kayak for paddling for fitness and fun with Rusty. It was moulded on Monday.

The green one is mine. 
My gear is all pre-packed in drybags and I look forward to packing it into my kayak tomorrow morning.

I've got my camera so I'll take photos. I plan to paddle, rest and sleep a lot (I have a substantial deficit to recover from).

I look forward to share my adventure with you next week. Until then...