Too long in the Landies, not enough exercise - sore shoulders, aches and blisters, as in a long line of Felix Unite canoes, we paddle the Orange. I'm with expedition member Johann Louw, an accomplished river guide who's done the Orange 46 times. Bedrolls under a starlit sky, we sleep on a sandbank surrounded by some of the most dramatic desert mountainscenery I've ever seen.
Around the fire we talk about some of the other wonderful river journeys and crossings we've had and between much-deserved sipfulls it's becomes a bit of a Mama Afrika geography lesson. There's the great Zambezi, the Congo and the Nile, East Africa's Omo, Rovuma, Rufiji, the Tana and the Mara. Zambia's beautiful Luangwa and Kafue rivers, not to mention the elephants at sunset on the banks of the Chobe, a river that Ross reminds us starts as the Kwando and for some of its journey is also known as the Linyanti.
There's the twists and turns of the mostly deep and navigable Shire that flows out of Lake Malawi to join the Zambezi. We talk about Angola's Kunene and Cuanza rivers and the mouth of the Congo at Soyo, its the Atbara that flows out of Ethiopia to join the Nile in the Sudan. Let's face it, our South African rivers are quite insignificant when compared with the big West African rivers like the Niger (refered to as the Nile of West Africa), the Gambia, even Liberia's Cavally and the Volta river in Ghana.
Into the night and we chat about the Tugela that shares the same Drakensberg 'Mount aux Sources' as the Orange. We reminisce about the time Ross, with a crazy fellow called Jan Fokens, leapt off the Drakensberg escarpment in a paraglider with the calabash of Tugela source water strapped to his chest and 50 days later with shoulders feeling like they are now, paddled out into the Indian Ocean at the mouth of the river.
Next day, shivering in the rain and cold, we say goodbye to our superb river guide, young Namibian Theo Wula Veldskoen, who's proud to share his 1950km long river that stretches from the Maloti Mountains in Lesotho all the way to Oranjemund on the cold Atlantic, which in a weekstime if all goes well, after a loop through Sperrgebiet National Park, will be the end point of our expedition. I can tell it's time now, the team are tired - after all, we've been travelling for nearly 100 days on this one.
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