All the way to Hope Town.

After a well deserved rest day, that was spent getting equipment cleaned and sorted for the rest of the trip, I decided to tackle the rest of Lake !Gariep. As Marianne had already paddled to the dam wall, she was not going to join me, it would give her an extra day of rest. I set off fairly early, just to find that the GPS batteries are dead. I had to find my way across that mass expanse of water on a technique called 'sight and go'. Did not do badly as I did not get lost. That night we stayed in a lovely farmhouse not far from the river. The wife heard about us and just offered us accommodation out of the blue. The next morning we were given 'lunch packs' that lasted us two days! From Lake !Gariep there are no sandbanks, just bed rock. After we learnt so well how to read sandbanks, the information was useless. We found ourselves having to negotiate class 2 rapids. The insight I got in the Botanical Gardens came in very handy. Listening to the river became second nature. At the waterfall we got out to have lunch and admire the small but strong fall. We realised that the water levels were rising and rising fast. As there was a nice grass bank, we decided to pitch camp for the night. Soon the water levels has risen so much that the waterfall just ran flat. All night long the water levels were running at full level. The next morning the water only started subsiding sufficiently for us to launch right next to the main fall in a small eddy. The little gorge one goes through is breathtaking. We pushed on to past De Wet's Drift where we found a nice (me only) grassy embankment. I managed to curl myself up and around the grassy patches in such a way that I had the most comfortable sleep in as many nights. Unfortunately Marianne did not find the uneven ground so comfortable and had to contend listening to my snoring all night. The following days were on of those, where we were gaping at the beauty around is not stop. The mountain sides were of perpendicular down to the water. Glistening black basalt, radiating the heat with the water so clean we were drinking it directly out of the river. By lunch time we were in the first dam of Van Der Kloof. We were back on 'sticky' water. We managed to find a lovely black gravel bank in a small bay. Van der Kloof is mainly a gorge with steep hills down to the water, thus finding a little gravel bank with red ants is a small piece of paradise. Found that Tabbard keeps red ants at bay. That night I slept without the fly sheet and admired the Milky way in all its splendour. By lunch time the next day I realises that Marianne was taking bad strain. Thank goodness for Topo maps. I managed to find an exit point close to a small road. Leaving Marianne behind, I hiked out to go and find help. Initially I started of for Doornkloof when I remembered Ethel telling me that the ranger is not there. I then headed for Elandsfontein. In the process I had to scale an eight foot gate. Managed to find the farm forman, who just happen to be old varsity friends with Mike Horn; SA adventurer extrodonaire, who walked 12000miles around the Arctic Circle! Abie got the radios crackling and soon the 'rescue' team was underway. We found Marianne unscathed by the Puffader that was blown out of the tree she was sitting under. Under strict instructions, we were taken to the weekend farm(!) of Dr Spies with an open invitation to stay as long as we like and help ourselves to what ever we like. The next afternoon Ethel came through to pick us up. In Van der Kloof we were showered with hospitality from the guest house we were staying in and Ethel, who runs Woukies. Want good service, good food and great company, go to Woukies. We stayed 2 full days in Van der Kloof, with the day at the farm, we had a 3 day rest period. With all the things we saw and did, it felt like we were there a life time. Tuesday morning we set to water again. It was a days kayak to Orania. Again the river was clear bedrock. I got stuck on a submerged rock and ended going belly up through a rapid. About 10km from Orania, it was time to call it a day. It was physically not possible to continue. We found a farm labourer who very kindly came to our assistance and gave us a lift (36km by road) to Orania. We barely had time to set up our tents, when we were whisked off to the local radio station as guests of a program. Heavy weather had come in and the temperature dropped significantly. After a very late super, we had no time or inkling to shower and just crawled into our sleeping bags for a fit full sleep. We got off to a rather late start after a scrumptious breakfast and massage. It was going to be a short day of kayaking as Hope Town is 50km down stream and we were going to do it over 2 days. I got 'directions' to a bush camp right next to the river and we headed there. Although it was basic and rustic, at least we had a place to cook food and beds to sleep on. The owners also gave us very good information on the white water in that area. True to its name, the first rapid, shake-rattle-and-roll, did just that to me. Belly up I went again. We were advised to portage Marcel's monster and although the long drop looked bad it was very negotiable. Unfortunately, trying to portage Marcel's monster, Marianne's back went into a spasm that rendered her virtually immobile. Thank goodness for the GPS and my very good friend, Anette, she could locate us and the nearest farmer to come and help us. It also just so happen that the farmer's mother-in-law owns the guest house where we were offered a place to stay. He kindly offered to take us into town, although I had to do the driving! He did not think is good manners that one of us ladies will have to sit on the back, so he sat on the back! I did not know that such gentlemen and chivalry still existed. I also realised it is time to take a hard realistic look at what we are doing and what is still to come. Based on what was becoming the tendency and the progressive difficulty of the river, I decided to call off the kayak expedition. After Hope Town there was Hell's Gate to portrage then a 35km gorge with some class 2 & 3 rapids. If anything goes badly wrong, there is no real escape route and before Marianne suffers permanent damage, it would be better to stop. I was devastated, although I knew that it was for the better. Trying to cope with this sudden change, I got the idea to get my bicycle and follow the river as close as possible by cycling it.

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