WWF Desert Challenge Day 6: The lifeblood of the Richtersveld
The Orange River is South Africa’s longest river, rising in the highlands of Lesotho and flowing for more than 2000km before reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay. It flows through high alpine landscapes, bushveld and farmland, and here in the RIchtersveld near the end of its incredible journey, it flows through a desert of naked rock and sand.
The contrast is stark: Walk down to the bank, find a tree to sit under and dip your toes in the current. You’ll hear birdcall and babbling water and a coolness will rise from the surface. Turn around and walk 100m back in the direction you came from, however, and you won’t last very long in the midday heat.
Friday was all about the river for the participants of the WWF Desert Challenge. We had an extra hour’s lie-in at our camp on the river at Richtersberg, then we were taken a few kilometres upstream to a spot where kayaks had been brought over from the Namibian side. (There’s a good gravel road on that side – easier for the boat trailer.) From the pick-up point, it was 15km of plain sailing down to our next campsite at De Hoop.
After having cycled, hiked and abseiled in the park, paddling was yet another way to connect with this awe-inspiring landscape. For close to five hours, we drifted, fly-fished, rode rapids, looked for birds in the reed beds, and just let the scenery wash over us. To see how water brings life to such a harsh environment was a reminder of what a precious resource it is and how we have to do everything in our power to conserve it.
Tomorrow we cycle across the park back to Sendelingsdrift, back over those rugged mountain ranges, back to where the plane will land on Sunday and return us to reality. The crew has worked tirelessly to move camp day after day, find satellite signal for internet, feed us very well in the most remote places and pour us gin and tonics on demand. Thank you Owen and Marion and your respective teams – it has been an experience to cherish for a lifetime.
Look out for the wrap-up post next week!
These daily blogs are by Jon Minster, a travel writer and freelance journalist who was invited to join the WWF Desert Challenge.