Saturday, December 19, 2009

Live: Bumper Boats and Boarder Crossings

Wake up. Shower. Breakfast. Jump on board the back of a truck, and zip along to the river side where a number of inflatable boats were waited. This was an optional activity on the tour, but one that you were socially pressured into (hey – everyone else is doing it.) And to be honest, I was glad to go. It was an excellent time.

Me and my river buddy, now tent mate, jumped in ours, and took off down the river, joining the pack of other travellers. And for a while it was a nice, gentle, ride. This lasted until we decided that we needed to be pirates. But pirates, with a heart, and pirates who would not attack first – for such a thing would be wrong, indeed.

We approached – look, I'm gonna need some names here. I can't spend weeks alluding to people. So we'll call the CG29 – Rai, GG25, Aye – and SG18 Hey. There we go – names.

So me and Hey took our boat right alongside Rai and Aye's. The fear of becoming wet was obvious in their eyes. But they did nothing. They did not move. Finally, under the hot African sun, Rai cracked and splashed us ever so gently, “Act of war!” Hey cried, “Act of war!” I followed – and in three seconds the peace was broken, and the girls were soaked.

We plundered them, stealing Rai's hat, and then took off down the river. And for a while there was peace, until another boat tried to attack us. With cries of, Act of War, they too were defeated – and a t-shirt drying on their bow was plundered.

Then our tour guide/chef Mia told us of a couple that had just put their cameras in the dry bins – making them targets. We were her soldiers, and off we went to sink them, and plunder them. While they remained afloat, they looked as if they'd spent some time in the drink.

And then, mistakes were made.

There should be a rule – don't attack those with coloured paddles. The leaders had paddles of orange and green, amidst a sea of white. And one was paddling standing up. Cocksure as he was, some deflating was needed. So we gently bumped him, causing him to fall to his boats bottom. He remained inside, else I'm sure we would have been capsized immediately. Though he still tried to flip us – until one of our earlier victims unwittingly hit him, becoming the new targets, allowing us to escape.

We would eventually be caught, granted time to prepare, and then sent into the river – where swimming around under the heated sun seemed like far from a punishment. Since we were in the water, why should others stay dry? I swam to Rai's boat, grabbed her arms, and pulled her down into the river as well. She reclaimed her hat during this battle, and I was smacked – not undeservedly – many times with it, for my treachery. Pirates on the Orange River, indeed.

And then, back to the bus, back to driving.

We crossed from South Africa to Namibia – once more, i was slightly terrified of the crossing. What if something went wrong? But nothing did. Mind you, this wasn't my first time in Namibia, you see – illegal crossings were made all morning, on the river. I went all the way to Namibia to get a flower for Aye. She discarded it, not appreciating the effort. Le sigh.

We ended up at Fish River Canyon to watch the sun set.

Once more, I was presented a sight that I could not have expected. I have seen no photos, nor did I do any research about this trip. I didn't even read the files that said where we were going, and what we were doing. So every moment is a surprise.

I hiked away from the group to the end of the canyon, across rocky fields, off the path. It gave me the feeling of being alone, and doing my own thing. This is something that I'll have to better manage during this trip. Balancing being with people all the time, which is fantatic, and needed to crash now and then too – it will take some work.

As the sun neared the horizon, the sky began to glow – and then when the celestial orb finally hit the canyon edge, it disappeared in a matter of eight or nine seconds. The sky remained ablaze for some time after.

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