By Hannah Mia van Stelten
Sixty pairs of sleepy eyes blinking back the chilly morning air. Sixty voices heard greeting one another with cheer; sixty sets of teeth, smiling ear to ear. Sixty hearts teeming with adventure. Sixty pairs of arms waving and hugging and itching to row along the Oranjerivier.
With the packing process complete, Petri’s welcoming words and a travel mercies prayer, the BTK bus whisked us away. Heavy clouds of rain pursued us along the road, causing slight disconcertment over a potentially wet week without tents. Nevertheless, we chased the sun northwards, and the sky opened up. With the rising of this 07h00 AM sun came a rise in gees and chatter as everyone began to fully wake.
With music emulating from the back, the bus was buzzing. Some BTKners played cards while others got to know their seating-plek maatjies. Some had their noses stuck in a good book, while others seemed to enjoy gazing upon the distant hills as they rolled by. Leri bedazzled JP’s head with the neatest box braids I ever did see. None other than Naude was slumbering upon the chairheads: a snooze corner that looked oddly comfortable. Jo-Ann was warmly welcomed to the band along the way.
A very aesthetically pleasing padstop awaited us, with a laney Vida Café offering lavish refreshment options. This was a long enough stop for everyone to purchase and settle back in for the next bout of travels… De Wet, Petri and Helene ensured that no soul was left behind – including one particular lady whose smoothie order momentarily held up the sloertoer.
Reaching the darling dorpie of Springbok, we were granted another luxurious bathroom break at the Springbok Hotel, with its laney lace curtains and the smell of the 70s. When it came time to leave, those who were seated in the bus at the right time, observed the rare sighting of an LT bounding and leaping over roads and pavements with a glorious KFC-to-go in hand.
We had one last padstoppie for the day, specifically for the Wimpy-loving students who were too cool for Vida Café.
Hours, maybe days, passed by before reaching the border at last. 60 important passports; 60 important stamps; more than 60 precious minutes we’ll never get back. But why would we want to, when we make queuing and filling out forms an absolute makietie for one another?
The silver lining of clouds turned to gold as ladies and gentlemen sokkied in the road. What a joy to behold such spontaneity under that dreamy African sky. I quote the words of a bystander woman: “Now this is how to behave at a border post.”
After driving off into the sunset, we soon reached Amanzi’s base camp, where we swiftly unloaded our belongings and hot footed to the dining area for some much anticipated and prayed-over potjiekos. Tea and coffee flowed, and eyes lit up with glee when bowls of chocolate-sauced ice-cream made their way out from the kitchen. So satisfied were many, that there was no space left over for snacking on sleepille. Bondel Slee was under a starry Namibian canopy, the night somewhat brighter from the near fullness of the moon.
- Petri begin met ‘n passievolle ballade vir ‘n sterwende bok. Hy’t lekker klaphard geval. Legend says he is still recovering.
- Petri as Mario en LT as Luigi is terug op die rivier, met Sibbie as Maria.
- Gedroggie – Maymarie, Jo-Ann, Jacobus, Pieter, Thom
- Skilpaaie hou my dop – Simeon, JP, en Andre de Kock
- Koppe to koop – Sibbie, Bernard, Marietjie, Laurika, Ignus, Mikael
The boundaries of dames en mans kamp were set out, and we fell asleep outside with the crickets.
Huddled in our groups for breakfast, we fuelled ourselves on nutritious pap made of oatmeal, peanuts, and raisins. After randomly selecting row-partners amongst ourselves, we packed our buckets to the brim and loaded our canoes. “Can you canoe?” was the famous question of the morning. Our tour guides explained the important details for our wellbeing, such as the principle of using sticks to mark one’s territory to save a fellow BTKner from stepping on such bombs.
Oom Hannie and Tannie Patricia spoke to the young men and women separately to lay the rules before the fun could begin. Cracking corny jokes to laugh louder than the opposite group, and stealing of hats was standard procedure thereafter.
Lined up like ducks, we dragged our canoes down a sandy slope to the water’s edge and set sail one-by-one. All was peaceful for one moment’s glory once everyone began paddling. This did not last long before Petri chose violence and began the first of many water wars.
After a few kilometres, we reached a quaint little river island where we parked off for our first game break. Here toeriste could rest, swim, snack, play ultimate frisbee and slide across the sand trying to do so. We rowed on, shouting and ululating up mountain valleys to create echoes.
All was quiet for one more moment’s glory, before PIRATEEE reverberated loudly in sound waves down the river. Chaos ensued with ladies plunging into the depths from their canoes, counting that one as lost for the sake of capturing another. Some could be seen taking the elegant route of coming aside another canoe and politely swopping ships.
Lunch with a view at God’s Thumbprint! We sat contentedly, munching on Maymarie’s gourmet sandwiches made from cucumber, cream cheese, salami, Bovril, and/or peanut butter and syrup. Mikael did not know he was hunting for treasure, when he discovered a one-of-a-kind Tiger’s Eye stone glistening on the river’s edge. More relaxing, swimming, snoozing, and singing LT to sleep took place. De Wet could be seen appearing as a happy river arab draped in an iconic scarf. We huddled in one large group as our guides warned us about the upcoming rapid known as Dead Man’s Cove. A lady expressed relief to hear that it was not called “Dead Woman’s Cove.”
Such rapids were easily conquered by the brave BTK, and we rowed our boats gently down the stream, merrily because life is but a dream. Everyone seemed to be enjoying conversing and fending off another canoe’s watery bullets with their partners. Some people fell into the river during such battles, but they might say that they wanted to swim off the heat as an excuse. According to Stefan, a few canoe-couples banded together to form a ‘floatilla’, which was a sight to behold, I am sure.
Once reaching our campsite for the evening, we winded down for recreational time. Muller’s fishing rod came in handy, as he held up two well-sized yellow fish for his supporters to see. A group walked along a pebbly path to find the zone to bum-slide down the river from. During this journey, Jo-Ann remarked on the trauma that these pebbles were inflicting on his “marshmallow feet”. A few of us wore our lifejackets appropriately for this activity, in nappy-style. Gliding down the river in a human-chain was an ab-workout from laughter.
A few ladies were peacefully bathing like fairies downstream when the head of a snake or legawaan in the nearby waters. Bathing has never been more tranquil yet terrifying.
For dinner we were spoiled with Maym se kos: NACHOS.
Items were under the shooting stars tonight:
- Our dazzling lighthouse was René, who stood the test of time with grace and elegance. Our Oranjerivier pirates were: Petri,
- Trill – Petri & De Wet
- Ja Nee – Jeandre, Pieter, Marietjie
- Ninjas – Sibbie & Amy
- Punchline – Jo-Ann the last one standing, smiling big and bright
- Kellogs – LT & Maymarie
- Hoenders – Petri & LT (scattered into the night – Petri down the dune, LT around the slee)
- K-K-K-Koud – Charlotta & Pieter
- Blou Yskas – Bernard, De Wet, Petri, Charlotta, Oom Hannie en Tannie Patricia (Thom offering a joint to the toerouers)
- Boer Soek ‘n Vrou – JP (Marietjie), Simeon (Hannah Mia), Andre (Sibbie), Pieter (Alicia), LT (Michaela)
- Nooi Soek ‘n Boy – Sibbie (De Wet), Alicia (LT), Amy (Bernard), Marietjie (Jo-Ann), Marlize (Naude), Maymarie (Pieter)
- Skande op die huis! – Marietjie & Sibbie
- Cinema – Muller, Marlize, Naude, Alicia, De Wet, Bernard, Amy
- Charlotta: “Ek kan nie in man’s kamp gaan nie, maar ek kan maar kyk.”
- Pieter: “proe soos ‘n passionate blonde.”
Our stokers woke the dawn with their high note rendition of the song: In the Jungle. The river was flowing swiftly that morning, glowing with the first rays of sun that poured over the mountainside. Tears of joy were shed as the BTK wished Martine a happy 21st birthday, and the tour guides brought out a cake. After eating our fill of oatmeal, we packed up the entire camp into canoes. Lentl and some more ladies worked their hair-doing magic and making bush beauties out of their friends. Helene, LT, Martine, Yentl, and Hannah Mia came up with a profound theory of psychology called: “sand circles of personal space”.
Another day on the waters saw many capsized boats. Cat and Guillaume were ruthlessly seized by Maymarie and Bertus, who were then flipped by Pieter, who was then flipped himself alongside his innocent partner Marietjie.
During game break, some people attempted to swim upstream and soon realized the might of a flowing river. Nevertheless, some BTKners showcased their bravado in a swimming race to the large rock in the middle. Altus enjoyed some frisbee with the tour guides, feet caked with mud and happy – adventure is as good as a spa day.
De Wet and Leri could be seen perfecting their yoga moves with oars, while Maymarie, Bertus, Stefan and Hannah Mia enjoyed a gondolo experience in Venice. A large group held onto each other’s boats to create one big bondel.
Before tucking into Maym se tuna mayo middagbroodjies, we conquered a 15 minute hike up a fluoride rock mine. We saw the river from a different angle. It truly felt like looking out over the pride lands when we could see everything the light touches. We made our way down, collecting little green fluoride rocks along the way to gooi into the fire the next day. Sibbie could be seen floating fabulously upon her lilo, while others played water ball. Muller caught 3 fish, hooray!! Martine’s chocolate cake was miraculously broken and divided among the whole group. LT and Maymarie smiled through the pain of miggie bites, or as Lentl put it: mutant miggies. Yghg but those creaturelings went everywhere. If you weren’t careful you would easily inhale or ingest one.
Martine’s camera went missing in the waters around our canoes, and the search began. When there was no sign of finding it, Martine said we should go, but Bertus insisted that there was a photo of him on there, and we needed to find it. And so we did! Hooray. We all celebrated with the birthday girl a second time. And Bertus, I hope it’s a flattering photo.
Another few kilometers of rowing and we reached our home sweet home for the night. Petri either forgot to yell pirate, or was distracted from doing so by his kwaai partner.
Tracey sat under the cool of a shady tree, and Leri sat in wonder by the riverside. Bum sliding in life jacket suits happened again, only this time we all wore two jackets each, which provided extra padding down the rapids neighboring the great Sambok. Bathing today was less terrifying than yesterday, we even had bubbles, although there was definitely something in the waters that nibbled at our toes on several occasions, first Alicia’s, then everyone else’s. Again, people pay for these sort of spa treatments. A few guys serenaded the group on the guitar, while ladies shed a few tears. Not from the guitar, but from cutting onions for the best Toer meal ever. This was a delectable white sauce pasta with basil pesto, bacon, sundried tomato, and onions. Are we blessed with Maymarie or are we blessed with Maymarie??
Wraak time!! We welcomed 12 new members to our precious community:
Mikael von Eschwege, Ignus van Deventer, Jacobus Botha, Lize Steyn, Johan Neethling, Laurika Burger, Thom van Zeijl, Sanet Swart, Lucia Laubser, René Geyser, Stefani du Plessis, Tannie Patricia, Hannes, Chris, Zachary, Regga, Ricky.
Surrounded by the might of mountains, we worshipped the Almighty God. What we have here, is precious in His sight.
- Best ice-cleam in da swole swide sworld.
- Doktor (Pieter allowed his brother to cough profusely on him)
- Mr Price (Andre)
- Shotgun (Maymarie and Marlize)
- Dink Frikkie
- Hoe om n veldjie te vang (eerste toeriste manne)
- Italian pizza (Charlotta and her mother)
- Johan called this tour, “Roeihab”, because it is like Rehab. Just what the soul and body need.
A very special morning for the Combrink family as we celebrated our beautiful Charlotte by throwing her to great heights. Some more cake was brought out, which was followed by a special Bible verse and prayer from Oom Hannie about soaring on Eagles wings. De Wet and Chris were serenaded too, despite not being born that day many years before, and they also flew like eagles.
After making it through the great Sambok rapids, we rested on a teeny island for a swim. Maymarie seized this opportunity to call out Dames skiet while we were all in the water. Zahn made a brisk bolt for Bernard, who to this day might still have a battle scar from landing on a hidden rock. Thankfully we had Cat on first aid duty, who doctored up many more wounds with care – there were lots of them, ranging from splinters to deep gashes underfoot.
We rowed some more, and ate a rainbow for lunch: this was wraps stuffed with purple cabbage, ham, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, mayo and bovril. We were even given bags of chocolates to share, and of course, samples of Charlotta’s birthday cake. I’m convinced that I ate heartier at Oranjerivier than at res.
Muller’s fishing rod caught 2 fish today and Bertus’s stick and string caught 4 guppies.
We rowed down some more riveting rapids before reaching a rustig section of the river. This was where Petri remembered to call Pirate! After the scramble, we settled again, floating calmly with the current, letting it take us. Some people hopped out for a swim in the deepest section of the river, which was abojt 40m. LT & Maymarie’s canoe was stormed by 7 mense, who achieved their aims in capsizing them. With such force one would imagine how this canoe began to sink. Thankfully scoops came to the rescue here.
Tannie Patricia and Oom Hannie led the pack, two kindred spirits who were soaking in the sunshine together.
As soon as we reached the camp, we walked along another pebbly path for some body rafting down the rapids. This was a painfully long walk, the swim to shore grueling. Many of us barely made it out of those rapids alive, but it was totally worth it. Some were crazy enough to go again!
The time came to get fancy for Dames slee, and those who dressed up took part in a mandatory photoshoot. We dined on the alles wat lekker is dis dis dis. This was a magnificent mengelmoes of rice, chutney, biltong, ketnip, and onions. Pudding followed!!
We sokkied, played ukulele and guitar, and threw our fluoride rocks into the fire. Eyes glowed green with the wander of witnessing nature’s fireworks.
- LT & Petri played guitar and ukulele sonder klank
- Jeandre and Marlize sang songvanger
- Canoe (Guillaume, Daniel, LT, Mikael) (De Wet diagnosing the cannibals with a mild case of pink eye)
- Stinkmuishond (De Wet).
- Jesus is the way (Simeon, Muller, Andre, JP)
- 2 wongs don’t make a white (Alicia and Naude)
- Trooper (LT blou-yskassed Petri and someone poured sand down his ear.)
- Tell mamma Jill
- Thom read us the pure version of Machtige Koning
- Lippe kan doen – Petri & Laurika
- BTK Meisies (maar die ouens like dit) Amy, Sibbie, Alicia, Marietjie
Last item of the toer
- Petri, LT, Jacobus, Jo-Ann, Pieter, Naude
- Stuttered about anything starting with K
You can only say you truly know someone once you’ve seen them looking bright tailed and bushey eyed in the morning. Rising at 06h30 to the melody of West Virginia, we had an early breakfast, and prepared to row early to base camp. We gathered together to thank the Lord for the privilege we had to be present there. De Wet and Thom entered the ring to signify their last time adventuring with us. De Wet finishing with his 13th tour, Thom his first. We thought about De Wet, and his journey in the BTK over the years. He expressed the bittersweetness of goodbyes, and acknowledged his time to move on and begin a new season was now. We sent him to the moon with Petri leading us in clapping.
Packing up was swift thereafter, the row even swifter. Some rapids and large rocks nearly capsized a few people, but everyone arrived at Amanzi shores accomplishing their missions. Our men stacked up every canoe while Yentl and a few others strummed ukelele and sang. Climbing into the bus, we received complementary juice from Amanzi.
Petri prayed for travel mercies and we were off, set for the border 45 minutes away. Maymarie’s ingenius peanut butter toebroodjies made the queue much more bearable. The road home was bedazzled with naps (LT in sy hammock), the strumming hums of guitar & ukulele, journaling and reading, many a gleeful pit-stop for padkos along the way, and songs like Sweet Home Alabama, Lenie Blou, en natuurlik, Suiderkruis en Klein Tambotieboom.
Clouds run away and rivers run dry, but our memories made here are here to stay. Oranjerivier Koei, Stoei, Vloei, Bloei, Woei, Roei, Snoei… you were everything a BTKner can dream of & then some. May you never run dry as time passes by. May the time spent upon your waves, resting on your shores, run through our veins until we meet again for more.