Let me set the scene -
After approximately two weeks in the booming metropolis of Cape Town, filled with mind blowing activities and stamina building athletics, the group settled into two long truck days to reach Namibia. I'm guessing each one plugged into her Ipod and reflected back to standing inside Nelson Mandela's jail cell or to the young child playing at the primary school or to the plethora of souvenirs and goodies at the market. She probably relished in the quietness and stretched her legs, remembering how they burned up the steep trail on Table Mountain. And then she probably had an impromptu dance party, card game or nap as the bustling scenes of South Africa drifted further into the distance and the rich red dirt took over the landscape.
Then the group approached the border, the first border crossing in Big Blue, and tucked their passports discreetly into their third pockets to go stand in line for the next stamp in the passport. In line they probably heard over ten languages bouncing off the cement walls. Maybe they walked into the next country for their next stamp or maybe they hopped back into the truck to rumble over the bridge.
And finally they arrived at their first Namibian campsite along the banks of the Orange River. The landscape now screamed out hundreds of desert colors with various bushes polka dotting the rolling hills. After a day of recuperation and classes, the group set off for a four day, three night canoe trip down river. Their three guides have been leading trips on the river for many years and shared numerous stories of their childhoods, the diamond industry and life today as Africa embraces technology and the merging of cultures.
The first day on the river was extremely windy and challenged everyone to keep their vessel straight. One wrong move in the two woman canoe, and the wind shot them straight to shore. According to Brenna it was a group effort to make it downstream and often two boats were tied together to maximize power. The wind let up during the afternoon of the second day and the group made good progress. Little rapids proved to pack a soft punch and most girls giggled their way down the line. And as often as possible they all jumped in and enjoyed the cooling waters.
The river meandered around bends and drifted leisurely through wide meadows. There were water fights and different boating games along the way. And, as this river drains into the Atlantic Ocean it passes through diamond territory. The group visited an abandoned diamond mine and saw first hand the recent history of the industry. And, rumor is, the teachers and guides played an epic prank on the girls... but that's not my story to tell...
One evening the group hiked to an old quarry and mined for minerals. (Of course, I can't remember what the minerals are called.) And after creating a big campfire, each girl through her mineral in one at a time and watched as it heated up and burst into green, blue and red flames. Afterwards, the girls rolled out their sleeping bags and curled up on the soft grasses for a night under the stars.
And finally, the trip came to an end and everyone piled back into the old school bus for the bumpy ride back to camp. The trip reinvigorated the group and provided more bonding time in the outdoors. A few days later, the group repacked Big Blue and set off northwards to further investigate the history of diamond mining and the German influence in Namibia (previously known as German Southwest Africa and South-West Africa).
During the expedition, the Travel Journalism girls had a tough challenge - Felix Unite, the river company, needed new marketing materials. With Heather and Brenna's help, they developed a competition seeking the best article about a river trip with their company and a supporting photograph. I believe there was a prize - but the true prize is having the article and photograph published. And... drum roll please... the winners are:
Article - Hannah
Photograph - Eleanor
Thanks for following the blog and sharing your comments! I will post more pictures as I find them.
|Photo Credit: Eleanor, sophomore, California|
Discovering a New World with Felix Unite
By Hannah, senior, Michigan
Canoes shatter the still reflection of the towering mountains as they skim across the surface of the Orange River. You could be sitting in that canoe. The current pulls you along and you dip the paddle just beneath the surface, causing an explosion of ripples. The guides from Felix Unite River Adventures shout encouragements from the front of the group, you can count on a trip you will never forget.
Throughout this trip you will never come across a view that will bore you. In fact, the hardest part about this trip is how easy it is to get lost in your surroundings and end up stuck on a sandbank. As you follow the Orange River you are constantly crossing the border between South Africa and Namibia and the environment around you seems to change every five minutes. At one point you are looking at vast sandy beaches and at the next you will see jagged red cliffs with rocks of every color and type blended in. This setting makes you feel like you are in your own secluded world because the mountains provide an escape from not only the view of civilization but the worries of home as well.
Felix Unite also offers guides who are extremely knowledgeable about canoeing and the history of the area. “The guides really went above and beyond to teach us about everything from mining to starts,” Emilee, a student from the United States, remarked after returning from her trip.
As the sun sets behind the mountains a pink glows falls across the river and then the real phenomenon becomes visible. One by one the stars begin to dance in the sky with a brilliance that would be unimaginable anywhere else. After a filling meal cooked over the fire you will be ready to curl up beneath the stars and feel a whole new connection with nature.
|Aunge and Leah prepare for bed on Orange River, TTS18|