The dew soaks seeps into my sleeping bag. My feet are freezing and my body forces me out of slumber time. My one eye opens slowly, the second flies open to make sense of what I am seeing. The red tinge of the sandstone peaks turns orange in the early morning sun. The cool breeze on my face and nothing but the quiet sound of the egrets and weavers fill the air, paired with the distant tinkle of the bells hanging from goats’ necks across the river.
I find myself on the banks of the Orange River where wild grass grows as though it has been planted by a skilled gardener and in a camp site to rival those fit for a travel magazine. I am here for a short break from the hectic hustle and bustle of Cape Town and University. my adventure is not because I had an urge to escape the city but because of passport issues. Now anyone who travels would know how central travel documents are when it comes to enjoying or hating one’s stay in another country. Being a Botswana citizen, at 21 and wanting to keep it, I had to renounce my South African citizenship as is the law in Botswana. However, it turned out to take much longer than expected leading to my passport expiring. Traveling on a non-citizens travel document meant I was to get a visa to enter South Africa, taking more time. With the visa, I would be allowed to stay in the country for 3 months but I had to leave on a strictly monthly basis.
My adventure started not because I had an urge to escape the city but because of passport issues. Anyone who has traveled will know how much travel documents can affect one’s holiday. Being a Botswana citizen, at 21 and wanting to keep my citizenship, I had to renounce my South African citizenship as is the law in Botswana. However, it turned out to take much longer than expected leading to my passport expiring. Traveling on a non-citizens travel document meant I was to get a visa to enter South Africa, taking more time. With the visa, I would be allowed to stay in the country for 3 months but I had to leave on a strictly monthly basis.
My first month was up and I needed a plan to cross the border. A concern was where I would sleep, how I would get there and how I would explain crossing the border and crossing back the other way immediately afterward. The answer came in Umkulu Safari and Canoe trails. The camp is on the South Africa – Namibia border near the border post of Vioolsdrift in the Eastern Cape. Being the nearest border to me, only 680km from Cape Town, the next story was to get there. The best option, taking into account the finances of a student, was to get on the Intercape bus, a bus company linking Southern Africa with their routes. The ticket was reasonably priced at around R850.00. The deal seemed good, with the only downside being the duration of the trip. In a car, the trip would take around 6 hours whereas the bus it takes around 10 hours.
I made my way to the bus early on that Friday, beyond happy I had stayed in the night before, boarding at 10 am. The adventure had begun, so I settled into my seat for the journey. What I didn’t expect was the scenery. From the wide, endless plains to the mountain passes and rustling Karoo flora along the whole way. This along with good company made the time fly by. The road forms the Cape-Namibia route which links Cape Town directly to Namibia all the way to their capital of Windhoek. A good option for self-drive holidays as well.
Arriving at the border post around 10 pm I was ready to relax. As anyone could imagine, my documents were new to the officials and thus my attempt to cross quickly went anything but smoothly. With a bit of smooth talk, I got through and was on my way to the camp, standing on the back of a rattling pickup, flying over the gravel road with the cold evening air on my face. The night was dark but it was possible to make out some of the features along the way like sheer cliff faces that the road hugs at the bottom.
Upon arriving at the camp I was impressed. Beautiful lawns, sloping down to the river only 15 meters from the bar. The building style is rustic, incorporating wood, metal and stone. The beer was cold, the music was good and the food was delicious. The camp grows its own vegetables, meaning vegetarians are well catered for. Above all the staff were all welcoming and made me feel at home. Maybe too much so, as the night flowed on so did the beer carry on flowing. The morning was fast approaching and each sip of beer was colder than the last, sweet nectar. Clearly the next day would not be my best. Scheduled to get up at 7 am sharp my head only found the pillow at 3. 45 am. The next two days on the river were going to be very long and instill respect in me.
End of Part 1