My Birthday In Two Countries
“While the Orange River was named after the Dutch Royal House, in recent times it has been referred to by its original name of Gariep, which simply means “river” in the indigenous Khoekhoe language. Beginning its journey in the mountains of Lesotho, the Orange River is the longest river in South Africa and offers a unique contrast to the desert landscapes along its banks. The best way to experience the river is by getting out on the water and this morning we have the opportunity to join an optional canoe trip on the river. Later this morning we cross the border into Namibia and travel onwards to the Fish River Canyon, one of the largest in the world. This afternoon we take a walk along the rim of the canyon and end our day with a memorable sunset on the canyon edge.”
We had set up camp at the Fiddler’s Creek campsite the night before, right on the bank of the Orange River. A few of the guys and I went to the onsite bar overlooking the river to unwind after dinner and do shots of Springbok with the customary dance. The bar shut at 11 pm but Yves offered to stay up with me until midnight so we put in our last orders of shots, covered them and talked about until the clock hit midnight, August 1st and we toasted to my new year.
I woke up freezing in a dusty old tent but thankful for old age and being in such a special place for my birthday. I decided not to go canoeing with the group, so I could have some time to chat with myself. We said goodbye to South Africa before setting off to Namibia and making our first of many border-crossings. I got the chance to facetime my family, especially my mum who isn’t a big fan of me always travelling, but who loves when I tell her stories of where I’ve been and show her real time what the places look like.
We stopped briefly on the way to stock up on water, snacks, food and in my case, booze. One cannot have a birthday without some bubbly.
We got to Fish River Canyon with enough time to hike to the viewpoint and catch the sunset. It was simply stunning and not nearly as busy as the Grand Canyon which is only just bigger than it.
We camped in Hobas, a lovely lodge that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. It had a swimming pool, nice ablution blocks and a bar with a super friendly barman who gave me staff wifi access and free shots to celebrate my birthday. Yes, I tell everyone one it is my birthday!
Had our usual nighttime meeting then pasta and the drinks I bought earlier for dinner. Right after everyone had finished their food Crispen came out with a birthday cake as the group sang Happy Birthday to me. Patrick, the German guy,I sat next to on the truck, gave me a card signed by everyone and then someone came up with the idea of singing the birthday song in all the languages represented in the group – Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Dutch, Korean, Mandarin and just as I was about to cut the cake a couple showed up singing in Italian with two bars of Swiss cholates and a lit candle for me to blow up. They had heard our singing and came to extend their wishes.
The group made me give a speech and I mumbled some things about memories and friendship.
Night 3 and I caved in and upgraded to a suite. In my defence, it was my birthday, and I could not spend it in a tent. In reality, it became difficult to sleep in the tent after this night because Namibia gets really cold at night – single digit Celsius cold – and very hot during the day, up to 33 degrees. People start off the day wearing a jacket, gloves, socks, and head warmer but by noon we had stripped down to shorts and vests. I think I offered one or two people to join me but they declined because they enjoyed camping but by day 10 more and more people joined my upgrade train.