About 2 years ago I got a phone call from a guy called Gawie Niewoudt. “Michele, you have to come and do this race I am putting on!” He phoned, a lot… Unfortunately I had to have wrist surgery and hence miss the race, but come January 2013, and the phone calls started again, and again 🙂
Persistent is putting it mildly! Gawie is larger than life, a real Kalahari Lion, and someone I am very fortunate to have met. His hospitality and generosity is as big as the Northern Cape Province that he is so passionate about.
His river camp, Khamkirri, provides the perfect finish setting, with couches on a shady deck overlooking the mighty Orange River, a well stocked bar close by, and an assortment of accommodation, from luxury tents, to chalets and camping. On a morning run I saw Zebra, Gemsbok, Springbok and an otter!
The Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon is one special race, starting in Upington, where the river is still pretty wide, we raced downstream, avoiding the rock’s. The rapids were fun, one or two big drops, and many channel decisions to make. With a 300% increase in numbers from last year, the field had some great talent, making the racing up front pretty tight. 30km later, and the finish at Oranjerus was a welcome sight.
Day 2 was a 42km paddle from Keimos to Kakamas (try say that in a hurry!) Off the start there was a small rapid to kick the day off, followed by some minor bubblies. Then came one big portage (especially if you take a detour like I did). 2km later I thankfully put back into the river. After a few km’s we entered the infamous Gorge section. The rock cliffs on either side of the river are dark and interestingly shaped. The rapids are super, and refreshing after the dry heat!
The third and final day was from Kakamas to Khamkirri, a total of 26km. The first 10km was relatively flat with about 4 weirs. Then the fun began, with loads of rapids and channels to pick making the last 15km entertaining, and appear to fly by! I had a great race, finishing 1st in the women (16th overall), with Nikki Mocke 2nd, and Kirsten Penderis 3rd.
Gawie and his team put on a spread like no other, and thanks to one of the main sponsors, Orange River Cellars, there was a great selection of wines to taste. After that there was nothing left to do but float in the river with a cold one, and hear everyone’s battle stories from the river!
Thanks to Gawie and his team for a super event, Andrew Kellet for doing safety, the unbelievable Jacques Marais (all photo images) and Peter Kirk (video) for capturing it all, and all the paddlers for braving the 850km + journey and 40+ degree heat!
I will definitely be back next year!
All results and info can be found on www.gkcm.co.za