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Interview with Celliers Kruger by mania
[W.A.] The Orange seems to be a very long river (2245km). What sections would you recommend if you had two weeks and wanted the best combination of whitewater and scenery?
[Celliers] If you want to do one long trip of two weeks, your best bet will be Onseepkans to Goodhouse. This section goes through the desert, which makes for some awesome scenery. There will be a couple of long flat sections, but there are some very nice rapids (class 3 to 4 mostly) that make it more than worthwhile. The Onseepkans gorge specifically is quite unique. The river splits into two channels a few kilometers downstream of the Onseepkans bridge. The right channel stays fairly flat with one or two nice rapids, while the left channel drop into a gorge with class 4 and 5 rapids. After about two kilometers, just below the biggest rapids of the gorge, the right channel joins the left channel with an unrunnable waterfall. There are still fairly big rapids below the waterfall, really cool.
One thing to keep in mind is that it's always hot here, so it will be difficult to keep food in good shape for two full weeks. An option might be to arrange a re-supply at Pelladrif, roughly halfway.
The Onseepkans gorge has a special place in my heart, my wife and I did our honeymoon on this section. Just the two of us on a two man raft, taking a week to do a trip that normally takes four days. We are actually going back to this area later this month after Christmas to do a trip on the section just above Onseepkans gorge. The river is flatter on this section, but the scenery is still beautiful. We're taking our 15 month baby girl along on our oar raft, so we can't tackle a too difficult section this time.
[W.A.] What time of year would be ideal for optimal flows and temperatures?
[Celliers] The Orange is dam controlled, and all the dams are pretty full at the moment, so a good level can be expected any time of the year if you plan to come in the near future. Temperature wise, autumn and spring will be best. Although I've done an Onseepkans trip in the middle of the winter (July) as well, and it wasn't too cold. The days were actually quite warm, just the nights were a bit chilly.
[W.A.] What kind of experience would you recommend for someone attempting these sections?
[Celliers] If you want to run Onseepkans gorge and don't plan to run the main gorge (most people don't) you will run everything with class 3-4 skills. The river is completely of a pool drop nature with long flat sections, so less experienced paddlers can easily portage the bigger rapids. There are some interesting rapids in the Pella section as well, but nothing more difficult than you'll find below Onseepkans. Remember that this section is not just an adrenaline rush, it's a whole experience.
[W.A.] Tell us a little about the camping, wildlife and side hikes? Any hazards to look out for?
[Celliers] The river runs through a desert so there are not too many big animals. But there are many small animals and lots of different bird species. The fish eagles especially are quite a treat to see and hear. There are many side hikes you can do to explore the side ravines, and you have to climb at least one of the small mountains alongside the river to get a bird's eye view of the area. Apart from the main Onseepkans gorge, which you'll miss completely if you stick to the right channels, there are no serious hazards to look out for. There are also very few people in this area, chances are good that you won't see anybody else during the trip. The people that you do find in this area are always friendly in any case.
[W.A.] Where is the closest international airport? Is it possible to rent equipment and transportation?
[Celliers] You'll fly to either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and then catch a flight to Upington. From there you'll have to arrange shuttles. Remember that public transport is really bad in our country unfortunately, so you'll either have to rent vehicles or arrange your transport beforehand with somebody you know or with commercial operators. It won't be too difficult to get transport arranged though, I'll put you in contact with guys who can do that for you. As for equipment, it is possible to rent, but if it's a big group you might find it difficult to rent everything you need. I would recommend you bring at least all your gear and just rent kayaks here. It will most probably be Fluid kayaks, of course.
Look for part two of this interview soon: Colorado River Rafting Blog