After leaving Tankwa Tented Camp, our next destination was a nature farm in the Cederberg Mountain area. We decided to take a path through the untouched nature and first followed the R355 towards Calvinia. After about 40 kilometers of driving we turned left and followed an unmarked turnoff. This road led us over several farms and the track was in a bad condition. Everywhere the rainy season or its effect was to be seen. Washed out paths were as normal as heavy erosion on the left and right side of the path. There were also some notable steps to overcome. We continued to eat our way meter by meter through the path and finally reached a kind of mountain path. The view was beautiful in places.
Did anyone mention a river?
After a total of 64 laboriously driven kilometers – we needed more than three hours for the distance – we drove downhill along the mountain path, came around a corner and suddenly stood in front of a full-grown river. Oh God, you’ve got to be kidding me, it sounded from the passenger seat. It didn’t say anything about crossing the river, it really didn’t – Sonja defended herself, while Guido rolled onto the bank with a grin on his face. You can turn around up ahead, you’ve got to be kidding me. Always calm, it sounded from the driver’s seat and while Sonja explained to Guido that there was no alternative but to turn around, he was already standing at the water’s edge and studying the tides. He returned, began to undress and explained to the increasingly frantic Sonja that he intended to run once through the river to see what was going on. Sonja had horror written all over her face.
Discussions and conversations
Stripped down to his underpants, Guido grabbed the bathing shoes that could finally be put to use, put them on and started walking. He reached the other bank, where in the meantime a couple was standing and wildly discussing the conditions with Guido. They wanted to cross the river in the other direction, but were traveling in an SUV and didn’t even have off-road tires on the vehicle. Guido advised against it and their later decision to turn back was the best they could do. We were joined by two young men from a nearby camp and Guido took the opportunity to talk about the details of a river crossing with these locals. They basically advised us not to do it, but on the other hand the water level was well below that of the Boteti in 2019, so that shouldn’t be a problem. The ground was also feasible – it consisted of sand with stones, with the pitfalls being some rocks that were difficult to see underwater. So it was necessary to make a turn at one point to avoid damaging the vehicle. The flow was noticeable, but didn’t challenge Guido much when he was wading through it, so it shouldn’t harm the car either.
No, no and no again!
Guido decided to dare the traverse on his own authority. He likes – unlike Sonja – water crossings, was experienced by now and could always keep calm and work well. He came back – his underpants were wet at the bottom, which roughly corresponds to a water level of 85 cm – and told Sonja his decision. She became frantic and wanted to avert disaster. There’s no way we’re doing that – look at the river. We turn back, that’s it. I am NOT getting into the car! After a short conversation and Guido’s efforts to calm Sonja down, the agreement looked like this: Sonja also crosses the river on foot and we use this unique opportunity to finally have moving pictures of such a crossing.
While Sonja undressed and put on her bathing shoes, Guido got dressed again and prepared himself. He pressed an action camera with microphone into Sonja’s hand – but unfortunately forgot that it was in manual mode – and then waited until Sonja arrived on the other side. He got into the car, activated the four-wheel drive mode, shifted into low gear, put it into second gear and gently, rolling into the water, started his adventure. One of the two young men was standing next to Sonja, had his cell phone out and was also filming the event. Guido followed the established route and drove at a steady pace through the river. After almost exactly 45 seconds, the spook was over and the Donkey had dry ground under its tires again. The tension fell away and everyone was happy. The young man congratulated us and immediately asked if we would agree that they post the video on their Facebook channel to show how to cross the river. We gave him permission and after another short conversation and the inspection of the camp, we spontaneously decided to camp with them at the river in a wonderful place.
The disaster becomes visible
Guido’s joy was still written all over his face when Sonja came to him and was unsure whether it had turned out well, since everything was so bright. I beg your pardon? No, no, that can’t be. It just can’t be. After examining the video in the camera, it was immediately clear that the video was totally overexposed. A single click and the switch to automatic would have been made and the video would have been fine. Guido put on his shoe. He simply forgot to change this setting in the excitement. The camera was optimized for shots inside the car. Well, let’s hope the cell phone video turned out well, Sonja heard him say. A few minutes later, the young man confessed that somehow the video didn’t start and he didn’t see that, blinded by the sun. He only activated the video when he actually wanted to finish it. Did that really happen now?
Reason takes hold
Guido’s first reaction was: we’ll do it again. I drive back again, turn around and then we film again. Then with video on a tripod and a drone flying alongside the car. The two guys goaded him on and reaffirmed that it was doable and he could do it again successfully. In the end, after a night and a dialogue with himself, Guido decided against it. Sonja was happy about that – but she had not interfered intensively before, also because Guido was still in his defiance phase. Although Guido would have really liked to have pictures of this adventure – it was the fourth serious river crossing altogether and there are no usable pictures of any of them – he himself realized that it would only be about the satisfaction of the ego and there would not be a single good reason to do it.
When to cross a river?
It makes no sense to cross a river for fun. There should always be a serious reason. The material will be stressed and, of course, there is always the risk that the venture will go wrong and the car will get stuck. Whatever that means in the end. There are good ways to minimize the risks significantly. Raising the air intake with a snorkel, using breather kits to bleed the axles and differentials, proper tires, and last but not least, running off the water – if that’s possible – will reduce the risk of something happening. Our car meets all the requirements for water crossings and yet it is (actually) clear that we do it only when it seems necessary.
Anecdote to the end
About an hour after we crossed the river, an elderly gentleman came with his son and was also faced with the decision. His car was prepared, but he did not listen properly. He knew better than the people who live there and also Guido, who described the driving line to him several times, he only paid limited attention. Despite the request to wade through and walk the line himself, he did not do so and thought everything was clear. He seemed to be very excited, then set off at too high a speed, chose the wrong line and promptly hit a rock. He braked, reversed and the car bucked sideways over the rock like a rodeo horse. By the time he got to the other side of the bank, however, the car had sustained damage. The car was leaking oil. After a talk with his mechanic – he crossed the river four times(!) on foot for these talks to use the camp’s wifi – he continued his trip the next morning. What happened to them, we do not know.
If you want to see the overexposed video, click here