28 June 2024


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Article by Nampak 17 December 2013

The Nampak Plastics SA Orange River Project reaches the sea

With the help of Nampak and Plastics SA, Ray Chaplin has become the first person to riverboard the length of the Orange River, from source to sea

When IT professional turned adventurer Ray Chaplin started his walk to the source of the Orange River on 7 April this year, he had a rough idea of what lay ahead of him. Not only would the estimated 6 month descent be a world first, but he was undertaking the project with an environmental message closely linked... highlighting mankind's impact on our river systems and our marine environment as a result.

"As an ambassador for the South African Shark Conservancy, I get to see first hand a lot of what really goes on in our oceans and how are marine life suffer. It all really sunk in when I spent an afternoon in the Dwars River outside Ceres in the Cape and got incredibly ill. I just had to take action, and what better way than a journey down a river" says Ray about linking adventure and awareness.

But, as he soon found out, nothing could have properly prepared him for the 2460km journey westward to the Atlantic Ocean!

Heading off completely alone with no team or backup crew following him, he was packed heavily carrying 35kg of gear and food at times to ensure he could survive the long distances between towns. An early cold snap in Lesotho saw him regularly waking up with snow around him and frozen gear, making the early stages slow and more challenging than expected.

His rate of progress improved once back in South Africa but the river quality also rapidly declined. "I came across four towns that are spilling sewerage into the river, drastically changing the ecosystem of our nations lifeline. Millions rely on it for drinking water, while travel & tourism, mining and farming sectors are all dependent on it too" said the eco warrior.

As a result of this, the rocks in the river have become covered in a strange slime which, despite his utmost care, resulted in Ray falling on several occasions while scouting rapids and getting in and out of the river. One too many falls resulted in two broken ribs and severe spinal injury, making it just too painful and too risky for Chaplin to continue. Having already covered a little over 1000km and eager to continue the education work at schools along the river, Ray rushed his rehab and was home for just nine weeks before setting off again from where he left the river.

Doing presentations on environmental responsibility and the importance of living sustainably to schools along the way was part of the programme and Terence van der Walt, Cluster Marketing Manager for Nampak Rigid Plastics has this to say "From measly diets, to waking up to the sound of lions, to cracking ribs and finding scorpions in his wetsuit, this has been a dramatic journey and it has been a privilege to align our environmental goals and consumer education on recycling with his expedition".

With the river ever-changing enroute to the sea, nature seems to have found a way of filtering much of the dissolvable toxins. But the physical trash like bottles, cans, bags and vehicle tyres are evident around all the urban centres and along many of the farms. To help clean up existing pollution in the river, members of the plastics industry joined forces with Ray to help coordinate community cleanups and education sessions enroute. In total, Ray presented to over 9500 learners along the river with over 5500 bags of litter being collected through clean-ups, with many more follow-up clean-up days already being coordinated by schools and communities.

"We would like to thank Ray for his commitment to sharing our vision of supporting environmentally responsible actions that benefit both industry and society" said Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics SA.

After a tough and lonely final stretch from Augrabies Falls, which he walked around, Ray finally reached his goal of Alexander Bay where the Orange River empties into the Atlantic Ocean and promptly went out into the breakers to play and celebrate completing the first source to sea descent of the Orange River by riverboard.

Alicia Monahan, a fellow riverboarder, had this to say upon receiving the news of Ray's arrival at the sea: "I am so proud of Ray for planning and taking on this adventure! Not only did he challenge himself mentally and physically, but he raised awareness in many ways and was a positive role model for us all".

When asked "What next?", he simply smiles and says "Some quality time with my family and friends over the festive season".

For more details on this incredible feat and a timeline of the journey, visit www.RayChaplin.com

Ray is based in Cape Town and is available immediately for interviews.
To arrange, please contact him directly:
- Mobile: +27 84 0434 019
- E-mail: InTouch@RayChaplin.com

"Wow, I cannot believe he has come to the end of this incredible journey! What an epic experience this must of been for him - it certainly has been for use who have been following it all!" - Meaghen McCord, Founder & Director of the South African Shark Conservancy

"Congratulations on your achievement! Wow, so many months on the water. I bet it is all surreal that you have finished and achieved such an amazing feat! Well done, we are so proud of you" - Michelle Stead, Nampak Marketing

"You lil beaut! Well done mate! It has been an epic adventure to follow. An amazing achievement" - Michael Ortlepp, friend

"What a man! What a legend! What an amazing accomplishment to selflessly push yourself to achieve an almost inconceivable challenge for the greater good of our environment and all South Africans!" - Graham Shamrock, Facebook follower

"Well done boet. What an amazing accomplishment. I think a little celebration is most definitely in order" - Kyle Villet, journalist

"Long time coming. Congrats and huge kudo's for the commitment" - Adrian Lamond, Facebook follower

Riverboarding is a "facelevel" sport, whereby the participant lies on their stomach on a board which they hold onto, propelling themselves and steering with their feet which are equipped with fins (flippers, [Status]).
Riverboarders are known to run the same rivers and the same rapids as the kayakers. While still very small in South Africa with only a handful of people owning these specialist boards, the sport is growing rapidly internationally and 2013 saw the first Riverboarding World Championships being held in Indonesia.
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