For this mission a crew was mobilized for a 4 a.m. start. Reporting was Zico, Safiyyah, Khadiem and a full canine unit. With the exception of Khadiem (who never listens), we knew this one would be an endurance test. We were nonetheless, full of anticipation that the journey down the full length of the Valencia river, would be filled with natural wonders.
The 8km jog enroute to Cumaca village at that time of the morning, was a fitting warm up for the trek. The scenic valleys of our Northern Range, the mist, the cool fresh air, all made this
segment seem a lot shorter than it actually was.
Starting this any later would have been an unwise decision; we would later learn this the hard way!
Down Valencia River
Exactly how long this segment would be, no one was quite sure at that point, however all troops were in good shape and ready to push on... well, with the exception of Ice; Khadiem’s "Labrador Retriever“ pup. He was a bit skeptical about the deeper pools which we were about to traverse! A 'long story short', this 22km pump seemed never ending at the time, but we all covered it moving at a fairly high tempo.
The terrain was not very technical but, oh boy, was it was filled with lush scenery. We had our fill of cascades, overhangs and turquoise pools. Adding to the excitement, were our wildlife encounters. These included the resident bats and spiders of the overhangs and the largest, fattest, boa constrictor any of us had ever set eyes on. This easily 10ft beauty, was actually perched on a felled tree stretching across the river, under which we had to cross while getting a ring side view. The last ‘encounter’ would be the creature which only Khadiem claimed to have seen; this 'claim' put him in such a panic, that he had to jump and hold onto me in true 'Scooby Doo and Shaggy' style!
Back to rendezvous point
In line with the saying, “nothing good ever comes without a price”, what lay ahead as we exited the Valencia river was an absolutely brutal and unforgiving 10km road stretch. This run met us all with good energy levels, or so we thought! Perhaps we were so engrossed by the magnificence of the journey thus far, that we overestimated or fatigue levels.
At that point in time, that strip was undergoing heavy road works. The mist of dust that was amplified with each gust of wind or vehicle that passed, was the polar opposite of the mist we all reveled in earlier. This one was dry and came with a sizzling serving of midday sun.
Needless to say, it silenced and spaced out everyone; even the dogs were cranky... well again with the exception of Ice. He could not relate to this twist of fate, as he was snuggly poised on Khadim's back at that point. Thankfully we all pushed through without any hydration issues… Mission 3 complete!