11 April 2012. Yes I am slow. Yes this was actually the first river we paddled, and yes I had to hold back the photos and hence this article because they were featured in the National Geographic Traveler magazine in Indonesia. Anyway, here’s what happened that day.

Sigit, Toto, Agus, Puji and myself climbed into the trusty 1980 Toyota van and made our way to the base of some hills. We parked next to a stream exiting a rice field and began a three kilometer walk uphill in possibly the most conditions I have ever experienced. Luckily I was quite fit and the hike easy but by the time we got to the put in I must have lost 4 litres of moisture already. The river down below looked cool and inviting. Low in volume but with some interesting drops and one mean looking cave which looked like pure hell to me. I wondered about it… In my diary I wrote the following, “So bloody f**ken hot & humid” I think that sets the scene, don’t you?

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Hotel room first night stay after 4 flights and some 30 odd hours of travel. Or what is 40? Can’t remember now.

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Toto (left) and myself on the bus from Yogyakarta to Purbalingga.

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1980 Toyota van. This thing rocked!

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Night life at the square in the city of Purbalingga.

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Toto (left) doing the Indonesian pastime – smoking. And Puji in the centre.

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Very spicy chicken leg. Yes ladies and gents, the legs come complete with the foot of the chiken! Pretty tasty!

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An assortment of, er, things for breakfast. Quite sugary but very tasty. Not good for my stomach because I am allergic to sugar. Not diabetic but it gets upset…

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Scott Reinders always calls me Ades. Not you see, there is my signature water bottle ;-)

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The Toyota ready for action.

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Palm tree.

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Driving through some place on the way to the river.

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Nearing the river.

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Hiking up, what a view! My new Sawyer Sidewinder paddle worked very nicely, excellent flex! And I managed to get an Expedition Solo to use for the trip, which saved me from flying with one. Thanks Toto!


The first drop was a double drop with a rapid above which looked too low to be fun. Toto and Puji ran first while I took photos and Agus safety. The rapid was quite easy, and very picturesque. Next up was me, and Agus decided to give it a skip. I have no idea why, as he is a very competent paddler and I had paddled with him before in 2009 in West Sumatra.

There were some flow moving rapids for about 200m and then a weird rapid which had a slot falling onto a rock. The idea was to get good speed and left boof, avoiding the slot. This proved pretty much impossible, as no speed could be generated. We all fell into the slot, Toto even doing it backwards but it turned out to be quite enjoyable. Directly below this was a very steep rapids with some siphons and because of the low volume we had to portage to top half, and paddle the rest, portaging was not easy, if even possible. I went first and made the rest of the rapid no problem, and going down the next drop blind, deciding to melt it. Immediately I was sucked back and a short surf resulted – luckily I could surf out of it.

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The put in rapid on the right, and us resting in the extreme humidity.

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Toto on the lead in rapid.

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Puji on another part of the lead in.

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Toto on the double drop.

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Puji about to drop down the 2nd half of that rapid.

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Toto finishing off.

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Myself. Photo by Toto Triwindarto.

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Just below the double drop.

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Puji about to fall into the slot.

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And me heading through the slot. Photo by Toto.

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Toto with an excellent recovery after botching the entry.

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Myself trying to avoid a rock on the landing, which was almost impossible to avoid anyway. Photo by Puji.

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Puji cruising over the rock.


We paddled another fun drop and took some photos and then we came to the cave drop. It was only possible to scout the top half, portaging was not possible and the top half looked super bad. The rapid broken hard right and if you messed up the drop and got pulled into the eddy which fed into the cave life would be unpleasant, in fact probably beyond unpleasant. The rest of the rapid remained hidden but Toto said it was ok and that he would go first. He had paddled it about twice before, with this being the third descent ever. Toto dropped down and the eddy stopped him properly. He held his right stroke and pulled out of its clutches and paddled free, disappearing around the corner. I did not like this, our safety was bad.

Before Agus went I got Toto to get out on river left below the cave for safety with a rope as his angle would have been way better. Above the rapid on the right was not possible to reach, which would have made scouting possible. Agus did go next and he had a slightly better run. I was not stoked to be running this potential death trap but portaging wasn’t an option and so I made peace and just concentrated. My line was ok I guess but then as I rounded the corner the rapid dropped down steeper than I thought. Flying down a plume of water I broad sided into a boulder and thought ok no problem I’ll push off of it. As I did the water caught me out and I went partially over. But as I did I looked over my shoulder and in that split second I was some boulders which had the words siphon all over them – at that stage I knew I could be f**ked. Excuse my language, but that’s what I thought. With deft skill and a ninja half roll I got upright as quick as I could and moved off – shew!

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Toto through first, with the cave calling his name but he made it clear. The cave went in another two metres deeper on the left and disappeared. Definitely NOT the place to go!

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Agus with a clean line through.

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Myself having an ok line and then messing up the exit (could not scout the 2nd half of this rapid) and portaging was not possible so it was a must run rapid. At the end I narrowly avoided the two siphons which are located there. Hmmmm..

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Puji with a good line through.

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Myself boofing off the last little drop of the cave drop. Top bits of the siphons visible on river left (right side of the photo for non-paddlers). Agus had already swum through the one siphon. Not good.


As I joined Agus in the eddy he told me he had swum through the siphon that is there! I couldn’t believe it, and in the moment thought he had just done that a few minutes ago. Confusion reigned for a while as obviously English is not his first language but it turned out that on their previous run he had been caught out at the cave, been forced to swim and luckily get free, but then swam the rest and got sucked right through the siphon. For some reason no one warned me of the siphon before the time. Upon questioning Toto afterwards he said he wasn’t sure of its location. Still, a warning would have been nice :)

From here the river was chilled, very chilled. At high water this short section would be very intense with safety difficult to administer because of the steep banks that are covered in slippery moss. I would imagine it to be about 3km long and in the class3+ to 4+ range with the cave rapid definitely a 5. In fact at high water I would hesitate to run this section purely because of that cave rapid. Maybe I’m just a sissy but crikey I don’t enjoy the sight of recirculating manifestations like that!

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The final section looks like this. Would be awesome with more water!

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Locals had let these logs float down the entire section we paddled. This was in my mind as we hiked up we saw them and I hoped none of these logs would get stuck.

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A young lad enjoying the ride down.

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Toto relaxing on a log raft at the take out.

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Village at the take out.

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Local vegetation.

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Typical scenery on the drive home. Rice, rice, and more rice.

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Toto tucking into some good food. The food there is really tasty.

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My room with the only window that only opened so far, in possibly the most humid place ever. No need for blankets the entire trip.

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Probably the first and last time I will appear in the National Geographic Traveler. Pretty cool :-)


We got some take away food on the drive home which was the standard rice, a single chicken piece, beans and chili. It was very tasty. It was hot back at the house. No matter what time of day it always seemed to be the same temperature. That night we learnt about the 8,8 earthquake off the west side of Sumatra. I wondered if it would affect us, Toto said it would surely not – he was right. The day ended eating peanuts and talking to Toto. Life was good.

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Words by: Adrian Tregoning.
Photos by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.