Ash River – some near misses…

The weekend of the 14th and 15th of April was one to remember. With Wihan in his Expedition Fluid Solo for the first time, Morsie pushing the limits and originally deciding to leave the Jack Daniels at home and the rest of us, well, no comment…


Leaving Joberg in near darkness, we experienced some HEAVY rain within twenty minutes of leaving my house. Without going in any explanations and details, like the rat in the restaurant that night or Wihan and I with a good night of drinking, we still managed to get into bed around 02:30 Saturday morning and up again at 06:30, ready for the frigid waters of the Ash. Karl was far wiser and didn’t drink a drop. Wihan and I were feeling the effects the following morning though.


This poor dude must have been pretty confused with the flash of the camera going off... We had a good laugh!


Even with a power outage in Clarens we still hooked up a solid breakfast and met up with Grant Morshead, Neil O’Leary, Dave Rice and Jarrod. Theuns Craven, a local to Bethlehem, also joined us for the trip. The eight of us paid our dues at the Maluti Lodge and put in below the big weir.


An awesome day was had by all and I took a couple of photos while Grant manned the video camera. Wihan and Grant had to swim out of the hole at the bottom of Fish Pond. Things were looking shaky. My run wasn’t too hot and I almost came short just above the slide. I decide to try out Wihans Solo and jumped in. As I slid into the water I got a huge fright. Almost no hip pads and my feet weren’t touching the bulk head fully. Oops! I went towards the bridge in the knowledge that I would probably get creamed. My line wasn’t too hot and I started too far right just after the bridge. The rest of the run was ok but I will managed to flip just after the hole. At least I made it without going over or having to swim in the hole! Neil had an excellent run and made it look easy.


The big weir at the put-in.


Wihan Basson in Fish Pond, not looking for fish, yet... Photos by Karl Martin.


Adrian T on Fish Pond. Photos by Karl Martin.


Neil O'Leary on Fish Pond. Photos by Karl Martin.


Dave Rice with an solid roll in some tricky water in Fish Pond. Photos by Karl Martin.


Jarrod getting a solid beating on his first time in a plastic kayak, on a river! Photos by Karl Martin.


Neil O'Leary on Big Surprise.


Dave Rice punching the hole on Big Surprise.


Theuns Craven running a little far right on Big Surprise.


Karl Martin, Big Surprise.


With Fish Pond behind us we continued on down. The usual rapids, no major drama. The two metre was interesting. Wihan had a slow run on the left and after seeing his, I decided to also try that line. I had only ever run it once in the middle but the suck back is very strong there. The left is easier but pushes into the trees. My boof was ok and I cleared the trees with ease. I met up with Wihan just before the other two holes below the fall and Grant motioned across that he would be running it. I was quite surprised but knew he should be ok. At least I would capture it on camera and the crew were on the left. Grant went over but headed straight to the trees. These trees are coming out of the water and are a serious danger. He went to the first branch and held on for dear life. The water trying to push his boat under but he held fast. With some clever hand movements he made his way to the bank with the assistance of Dave Rice and Neil O'Leary. He came out with a few scratches thanks to some thorns but luckily nothing worse. No one else ran the drop, not surprisingly.


Grant Morshead making friends with the trees!


The 2 metre drop that already claimed one life.


Further down we had a brief lunch and carried on to the sloping weir. Grant was very sceptical of it and Wihan wanted to portage but I showed them how simple it was and in the end, everyone ran it no problems what so ever.


The rapid below that has some nice waves and holes and should be run in the centre. Do NOT run it far right to avoid these holes as you’ll come short on some rocks that are hidden from upstream. Left of centre is not a good choice either due to some rocks and at present, a huge log. Wihan went too close to the log and it grabbed his spray deck. The log stopped him dead and the force of the water sucked his boat cleaned off of him! He was left stuck there with only his spraydeck holding him on. We thought he was stuck in a hole but then saw his boat come down. Luckily he got off with only a torn deck. Another very close call. If he hadn’t have gotten himself off it could have turned out far worse. Wihan is a man of iron though and the experience left no impression on him. No fear.


The day had been good fun. It was Jarrod’s first day on a river in a plastic kayak, ever. He had done very well indeed, although he has paddled the odd river in K1’s and K2’s (long fibreglass beasts), still, he needed to drink and Grant did a fine job enforcing Jack Daniels in copious amounts!!! Even when we all ate at Friends he was to consume more and more, never mind the dedicated Jack Daniels bar we had just visited. When dessert came, he had ice cream and guess what? No, not chocolate sauce, Jack Daniels of course… J 


We retired to the back packers, along with six bags of wood and I got a nice fire going as is customary with me.


The following day, Karl and Grant opted not to paddle and Theuns was to help Kallie out on a commercial trip. The five of us missioned down at a good pace and completed the full section, about 20 km, in roughly 3 hours and 10 minutes. We didn’t rush at all, it just worked out that way. No major hassles really. Jarrod decided to give Fish Pond a try and it gave him a solid beating, having to swim out of the hole. But credit must be given, as he did roll twice and did extremely well, completing the top section upright which I think is the trickiest. Nice one. My run was perfect this time and far better than yesterdays ramblings.


Perfection was not to last as I messed up the two metre waterfall. I ran it far left again, but this time, with the lower water and a miss timed stroke, I ended up in the trees too! I was going to boof with a left stroke but at the last minute changed to the right. Perhaps I stroked too hard and my bow turned left, pity we didn’t have any video or photos of that. I came out alright, with Dave and Neil, I think (fuzzy memory) giving me a helping hand. Shot! I re-entered the boat and carried on down with their help.


After the sloping slide, I changed boats with Wihan and gave the Fluid Solo a bash. My Solo was still on its way and I wanted to try it out. I had some good fun and was amazed as to how easy it was to paddle. The last rapid before the bridge has a really sticky hole in it and I decided to head straight for it. The day before, it almost ate Jarrod and completely submerged Karl in his mate’s huge Prijon Invader. The Solo punched through without a hitch and my face hardly even got wet. I was stoked with the performance of the boat. In the meantime I’ve got mine, loving every minute of it.


The take-out.


Wihan relaxing at the Clarens Backpackers.


After a lekker day, a blazing fire and some beer is all that's need. Kayaking is the life!


So that was that, another successful Ash trip. Some near misses but thankfully nothing worse! It’s funny how often something can almost happen. I guess the more we throw evens, the more likely it is to land on odds. Hope not.


Check out the VIDEO below. Some sweet Linkin Park tunes. Enjoy.


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Over and out.

By: Adrian T.

Photography by: Adrian T and Karl Martin and Neil O’Leary all with my camera. Thanks guys.

Videography mostly by Grant Morshead but also Adrian T, Karl and Neil. Editing by Adrian T, I know, I know, I suck with videos. J