This is first article in a series of 3 documenting the 2010 Fluid Team trip on the Mzimvubu River here in South Africa. This article will feature days 1 and 2, second one only day 3 and the final article days 4 and 5. It will be mostly of a photographic nature with words being thrown in to establish the setting, set the scene and provide some entertainment.

We left on Saturday 17 April at around 17:00 from Andrew Kellett’s house in Cape Town. I got a few minutes worth of reading in before sunset while Kate Walton and Phil Solomon watched the scenery whipping by. Later (much) that evening we got to George where we stayed at a house through someone in Kate’s family which was really great. The next day was a long drive and luckily my book (The Power of One) kept me enthralled. At The Falls Backpackers we met up with the crew who, by evening, had all arrived. I got to meet two new faces – Will Clark and David Arnaud. It was a festive occasion and Scott Reinders and I hit a few beers, maybe more than a few come to think of it. The group consisted of:
1.    Celliers Kruger (Mr. Fluid – and please, the s at the end of his name is silent…)
2.    Hugh du Preez
3.    Will Clark (UK/Uganda)
4.    David Arnaud (France - proudly)
5.    Scott Reinders
6.    Andrew Pollock
7.    Jakes Saaiman
8.    Kate Walton
9.    Phil Solomon
10.    Andrew Kellett
11.    Leon Pieters
12.    Adrian Tregoning (that would be me)

There wasn’t a lucky thirteenth paddler. That was almost you Craig.

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Packing supplies. Originally packed for a 7 day mission as we were told. I think this was the down scaled version of my food, I don’t remember. Looks like meals for 4 or 5 days. To add on: There is oats meal for every breakfast, about 7 tins of sardines (my staple lunch on a river trip), two minute noodles which are then mixed with tuna of various flavours, a few tins of mussels are good for pasta too, some one minute maize, a sort of soya mince which they reckon tastes like beef or oxtail for the other as you can see I labelled and sarcastically gave it the thumbs up picture on it to remind myself how terrible it actually is. There is one tin of meat balls at the back and in the top right corner is a handy 500ml Nalgene bottle of whisky, for medicinal purposes, of course :-) NOT. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_008_E1_CREL copy

Sunset as we were leaving our lovely homes in Cape Town. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_021_E1_CR copy

Two brand new medium Fluid Detox’s about to be tested by Mr. Kellett and Mr'. Solomon.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_027_E1 copy

Angela in deep thought as we left her and Adi’s awesome backpackers.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_028_E1 copy

David Arnaud (right) and Andrew Pollock (left) with some filming work.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_031_E1 copy

The view as we drove on. Typical rough(ish) Africa here.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_033_E1 copy
My company for the journey in the back, Scott Reinders. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_040_E1 copy

Random spot near the put in. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_046_E1 copyWe got some sunlight shortly after putting onto the river in the rain. 

At midday on Monday morning we drove off. Scott and I sat at the back of bakkie and endured a long and bumpy journey but with mostly laughter it went by quite easily. We got lost (or as Hugh would say – “We’re not lost, we just don’t know where to go”) but found our way and got to a spot known as Welsh Bridge. By then it was late afternoon and some drizzle began to fall. Soon it was pouring down as we climbed onto the mighty Mzimvubu River, which is South Africa’s 3rd largest river. But on that day wasn’t looking too mighty, in fact it was downright low. We all blame Celliers :-) Moving on…

We paddled 4 kilometres before making camp. It was great to out in the wilderness at last and that first night started off with a bang as electricity filled the air and the rain visited us from time to time during the early evening. Luckily it didn’t last long.

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The evening of our first night out. Storm brewing a little. Too bad it had zero effect on the level of the river.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_054_E1 copy

Me cooking away. See the black ground sheet on the right hand side over my bivi. Makes getting into the bivi a more dry affair during rain.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_055_E1 copy

Long exposure from under Scott’s tarp during some light rain and a flash of lightning added a bit to the lighting – thanks.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_057_E1_CR copy

At the fire. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_060_E1 copy

Self portrait in my bivi bag. I’m sporting the latest in fashions – a custom shirt from the DRC. It scores chicks, or so they say, because no luck yet. But I keep wearing it and keep on keeping on ;-) Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_069_E1 copy

The next morning, cooking breakfast. You can see our cool little shelters here. This is the life. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_073_E1 copy

Day 2, about to leave camp.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_074_E1 copy

Yellow Fluid Detox in the foreground about to ready itself for the long day ahead.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_080_E1 copy

Lunch break. What’s with the yellow and orange?! Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_084_E1 copyLunch stop on day 2.

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Andrew Kellett after another bony little drop. Great scenery at least. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_097_E1 copy

The scenery is just awesome. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_101_E1 copy

Yes, we would have welcomed another a metre of water!!! Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_104_E1 copy

Camp for night number 2. This was a cool camp. Look at that lawn. Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_111_E1 copy

Leon Pieters in the background at his shelter and my bivi rigged up too for night 2.  Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_114_E1 copy

Cooking, drinking whisky and relaxing under a cold African sky. This is the life… Vubu_17_to_25_April_2010_116_E1 copyLeon Pieters snuggling up to his Detox. It’s under there for security reasons, just in case. Nothing was stolen on this trip I’m proud to say. 

The following morning announced itself under an azure sky and I knew it was going to be a good day, albeit a long one. We had a long way to go before we reached the confluence with the Tsitsa River and we were also only the third ever group to paddle this upper section of the Mzimvubu, so information was virtually zero. The only thing we were sure of was that there was the rather large Mzimvubu Falls to negotiate and that the water level was bitterly low. But no matter, we slogged on through the bony rapids that cried out for more water and enjoyed each other’s company. After a long day in the saddle, we clocked up forty one kilometres and arrived at a campsite with a lawn (that even the sternest of green keepers would have been proud of) just before the sky darkened for another night under the African sky. This is my favourite form of paddling. With just some more water it would have been perfect. The overnight trips are like hiking, but without the pain of having to clamber up large mountains. It was awesome just to be out in the wilderness with some really fantastic people. There was no other place I would rather have been. We slept peacefully after a long day of small rapids and flat water, but still with grins on our faces.


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Photography by: Adrian Tregoning. Unless otherwise stated.
Words by: Adrian Tregoning.