A Scouting Mission...

Friday, 21 November 2008. This day would be an interesting one of exploration as well as frustration. Luke and I awoke to cloudy, but warm skies. Within an hour or two it was baking hot already and the clouds parted to let through the full wrath of the sun. Our dehydrated brains did not appreciate the welcome. I wonder if the beer consumed the night before had anything to do with it?! I had gathered some information from another friend of mine about a very big slide that was quite runnable in the area. Our mission, to find it.

Please note: I was asked by the person who told me about this slide not to mention how to get there. So I guess for now it will remain a bit of a secret. Oh well, I’m not really bothered too much. Eventually it will become public knowledge and then anybody with balls enough will go and huck it. Be warned however, one person has already been hurt and was coughing up blood for a while afterwards. This slide will feature in the DVD, Africa Revolutions, as well as the new Fluid promo DVD. Keep a look out!


The view from my window at the Himeville Arms. Very lekker place! :-)


Luke Longridge charging the camera and what not the next morning. I guess we forgot the night before... Oops! Quite cool rooms for a backpackers. They have more expensive options too.


Flowers growing near our room in a pot. Very cool.


More flowers. Yep, you may have noticed by now I really do enjoy nature and the small things in life too! :-)


What I call 'mini-helicopters'. This is probably just a slightly different species from the big ones that are singularly on a step. When they dry out, turn brown and drop off, the spin when they go down. Hence the term helicopters. I wonder what they're really called. Actuallly, I have some books I should check!


The back end of the Himeville Arms.


The more luxurious choices of accomodation.


The view across the street. (behind the main road) Himeville is a small, but beautiful place.


This is the downhill towards the Polela River. It was too low. This river is a favourite for many. There are photos of Steve Fisher and Dale Jardine on photosbydes.com. We never get enough rain to paddle it! One day...


Some little dudes cruising around.


Some willow trees next to the Polela River with a man made forest in the background.


This photo is decicated to all those that thought I was talking crap. You can drive many of the roads in Natal at night, without lights!!! :-) These little solar panels charge up during the day and light up the roads at night. It looks so cool.... hehehe. Check them out.


Luke and I drove around a fair amount to try and find it. I knew from Google Earth where it was but of course driving through forestry roads can be a nightmare. We eventually stopped at one point and I called my mate to find out if it sounded right, he confirmed. Well, confirmed from what poor information we could give him about how a forest looked. Don’t they all look the same once inside?! Below us lay a beautiful pine forest as it dropped down into a valley. I told Luke we should be careful for puff adders as they like to hang out in these forests. Luke still said they would never be in here but I seriously had doubts and decided I would trust my own knowledge and take it easy. We navigated through some thorns and then stood on the soft floor of pine needles, it was quite lovely actually. Luke was ahead and had moved about five metres from the road when he almost stepped on a puff adder chilling on the floor!!! Ah ha, no puff adders ey Luke?! It was a seriously close call, and wouldn’t be the last time Luke almost stepped on a snake during our trip. Maybe they like him. After a few photos of the beastly little snake we looked down the slope and realised that the river was actually not here, so we walked back to the car and carried on exploring where no Volkswagen had gone before.


Some cool mushrooms growing on some exposed roots.


A smaller (more classic) type of mushroom growing on some old cow patties...


Luke Longridge carefully taking photos of the highly dangerous puff adder. See him just to the left of the camera? Do not get bitten! You probably won't die but the wound will rot for years to come. Nasty stuff!!!! There are loads in South Africa.


A closer look at our small, fat friend. I've seen some monster puff adders in Zambia, crazy stuff!!! So weird how their colours can differ from region to region too. Beautiful skins.


The river from high up on the road. Looking good!


More small slides downstream.


Luke Longridge standing near my car. As you can see, these roads are not used very often. We definitely did not have permission to drive on this road. Just make sure you don't smoke here! (neither of us smoke). People who own plantations spend their lives worried about fires. So don't be stupid...


Another beautiful specimen to add to the growing collection that has been shown on this website already.


After some time we stumbled into a really great looking river. It didn’t have enough water to be paddleable but it sure looked like it had massive potential. We left the car at the top of a hill and hiked down. What an awesome river! I wondered if it had ever been run. Surely it must have been run, but yet I had my doubts. It is the same river with the big slide on it but my mate didn’t know it had these slides and drops downstream. We found some serious looking rapids, small slides, a monster waterfall of probably around sixty metres with nasty, blocked off with siphon rapids downstream, and then another big waterfall in the region of about fifteen metres just around the corner, followed by more cool rapid and smaller drops. What a gold mine. No doubt Luke will go back and paddle this one. Too bad I’ll probably be sitting in Cape Town when he does. After that we made our way down a steep hill to a possible take out point next to the river. No doubt that a 4x4 would be needed to navigate these roads with any sort of rain.


Some sweet looking drops upstream. Must look really great with a decent amount of water!


Amazing flowers!!!! You should see the full size image. Just perfect.


More of what nature has to offer just next to the river.


A steep, solid looking rapid. All it needed was a little more water.


The monster waterfall, possibly 60m or more. Note the rapid downstream. It was steep and very blocked off with siphons.


Yep, more flowers.


The smaller waterfall visible on the left hand side. The big waterfall is also to the left, over the hill, not shown in the picture. The river forms a 180 degree bend with waterfalls guarding either entrance to the bend.


My car missioning around the plantations. Photo by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


A crab cruising around a small stream that crossed the road at some point. Cute little dude and not easy to photograph as he was always on the move.


We still had not found the big slide so went back to the main road and after yet another phone call we finally found the right road. For my little front wheel drive car, it was a bit extreme, to say the least! But I managed to get up the first part which was quite steep and severely rutted. Eventually we did find the slide and it definitely was pretty big. It is not that easy to get down to the pool below so we didn’t bother. The level was low but I had seen it being run lower in the Fluid Promo DVD (which is not out, yet). Luke was quite keen to run but I was not. We both decided even Luke could not safely run it without there being more people present. At least we knew where it was. But it is still rather massive and I would have to be feeling good on the day to tackle this beast. A little despondent by now, we drove off and decided we’d huck the five metre drop at the end of the waterfall section on the Umzimkulu.


The entry to the big slide. Low water. It has, however, been run at lower levels! Note the horizon line on the right hand side...


The long entry to the big slide as viewed from close to the lip.


The lip to the big slide. Pretty damn high!!! Luke Longridge standing on the right hand side.


The big slide. Pretty high and not that easy to get down to the pool either.


I had written down the road numbers in my copy of Run the Rivers of Southern Africa (book by Celliers Kruger – get it!) so knew exactly where to go. We went down, and once through the gate turned down and right. At the end of this road it just didn’t look familiar. I had been there three times before, but had only ever driven out, as a passenger. So we went back and went down and left. After a while we turned around, doubting ourselves. Luke reckoned it was another road so we went back to the tar road. We then drove down to the put in road, then turned around and went back to the take out road, again. By this time we had wasted a lot of time, and we had created too much doubt in our own minds. Eventually we did find that the left road where we turned around earlier on was indeed the correct road! It was then 15:00 and we were tired of driving around and now could not even motivate ourselves anymore to drive down, and then walk up to huck another small waterfall. We also still had to drive to Highover where we would be meeting up with a bunch of other paddlers to paddle possibly my favourite two day stretch – Deepdale Gorge on the Umkomaas River. So with thoughts of some old friends and cold beer, we hit the road again and drove off, sadly leaving behind the Umzimkulu River which looked like it wasn’t at a bad level. We could see the spray from the waterfall in the distance.


Caution! Dairy cows :-)


And there they are! Photo by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


On the road down to the Umkomaas River, which can be seen snaking in the background.


The mighty and beautiful Umkomaas River from the bridge just above Highover.


The level was just under 1.3m on the bridge. Not too good, but I had paddled it lower.


Some beautiful flowers at Highover.


There were loads of catepillars there. Quite smart.


Adrian Tregoning relaxing at Highover with a Windhoek Draught. Ahhhh.... Photo by Luke Longridge.


The Umkomaas River towards evening.


More driving ensued and then we finally made it to Highover. It is such a great place and it was good to be back to the place I have visited so often in the past. Initially no one else had arrived but then we met up with Craig Rivett and his dad Kelvin Rivett. Soon to be followed by Corne van Biljon, then Celliers Kruger, Brian Joubert, Philip Claassens, Andrew Pollock, Jaco Lubbe and Leon Pieters. Two more would arrive in the morning to complete our rather large group of 13 paddlers. It was a very lekker evening and soon we were ready to sleep! The next two days would be very good, I had no doubts about it.



Photography by: Adrian Tregoning. Unless otherwise stated. Thanks to Luke for his photos too!

All Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Day 1 of Deepdale Gorge, Umkomaas River.