Deepdale Gorge – Day 1 – Deepdale Falls Hucked!

Saturday, 22 November 2008 and I was up at 05:15 already. A small olive thrush (bird) sat on the window next to me and pecked his beak repeatedly against the glass. He would fly away and tap on another window and then come back again and tap, tap, tap. It was most peculiar and instead of fight my new found avian friend, I just got up and started the day. No one else was up and I quietly made my way to the water’s edge. The river had dropped overnight already but it was still higher than when I had first paddled this section. I knew it was going to be guaranteed to be a good trip. Deepdale Gorge is one of my favourite sections and is always just great fun!

There would be thirteen of us on this trip, namely:

  1. Adrian Tregoning
  2. Luke Longridge
  3. Celliers Kruger
  4. Kelvin Rivett
  5. Craig Rivett
  6. Corne van Biljon
  7. Mark Wilment
  8. Jaco Lubbe
  9. Graeme Anderson
  10. Philip Claassens
  11. Andrew Pollock
  12. Brian Joubert
  13. Leon Pieters


This was quite a large group but it was organised by Celliers and he had gathered this group and everyone was more than capable so it would be a super easy trip with no problems. In my experience large groups are always a nightmare but not in this case. It was really a great pleasure to be amongst some great people on such a superb river.


Highover, early in the morning. I wonder what happened to the land claim that is on this beautiful place. It's SUCH A SHAME! :-(


The group getting ready to hit the road.


The put in, next to the beautiful Umkomaas River.


A couple of us ready to hit the water. Note the lack of cold water gear!!! HAHAHAHA. I love South Africa...


Once Mark and Graeme had joined us we were ready to hit the road. One of the vehicles had a suspension problem and a new blade was installed before our departure. We had two single cab bakkies (pickup trucks) and Celliers’double cab; one single cab for boats only, the other for a couple of paddlers and the remainder of people, boats and paraphernalia with Celliers. The road to the put in is dirt all the way, bar about 500m, so the few of us on the open back of the one bakkie opted to ride up front to avoid eating dust for over an hour. The drive up was hot and sunny and we joked and chatted all the way there.


We were dropped off about 2 kilometres above Deepdale Falls and I had never been there. I had always walked in to just below the falls; an arduous task which always necessitated the need for porters. As my one mate Carl van Wyk always says when it comes to porters, “We don’t live in South Africa for the strong currency.” The put in above the falls takes one within a hundred metres of the river and this naturally makes life very easy. A short drag of one’s boat and there you are. It was a very hot day and I climbed in quickly to cool down. The water wasn’t as warm as I’ve felt it before but at least it wasn’t sickly warm. We’re rather fortunate in South Africa to often get to paddle rivers which are very warm.


The section above the falls is pretty boring and not really worthwhile. But for people who are nervous for the bigger rapids it’s a nice warm up I guess. We approached Deepdale Falls and started the portage on the right. I had already told Luke he should give it a shot and had been pestering him the last few days. When he had a look at it he wasn’t keen and all and said he’d give it a miss. I knew I was going to portage. The level was low and it looked like a long way to drop before reaching a pool that didn’t look too aerated. Still I told him to look carefully and left him to his own devices. A short while later I was surprised, and also quite stoked, to hear that he was going to shoot them. In the past I’ve seen Deepdale at various levels but had never seen anyone run them. They have a big reputation and have hurt a few people in the past. Not something to be taken lightly unless you live in a country that offers loads of big drops and you can build yourself up to and beyond this level of kayaking. Here in South Africa we are quite limited when it comes to runnable waterfalls. This particular drop is shown about three times in Steve Fisher’s, Black Book DVD, but at super high levels.


Deepdale Falls. This is the river right side of the waterfall. Andrew Pollock at the bottom of the shot. With Luke Longridge and Graeme Anderson on the top left of the photo.


Luke Longridge hucking Deepdale Falls on the Umkomaas River!!!! Awesome... Nice one Ollie :-) Graeme Anderson is taking photos in the top left of the shot.


Luke Longridge with his helmet being almost blown right off of his head after running Deepdale Falls... It was so, so funny.


Luke Longridge (left) and Celliers Kruger (right) talking about the drop afterwards. Good times.


Just in case you didn't think it was that high. Luke Longridge running Deepdale Falls. This was taken with his camera. I can't remember who took this shot. Pretty damn big drop.


Another shot of Luke, this time going back to the base of the falls. I took this from my boat, with my little waterproof camera.


Leon Pieters (right) and Luke Longridge (right) with the rest of the group further down. I took this from my boat while drifting along. Good times!


After a portage around on the right I got to the bottom where everyone else had gathered to witness Luke’s run. After more scouting and what not, he was ready. When he dropped over the lip it seemed to take forever for him to reach the pool. His entry was spot on but then he landed a fraction over vertical. When Luke emerged to the surface, his helmet had been blown off of his head and sat on the back of his head with the chin strap securely flattened against his neck. It was the funniest thing I had seen in a while. But at least a small price to pay for such a bold move. I’ll never forget that moment. Respect to Luke for running this bad boy!!! That certainly set the day off to a good start.


With that we left the falls behind and I quickly took a few close up shots with my little waterproof camera. Luke and I were at the back and eventually caught up with the rest of the group. The fun then starts and at this level it isn’t incredibly exciting but still enjoyable. We certainly were not getting stuck on rocks so there were still smiles all round. Lunch Time rapid was too low for the awesome boof to be working and it proved to be quite technical for most. I messed my line up quite badly by managing to go too far right and almost pinning against some rocks, as did Luke, running it backwards all the way but on the river left hand side. I made a point to get some photos and would often paddle ahead to capture some of the action. I know this section very well (good memory for rivers too) so I knew (mostly) where the fun stuff was.


Celliers Kruger powering through the hole at the bottom of The Ledge. You too can order your Fluid in more colours now. Speak to your dealer! :-)


Brian Joubert also cruising through on The Ledge.


Corne van Biljon also on the Ledge.


Adrian Tregoning also on The Ledge, but taken from a different angle. Photos by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Adrian Tregoning with a messed line on Lunch Time rapid. Oh well... hehehe. Photos by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Luke Longridge taking the better side but also messing it up. (I took these with my waterproof camera while sitting in my boat)


Lunch stop! Photo by Celliers Kruger. (Celliers' camera)


The rapid above the spot we stopped for lunch.


Corne van Biljon cooling off in the water, which was still warm anyway.


Kelvin Rivett (far right) with the rest of the group coming down some random section. (my waterproof Olympus camera)


Luke Longridge on the fly on a simple section. (once again, I took this with the waterproof camera. Last shot in this article with that camera. Handy little toy.)


The lunch stop was taken really early, perhaps too early, but it was hot and we just chilled out for a while. Corne bobbed around in the pool adjacent to us and munched on some sort of food bar. It was very hot and motivation for excessive exercise was running low. Eventually we got going again and just idled down. The going was easy and I think I speak for everyone when I say we just all thoroughly enjoyed it. The rapids are nothing to be afraid of at this level and just lekker fun. At Short Drop, Luke and I got out to get some photos of the others coming through. After that they went on ahead and we tried to catch up, only managing to do so after the ‘narrow’ section as I call it. Shortly thereafter we camped at a spot I’ve often camped at, on the right. It was a really good campsite and we just chilled out and took it easy, soon sitting next to a fire. Luke had brought along a fold up grill and we cooked our pork sausages much to the dismay of Andrew, who would probably have slit our throats to get a piece of those sausages! Sorry... It was a good meal. The double thumbs up to Mr Longridge for packing the grill in. Such a handy little gadget.


The top part of Short Drop.


The bottom part of Short Drop. It's a real pity we had such low water. This rapid is good fun at high levels!!! Forming a huge hole at the bottom...


Graeme Anderson in Short Drop. Yes, that's a shirt over his PFD. Who said South Africans like to paddle in a conventional way? And anyway, the sun can really nail a man.


Celliers Kruger running Short Drop.


Andrew Pollock during the middle part of Short Drop.


Corne van Biljon getting a little nose action on Short Drop.


Philip Claassens easily melting the centre hole on Short Drop.


Luke Longridge running Short Drop and give the classic double thumbs up at the end! :-)


Adrian Tregoning on another line through the top of Short Drop. I almost lost my paddle as it stuck between some rocks as I took this stroke... Close call!!! :-) Photo by Luke Longridge (Luke's camera)


Adrian Tregoning through the middle part of Short Drop. Photos by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


That afternoon I also played a game of chess against Celliers. He is a very accomplished player but hadn’t played in a very long time. I’m not that great but had been playing every day on the internet to pass some time. We had a fun game and he made the big mistake of allowing me to take back two or three moves, which he really shouldn’t have done. After I took his queen we called it quits. There is no doubt that he would have beaten me had he not been as kind. This year has been quiet and I haven’t played a single game. It’s good fun to play though, I highly recommend it!


This is what kayaking is about!!!! A simple life in the middle of nowhere. It doesn't get any better than this. If you're not experiencing this, you're not living. DO IT....


Sunset over the beautiful Umkomaas River. I love this place almost more than any other...


Celliers Kruger (left) and Adrian Tregoning (right) during an intense game of chess, in the middle of nowhere. Two bald men battling it out ey? :-) Damn it, I'm 27 tmrw (20 March) and been this way for years.... Tough... :-) hahahaha. Photo by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Late evening at our camp. Just perfect. Good people coming together in a great place!


Camp fire - dinner, she's served. Note the awesome foldaway braai grid that Luke packed in. I love it. Andrew - did I mention how good those sausages were? :-)


The evening drifted along, and a bottle or two of Amarula was passed around later on to further add to the good times. It was a warm evening in the middle of nowhere with some awesome people in a world class setting. It’s trip like this that I’ll never forget. It’s what makes kayaking so special; to be outside in a pristine area of wilderness with nobody else but a couple of mates. With thoughts of Luke still falling out of the sky and also of all the other fun rapids I drifted off to sleep. It had been a really great day! The next day would once again be great again. Happy days.



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

All Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Day 2 of Deepdale Gorge, Umkomaas River.