Deepdale Gorge – Day 2 – On and On

Sunday, 23 November 2008 and the sun shone bright and hot as I clambered out of the tent. Everyone else was awake already and it felt good to have rested again. It was a glorious day and the only thing that could make it better would be a higher water level. It had dropped in the night but that was just the way things would be. Long time pioneer kayaker Doug Ammons said something in the AW Journal last year, it read as follows: “It just is, and it can't be anything different. If you find yourself wishing it was something different, then that just means you have more to learn.” Quite profound. Hopefully I’ll get to meet him at some stage in my life. His writing and accomplishment are something to be admired.  

This article has been really hard to get at. Time seems to be getting the better of me and lately I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster ride. I’ll try harder to crack out the next few articles with better speed, and with more love and effort. I’ve opened this Word document so many times, only to be distracted by something else and left it. So now, 4 April 2009 I am sitting down to try to finish one before I head to Niell Taylor’s wedding this afternoon. Good luck and well done to him! He’s a very, very lucky man indeed. May the paddling season be a good one for him, and the marriage, of course!!!


Our campsite the next morning. It was very good, like always. Well, almost. Second time I did the gorge we slept in the rain the entire night with no tents at this spot. That was intense, to say the least....


A visitor next to our tent as we packed it up.


This was set up on a small tripod. Back row, from left: Celliers Kruger, Craig Rivett, Philip Claassens, Andrew Pollock, Brian Joubert, Jaco Lubbe, Adrian Tregoning, Luke Longridge.
Front row, from left: Leon Pieters, Graeme Anderson, Kelvin Rivett, Mark Wilment, Corne van Biljon. What an awesome group. I wish I could paddle with these guys every time I went paddling. (Celliers' camera)


Luke Longridge on the left at some random spot. I just love this place. Look at the hills. It's heaven for me. (taken with the waterproof Olympus)


Leon Pieters waiting for the last person to come through. (taken with the waterproof Olympus)


A pool just above another section that is quite good. (taken with the waterproof Olympus)


Some random section. Very good fun at proper levels. This would be considered very low. (taken with the waterproof Olympus)


Andrew Pollock (middle) and Luke Longridge (right). Good times on the river! :-)


So after some breakfast, a group photo and packing up all our clobber, we headed off again to complete the trip. I decided not to wear a dry top and this time round Luke decided he would wear his as he got a little too much sun the previous day. I think this is what makes paddling in South Africa (generally) so good – the warm water! Ahhhh.... The first few rapids we very enjoyable and then those that precede the infamous Long Drop Rapid we even better.  Just fun and easy with everything going along smoothly and everyone just doing their own thing. It was very relaxing.


Most of Long Drop rapid. This thing is a real beast at high levels, and extremely difficult to portage, should you want to.


The group scouting from river right.


The spot where a paddler was trapped underwater last year and almost drowned.... Not lekker.


Andrew Pollock with a cool run of the right hand line. Photos by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Andrew Pollock finished off on the bottom pourover. Photos by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Kelvin Rivett getting into a spot of trouble but luckily Craig Rivett was right on hand and all ended well. I saw none of this as I was up at my boat, getting ready to come down. Photos by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Adrian Tregoning at the top of Long Drop. Note the lines showing the higher water levels. Photo by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Adrian Tregoning running through the centre pourover which, at this level, wasn't a great run. Photo by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Adrian Tregoning in the same place as the above photo. Photo by Celliers Kruger. (Celliers' camera)


Adrian Tregoning running the bottom pourover. Photos by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Luke and I got out on river left to scout Long Drop and everyone else on river right. It’s funny actually, I’ve only ever scouted it from the left except for one time when it was even lower than this level. And Celliers, has only ever scouted it from river right. As I got out Kelvin managed to miss his line, narrowly missing the main siphon at the top of the rapid and ending up getting squeezed between two large boulders to the right side. I got a huge fright when I saw that happen and thank goodness he was forced through the narrow gap and managed to contain himself quite easily. It was definitely a close call and I’ve also brushed that siphon at a higher level and have got it on video. (It’s actually on my carnage only video on I think it must have rattled him quite a bit as he messed up the rapid further down when it was his turn and unfortunately had a swim. Kayaking is like that, it can play with your head. Otherwise he would have styled it without a doubt. Oh well, we all have our moments.


I decided to head up and run the standard centre line, as that is the main line. Unfortunately, I underestimated how little water was going through and it was actually quite boring. I took the middle drop above the final pourover and scraped over. The final pourover was still lekker. I should have run right (above the last pourover) like everyone else. Oh well. I got to the bottom and took some photos of a couple of the other guys. With that done we proceeded down and idled along. There are still some very good rapids further down and then they start dying down. The final stretch was a little bumpy and we started hitting the bottom more than what was necessary for an enjoyable time. Still, I was glad to notch up yet another run of this really cool section and definitely say this is a must run section for anyone who plans to visit South Africa. I certainly love it. With good/high water it is plainly awesome! I’ll let the photos and their captions do the talking. Even though this would be considered a very low water level, we still had a blast. Have a good and judge for yourself.


Looking up at Long Drop from river right. Once I got down I stationed myself here to get some lekker photos! Luke is on the far right, walking back to his boat.


Leon Pieters with a great run.


Jaco Lubbe with a lekker boof.


Celliers Kruger also with a cool boof.


Jaco Lubbe (small green Solo) and Celliers Kruger (large white Expedition Solo) boofing at the same time on the bottom pourover.


Luke Longridge running the bottom pourover.


A rapid about two or three drops below Long Drop. (taken with the waterproof Olympus)


The kind of stuff to stay away from. Swimmers beware....


The only irritating rapid on the section. It's usually quite bony and we've had a pin here before.


Jaco Lubbe smiling, as always.


Below the rapid shown above is a long pool. The longest on the section. Still as beautiful as ever. From here on the rapids are smaller and the pools longer.


Philip Claassens cruising through the middle section of the natural weir.


Adrian Tregoning running the natural weir. Photo by Celliers Kruger (Celliers' camera)


Celliers Kruger smiling to himself on the natural weir.


Jaco Lubbe on the centre line of the natural weir, and again, smiling! :-) That's what paddling is about, afterall.


Luke Longridge showing how much the water dropped in two days.... (taken with the waterproof Olympus)


Once back at the camp it was time for everyone to go their separate ways and back to work the following day. Not for Luke and I. We checked out our map and decided we would head to Port St Johns. Our goal, to paddle South Africa’s third largest river, the Mzimvubu River. We left at 14:20 and set off in my little car along the gravel road. The car was filled up in Ixopo and then on we went. It would have been a fun drive but we were plagued with thick mist. The roads in this region are not in a good state and there are many potholes/people/animals/taxis to navigate through. We drove only 280km and this took us over 7 hours, all of it on a tarred road. By the time we got to the shaggy town of Port St Johns we were tired. The town itself is absolutely disgusting. It makes the bad parts of Johannesburg look good. Check it out for yourself, a little piece Africa within South Africa. Such a shame, it has huge potential.


A moth on my hand at the camp site.


From left: Celliers Kruger, Philip Claasens and Andrew Pollock. Photo by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


On the way to Port St. Johns. This was taken near a small town called Kokstad.


Road side scenery, before that mist in the background covered us for the rest of the drive!


Looking out on the other side. Beautiful!


Fun driving... Photo by Luke Longridge. (Luke's camera)


Adrian Tregoning on the right with the three dogs. This was taken at The Pont camp site, at Port St Johns.


After a bit of a struggle we found a camp site, called, The Pont. Initially the guard said that they were closed and would not allow us to enter. Because of the long day paddling and the intense driving experience in heavy mist on winding roads I had a sense of humour failure, immediately. Luckily Luke remained calm and we got in after a brief discussion. So then we headed back into town to get some food. The KFC was the ONLY place to get food and when we arrived at 21:28 they were closed. Their hours were until 21:30 but they refused to open for us. My temper was being tested to the maximum it seemed. We headed back to the camp, set up Luke’s tent and played with the three dogs (two of them Great Danes) which had now assumed us as their natural masters. We drifted off to sleep after a brief (and rough) meal with the plan that we would hire a driver and car to take us up river and we would paddle some 70km down back to this camp site. Well, that was the plan. Armed with only a large scale AA road map it was sure to be an adventure. Don’t miss the next few articles on this little adventure! It was the best multiday trips I’ve ever done...



Photography by: Adrian Tregoning. Unless otherwise stated. Thanks to Luke for his photos too! NOTE: My normal camera in this series of articles is a Nikon D80, Luke’s is a Nikon D40, and the little waterproof camera I refer to is an Olympus 790SW, they have discontinued this model already. I’ve had three enquiries asking already what camera it was.


All Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Day 1 of South Africa’s third largest river, the mighty Mzimvubu. A three day, many kilometre mission...