The Doring River, Alone – Day 2: What More Can One Ask For?

My eyes opened slightly to a dimly lit tent and my ears to the peaceful stillness that only morning can offer. It was still early and the sun had not risen yet. My muscles felt a little tired but at least my shoulder was not in pain. Overall, I felt great! There was little doubt that it was going to be a fantastic day.

I left the warmth of sleeping bag, put on my tracksuit pants and down jacket on and decided I would climb up and out of the valley to get a better view. Luckily I had also packed in a beanie otherwise my poor head would have been frozen. I carefully picked my way up the steep slopes, taking care not to damage the multitude of plants around me. Eventually I got to a large rock outcrop and decided not to go any higher. I sat down and waited for the run to rise, absorbing the incredible scene that was being lit up in front of my eyes. It was absolutely perfect. Around me the dark greens turned brighter and as the shadows fell away another world was revealed to me. Small birds began their morning routines and came to inspect the intruder with as much of a care as the rocks around me. While I sat with the camera snapping up opportunities, two sunbirds teased me as they skirted the cameras’ gaze and my explicit intentions of capturing them on ‘film’. It was a long wait and eventually I just could not get off any shots. At least the memory remains clear in my mind.


The water level on the evening of day 1.....


....the level the next morning. The water level dropped every night. No rain = bad news for kayakers in South Africa.


On the way up. What  a view!


It was chilly so early in the morning!  :-)


The view downstream of my camp. The swift flowing water makes for easy paddling.


A Cape Bunting arriving to inspect me.


Some smart flowers.


The moon hiding between the rocks!


More flowers.


Once the sun was well up, I nonchalantly made my way down to camp. I wondered what the time was, but actually, it made zero difference. There was no need to hurry and I really didn’t have far to paddle. The temperature was beginning to rise quickly and by the time I got back down the jacket had been doffed and a light sweat had built up. Breakfast was a simple affair of throwing down two peanut butter and syrup rolls. Nothing fancy, but very effective. With my tent drying quickly in the hot sun I made sure I rolled up the Thermarest and packed up the gear inside before the tent transformed into a mini oven. With everything eventually packed up again, I was ready to hit the water and discover what was lying downstream. It was about 11:00 when I finally left the camp. A really lazy start to the day and exactly what the doctor ordered.


And more flowers.


And the last flower shot!


This is the pimp shot - a man alone on his beach! :-)


The first rapids were only tiny little ripples and then some slightly larger ones which could still probably be run successfully in an inner tube, half a bottle of cane later, as some people like to do. Then came a few better rapids, but still none which required scouting. This was followed by some long, flat pools; the river seemed to be slowing down a little. After a fair amount of drifting slowly through some mini canyons I got to the confluence of the Brandewyn River. This river comes in from the left and features a roughly six meter high waterfall about two hundred meters up from the confluence. I went up and had a look at it. It would just have been runnable at this level but walking up did not warrant a run. The rapid immediately downstream has some very nasty siphons that are partially blocked with loads of strainers and when running the waterfall at a medium to high level this is something to take into consideration. Be careful and use your brain.


Some random rapid I stopped to look at. Note the cool wave at the top of it...


Idling along the Doring River.


The Brandewyn Falls and the ugly mess just downstream of it.


Brandewyn Falls, on the Brandewyn River. Brandewyn is the Afrikaans word for brandy! :-) Simple lead in, nice pool. Just be aware of the rapid just to the right of the shot.


There is a large beach right at the confluence on the left and then a rapid immediately afterwards. I ran this one and then decided to have a look at the next one. It was several hundred meters long and looked quite straight forward from the top. I saw one hole I should avoid and then reckoned it was simple enough to boat scout anyway. Without further ado I got back into my boat and bombed down. It was very easy and there was nothing which couldn’t easily be avoided. Right at the end there was an interesting hole but you would have had to have been blind to have gone in there!


The very long rapid which looked fine from here and was would be expected, was pretty straight forward. It was just more than twice as long than what can be seen in this shot.


Typical Doring River scenery.


Chilling out just downstream again.


After this were more pools. The river flowed through the pools much slower than anything I had encountered thus far but the scenery remained really good throughout; the valley would constantly change shape. At some parts it would be flanked by steep sides and at other times it would open up and rise up gradually. It was another perfect day and there wasn’t a breath of wind. The perfect day for doing a trip like this! I decided it was time to stop for lunch and climbed out on river left after paddling a long straight section. It was very hot and I drank deeply from my water bottle. Once that was finished I refilled it, added my little tablet to it and let it sit while I relished more sardines. Hmmm. Once again I was awe struck by the silence of this place. It was wonderful. I’m sure I could live the rest of my natural life away from people in a quiet and peaceful place such as this. Maybe it’s just that I’ve never really been a people person and revel in places that take me as far away from them as possible. This was certainly the ideal place to get away from it for a while. Once my lunch was finished I checked the GPS and the map and made a rough calculation of how far I still needed to go. It wasn’t far.


The carcass of a small Dassie. Life is tough in this environment.


The view at my lunch stop. Man! What a place!


The spot I stopped at for lunch.


My favourite boat...


All alone on the Doring. Peace, quiet - pure bliss.


A little way down I came to a slight horizon line which I thought I may as well scout. I jumped out onto an island in the middle and there was a tributary coming in from the right. The actual rapid itself was a simple wave train on the left of the island I was standing on. I spotted a beach just downstream on the left and decided that would be my home for the night. The rapid was quite fun with some nice waves and then I climbed out on river left, several hundred meters downstream.


The wave train rapid just upstream of my camp.


This would be my second camp and it was much bigger than my first one. The time then was 14:45 and looking on Google Earth now, it was 41 km from the start. That meant that I had kayaked 15.7 km away from camp 1. It must be noted that I really didn’t paddle very much and just admired the scenery, drifting in deep thought a lot of the time. This was going exactly to plan. I had paddled 25.3km on the first day and a lot less on the second. The reason why I didn’t go further was because I could see a road coming in from river left on my map and I didn’t want to be camping downstream of it. I didn’t know what there was and making your presence known in the late afternoon passing some sort of inhabitation is not a great idea, in my books. Yes, I don’t trust people. Little did I know that it was just a simple little cluster of cabins that some farmer owns. The afternoon sun was very hot so I moved in as close to a thorn bush as I could to gain some benefit from the shade it offered, took my gear off and made myself comfortable. For quite some time I lay in the sand, doing nothing.


See if you can see the Klipspringer... Not that hard to spot.


Once he spotted me, he moved up to the top. We stared at each for some time and then he moved on.


Camp set up next to a thorn bush - the only shade available.


My beach was covered in tracks of the little Klipspringers. The Afrikaans word for a rock is a klip. And to jump is to spring. So they can be directly translated as 'rock-hoppers' if you really must... :-)


The perfect little camp.... Ah, I'd do anything to be back there, right now!!!!


Eventually I stirred to make myself a pot of green tea. With cup in hand I stood up and noticed a Klipspringer (a type of small antelope) making his way down a steep section in the cliffs above me. I got down again, grabbed the camera and managed to get a few shots off. As he disappeared from view, I lay low again and waited silently, while finishing my tea. I poured another cup and decided to stand up again. Because I was huddled in the shade of the thorn, right against a small, near vertical section of the valley side, I was completely hidden. Once standing tall I could be seen and after a few minutes he saw me and bolted up some impossibly steep terrain. Well satisfied with my sighting I returned to finish more tea and also managed to knock down two packets of two minute noodles.


Towards evening the shadows began to draw longer.


The wave train rapid is in the centre of the picture, although not really seen in this tiny photo.


The river right hand side. I'm glad I didn't camp there. It seemed all the frogs from miles away were having some sort of illegal gathering that night!


Sunset at camp number two on night number two.


Pretty much totally dark. What an awesome night!


The stars above me...


Once the sun started dipping a little lower I summoned the energy to pitch my tent. I had to be careful where I put it as there were a couple of thorny branches just under the surface of the sand here and there. After a few stuck in my feet it kept me wearing shoes while on my own little piece of paradise. There still wasn’t a breath of wind and it was pure perfection, once again. The rest of the time I just chilled out, relaxed, took some photos and just enjoyed being exactly where I was. The day had been well lived. I had watched the sun rise, and then, watched it set once more. It is rare that one can feel this satisfied and at peace with oneself. There was nothing I that I needed, and nothing I wanted. What more could one ask for?


Photography by: Adrian Tregoning

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: The Doring River, Alone – Day 3