I’ve always enjoyed the Molenaars and this season has been no exception. Actually, when I write a sentence like that I feel silly afterwards because I really enjoy being out every time I climb onto a river, almost regardless of the river. And as long as you’re with good mates then it’s happy days! This is certainly the case when I paddle with some really fantastic individuals whom I’m proud to call my friends.

I stated once in an article that the river drops 100m in a distance of 8.3km. This gives an average gradient of 12m/km. But we almost never paddle the top 3.3 km and only do the 5km below the lodge which drops 80 metres, so a better average of 16m/km. The river is quite easy and a little technical for beginners at low flow. There aren’t really many holes to play but we have fun messing around and boofing off of rocks, trying to take more difficult lines to keep it interesting. When the river pumps things can get quite intense as the volume increases substantially. Big waves and holes form and you’re in for a good ride and if you’re not careful, a long swim. Unfortunately the river rises very fast, and also drops quite quickly. It can rise a metre in under 20 minutes, gospel truth. So very high to flood levels are avoided by many people and mostly because of only two or three rapids, especially the last one. Many boats and paddles have been lost on this river, purely because it moves so quickly with only really small eddies to utilise. There are no big drops, not one drop bigger than a metre, just river with many small and large boulders making up the bed. But anyway enough rambling on about the river and what it’s like, oh wait, the only other thing I should mention is that it is probably South Africa’s coldest river…

My first Molenaars paddle (I think it was the first) of the season as actually alone. It was a weekday and I was able to paddle, but no one else could. I managed to convince my mother to drive the shuttle and off we went. My choice of weapon was my trusty Fluid Spice, a medium one in purple. We drove up and found the river to a nice medium, encroaching on high level. My mom took a few photos at the lodge and I cruised down on my own. The big rapid shortly after the weir and the last rapid I had to give it horns and paddle but otherwise it was just fun to cruise down, perfect level really. The trip was quick and I did it in around 20 minutes - mission complete.

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A very nice medium level, encroaching on high. Great fun, but could do with more water. Molenaars_11_May_2010_010_E1 copy

It was a reasonably dry day that day. Molenaars_11_May_2010_016_E1_CR copy

Me sporting a very sweet thermal top from The Down River Kayak Co. Check out their website. USA readers note this is in your country :-)  Molenaars_11_May_2010_020_E1 copy

WRSI helmet in green camo. Pretty sweet colours, great helmets.  Molenaars_11_May_2010_023_E1_CREL copy Molenaars_11_May_2010_024_E1_CREL copy Molenaars_11_May_2010_025_E1_CREL copyAdrian Tregoning heading down the Molenaars alone. Just got my mom to take these shots at the Hotel. Thanks mom!

I don’t always take photos when I paddle and so have missed out on a few other Molenaars trips but usually because it’s pissing with rain. Because the source is only a few kilometres upstream one almost always paddle this river in the rain, sometimes even in hail. Luckily a big umbrella does the job, but then with the poor lighting one must ask the question if it warrants the effort.

About a month later Scott Reinders and Craig Rivett (both Fluid Team paddlers) were in Cape Town so we paddled a bit when there was rain. The Molenaars was one of them. The level was around a medium low level but definitely not low, because I’ve paddled it way lower. There was a fair amount of snow on the mountains around us and the water its usual cold self. We had great run down and then on the second run Abrie Swanepoel joined us and we all had another trip down. Good times with good people!

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Scott Reinders about to climb onto the Molenaars. It was pretty cold that day, Scotty just hasn’t got dry pants yet! The boat in the foreground is the medium Fluid Detox.  Molenaars_8_June_2010_021_E1 copy

Scott Reinders and Craig Rivett head down a rapid I call the Åmot rapid as it’s very busy when the river has a metre more water…Molenaars_8_June_2010_025_E1 copy Molenaars_8_June_2010_029_E1 copy Molenaars_8_June_2010_030_E1 copy

Scott Reinders cruises down in the Detox. Molenaars_8_June_2010_035_E1 copy

Craig Rivett finishing off the same rapid.  Molenaars_8_June_2010_053_E1 copy

Scotty showing the nice edges that the Detox sports.  Molenaars_8_June_2010_057_E1 copyCraig Rivett on the longest rapid of the Molenaars. He looks a little funny because he’s got a camera mounted to his chin. It makes for some very cool footage!

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Below the longest rapid. The highway guard rail is the N1. The road that travels from Cape Town in the south west corner of South Africa, more than 2000km diagonally across the country to the north east. Molenaars_8_June_2010_072_E1 copy

Scott Reinders about to head into the hole on the final rapid. No one has ever named any of these rapids (except for the imaginatively named ‘Hotel Rapid’) so we just call it, the final rapid. Maybe it should be known as End of Days. That hole is ultra bad at high to flood levels, stay away. A mate of mine swam from that hole last season and the boat went down 3km on it’s own. When we found it, it was broken already. The line is tight though. The bush is thick but I promise I will make a mission to photograph this rapid at very high levels, one day. We just need to do it, and have a big umbrella ready :-) Molenaars_8_June_2010_083_E1 copy Molenaars_8_June_2010_084_E1 copy Molenaars_8_June_2010_085_E1 copyCraig Rivett powering through the middle hole of the final rapid.  

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Abrie Swanepoel joined us for a second run. Photos by Scott Reinders.  Molenaars_8_June_2010_158_E1_CR copy

Craig cruising through the last part of the final rapid. Photo by Scott Reinders.  Molenaars_8_June_2010_175_E1 copy

Abrie Swanepoel emerging from the hole on the final drop. Photo by Scott Reinders.  Molenaars_8_June_2010_186_E1_CR copy

From left: Abrie Swanepoel, Craig Rivett, Adrian Tregoning. Photo by Scott Reinders.  Molenaars_8_June_2010_189_E1 copy

At the take out and ready to head back to the bar! Molenaars_8_June_2010_190_E1 copy

Back at the lodge the weather was improving, which means no more water and hence no more kayaking.  Molenaars_8_June_2010_191_E1 copyChecking out photos in the parking lot at the Du Toits Kloof Lodge. 

A week later I was back, this time with Scott Reinders and Johnny Heatlie. The level was full flood. The rock with the concrete on top was shaped like a mushroom but we decided to charge it anyway. Because of the level we decided to do the top section as well - that way our muscles could warm up and be ready for when the action would begin. Johnny was in his small Solo, Scotty in his medium Detox and I was again in my Spice. The water was freezing cold, there was loads of snow around and the air temperature was 5 degrees. For a South African, this is very cold! I led the way into Hotel Rapid and down we went. I was quite nervous for sure and we had to paddle to make our lines but no problems for anyone, and down we went. When we got to the weir we all decided to get off and return to the lodge. No one wanted to continue and I think we made a good call. Some days you just don’t feel it. I’ve been down at those levels two or three times before and know how close things can get so I felt good about my decision. Once back at the lodge the level had dropped to just at the concrete, much more ideal! I was keen for another run but could not convince my frozen friends. So I paddled Hotel Rapid again while Johnny took some photos of me - a much easier level but still awesome fun. What a river! I only wish it could flow for days like that and be 25 degrees warm, not 4 or 5 degrees. But hey, you can’t have everything.

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Hotel Rapid, flood level. Molenaars_14_June_2010_005_E1 copy

Hotel Rapid, flood level. The rock with the concrete on top is on the right hand side and looks like a mushroom. We had a blistering run down that day! And man, was it cold…  Molenaars_14_June_2010_008_E1 copy

Looking up at the busy Hotel rapid in flood.  Molenaars_14_June_2010_013_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_014_E1 copyLoads of snow. Air temperature was a steady 5 degrees Celsius the entire time. 

Molenaars_14_June_2010_027_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_028_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_033_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_034_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_038_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_039_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_040_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_041_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_045_E1 copy Molenaars_14_June_2010_050_E1 copyAdrian Tregoning heading down at a lekker high level. As you can see, the level had dropped already and the concrete on that rock is showing in the second last photo above. Still, it was good fun. Photos by Johnny Heatlie.

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The following day we paddled it again and the level was much lower. See the rock on the right with the concrete on top. Molenaars_15_June_2010_002_E1 copy

The next day it was much, much lower.  Molenaars_15_June_2010_006_E1 copy Molenaars_15_June_2010_008_E1 copy Molenaars_15_June_2010_009_E1 copyLot’s of snow. Still cold.  

The other day I paddled it again with Johnny and also Corné van Daalen. Actually more than twice this season already and it’s also splendid fun! Wayne also joined us that day. Francois Davis took photos of us but the lighting was bad so the quality not great. But because his tracking was very good a few came out really nicely with blurred backgrounds so something different. After our first run we hooked up with Charl and Jaco van Rensburg – both on river boards. Once we got to the normal take out 5km below the lodge we decided to do the full section. Jaco, Charl and Johnny had done it before but Corné and I had not. I was very keen. So down we went. Everyone I had always asked said it was not worth it and very dangerous. But let me tell you, it is worth it I’d say, but also definitely dangerous. Dangerous in terms of strainers, millions of them! If the level is not too high and you know where to go, then it shouldn’t be a problem. However I would say that if you struggled on the top section then don’t go here because although it’s easier and the river isn’t as steep, there are some bad strainers which you absolutely have to avoid.

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Adrian Tregoning heading down Hotel Rapid. Photo by Francois Davis. Molenaars_10_July_2010_010_E1 copy

Corné van Daalen down the same spot. Photo by Francois Davis. Molenaars_10_July_2010_014_E1 copy

And Johnny Heatlie too. Photo by Francois Davis.  Molenaars_10_July_2010_020_E1 copy

Me at the weir. Photo by Francois Davis.  Molenaars_10_July_2010_030_E1 copy

Me surfing a tiny little wave below the weir in the Fluid Spice. You’ll notice I’m paddling with new paddles now. These are the wooden ones from Sawyer Paddles and Oars. Link at the end of this article. Very lekker!!! Photo by Francois Davis.  Molenaars_10_July_2010_043_E1 copy

Me somewhere on the Molenaars again. Photo by Francois Davis.  Molenaars_10_July_2010_056_E1 copy

Me further down somewhere. Photo by Francois Davis.  Molenaars_10_July_2010_063_E1 copyAnd at the weir again. Photo by Francois Davis. 

The Molenaars has been good to us so far. It started strong but the season has died down a lot now for some odd reason. I guess nothing in life is predictable, and especially so the weather. Hopefully we still get good rains before the time for summer arrives here in the Western Cape province of South Africa. I’m sure it will. My large Fluid Detox (in green, what else?!) is due to arrive early next week so I need to get it wet. Until then, take it real easy.

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