A while back I paddled the Molenaars with a good mate of mine, Braam Rademeyer. It had rained the previous day but was then was sunny the following. For the Molenaars River, this means very low levels as it drops fast, and when we got to the river, it was low. But that didn’t matter and we got on to the river anyway. It’s always great to get out and paddling in sunshine in the Western Cape province of South Africa is also a treat!

The trip down a little bumpy but we had a good time. It’s a short section, only 5km, unless you carry on down to the N1 bridge, which I may start doing more often now. Nothing to write home about but we took a few photos in the warm morning air. Once off we decided to drive upstream to find the four metre waterfall which I had seen a photo of before and knew roughly where it was.

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Driving through the Huguenot Tunnel. According to the net this is 11km shorter than the old road. Opened in 1988, the drills from either side met with an error of only 3mm! It is 3.9km long. See, you do learn something new everyday! :-)

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The Molenaars above the confluence with the Elandspad. Although, this is actually called the Smalblaar. But it changes names to the Molenaars a few metres below what is shown in this photo where it joins the Elandspad. Confusing, isn’t it?! Fly fishermen call the Molenaars the Smalblaar, according to the Cape Piscatorial Society. But fly fishing books make a distinction as is noted above.  

map_smalblaarIn fact, here’s a map from the Cape Piscatorial Societies website. You can see the Hotel halfway, and the waterfall on the far left.

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At the confluence of the Elandspad and the Smalblaar, just at the northern exit of the tunnel.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_015_E1 copy

Lovely clear water, this river holds good trout.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_029_E1_CR copy

Nemesis ready for action. Molenaars_13_October_2009_042_E1 copy

This waterfall pumps when it rains hard. A good indication of water levels, with enough practise observing it.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_043_E1 copyFluid Nemesis in all it’s beauty.

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The Du Toitskloof Lodge. You can catch trout in their dams. Molenaars_13_October_2009_048_E1 copy

The Du Toitskloof Lodge. Molenaars_13_October_2009_051_E1 copy

The marker rock in Hotel Rapid. This is a very low level. You could paddle it a few centimetres below this level, but only just. This is considering quite crap :-) When this rock is covered you better know what you’re doing. But it only covers that rock during heavy rain, and can drop to 5cm below the rock within an hour or less.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_056_E1_CR copy

Braam Rademeyer smiling, the sun was shining!  Molenaars_13_October_2009_057_E1_CR copyMe, on the only day I’ve ever attempted a short sleeved dry top on this river. Photo by Braam Rademeyer.

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Braam Rademeyer on the Molenaars at some random spot.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_100_E1 copy Molenaars_13_October_2009_101_E1 copy Molenaars_13_October_2009_102_E1 copy Molenaars_13_October_2009_103_E1 copy Molenaars_13_October_2009_104_E1 copyAdrian Tregoning running the weir at around halfway. Photos by Braam Rademeyer.

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Adrian Tregoning, first big rapid after the weir. It’s so stupid that no one has names for these rapids. I personally call this one the Åmot Rapid, as it can be a little similar to the gorge on the Sjoa River in Norway when it’s gets to flood level. Otherwise it’s quite tame.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_134_E1 copy

Great scenery on the Molenaars.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_145_E1 copy

Braam Rademeyer cruising down easily. All these rocks are covered at high levels.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_163_E1 copyThe ‘final’ rapid as it is known. Maybe people should call it End of Days? I don’t know. It’s hammered many people already, and caused a few lost and broken boats. Those two ledges form some serious holes. On that day though, it was just easy going fun.

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Adrian Tregoning on the final rapid. Photos by Braam Rademeyer. Molenaars_13_October_2009_187_E1 copy Molenaars_13_October_2009_188_E1 copy Molenaars_13_October_2009_189_E1 copyBraam Rademeyer on the final drop – styler!    

Without too much effort we found the spot and hiked down. By then it was hot already and I left my dry top in the car, a Molenaars first for me! We lowered the boats with ropes and then missioned a short way downstream, where we found the drop. It’s a sloping entry and lip, and also angled so it wants to flip you right. The pool is deep and big enough to self rescue, at low levels only I might add. At normal paddling levels I would not attempt this drop unless you’re planning on running the rest of the section down as you will probably not be able to get out again and flush downstream. There is another drop of a metre or more downstream and then I’ve heard it’s not really exciting. Watch your strainers, but you will realise that on the hike in already.

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Now this was when we went far upstream. Same river, for all intents and purposes. But technically the Smalblaar.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_209_E1 copy

Portage rapid. Get a chainsaw and we can make this runnable. Johnny, you have chainsaws, let’s do it.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_216_E1 copyBraam at the waterfall. It’s about 4m high. 

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Adrian Tregoning, first run. The landing was very hard, oops. Photos by Braam Rademeyer.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_230_E1 copy

A view from the side. Fun little drop! Anyone can run this, I suggest you head out for some pleasure and hit it!  Molenaars_13_October_2009_232_E1 copyBraam, getting ready to huck it.

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Adrian Tregoning, 2nd run. Softer landing, at least. Photos by Braam Rademeyer. Molenaars_13_October_2009_262_E1_CR copyWoo, I was stoked. Fun day! Photo by Braam Rademeyer.

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There is some climbing involved. If I can do it, you can too. I’m not big on heights :) Photos by Braam Rademeyer.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_291_E1 copy

Further upstream, on our way home.  Molenaars_13_October_2009_292_E1 copyHome time. A great day in the sun :-)    

I went first while Braam took photos. No problems. Getting out consisted of climbing onto a narrow ledge on river right – at higher levels this will be covered and make getting up way harder, assuming you make the eddy. My boat was roped up and then I did some rock climbing to get up the rest of the way. It wasn’t too bad, but in wet weather it would be horrible. Braam went next and again, no problems. After that I had one more run of the drop before we headed out, and home. I rotated a lot more on this run but no harm. This waterfall is definitely an excellent drop to freewheel (right side) and a really fun little drop that can be run when the river is very low, or even too low to paddle. It was an fantastic day with you Braam, shot!!! We will be back, for sure.

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