When you live in the Western Cape of South Africa, paddling options are a little limited. This is not to say that the paddling is bad, it certainly isn’t – but this sometimes makes one look to something, well, different. The Krom River is a very short river that flows into the Smalblaar, just upstream of the confluence of the Smalblaar and the Elandspad where it strangely becomes known as the Molenaars to most people, and maps. I heard about it from Johnny Heatlie so we just had to investigate it.

Corné van Daalen and I hiked it one dry and sunny day and had a good look. The river bed comprised of the standard small boulders and very surprisingly, there were almost no strainers in the river bed. No drop higher than about 60cm I would have guessed, and ultra continuous. It looked like a true gem. All we needed was water. The stats looked really good too, the run would be short, but very fast and intense, the average gradient is 55m/km for the 1.1km run which we did and the top to middle section is steeper than the rest of the run.

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Low level scout – the last few metres before the end. As you can see, quite flat.   Krom_hike_24_September_2010_019_E1 copy

Corné van Daalen checking out a section. Krom_hike_24_September_2010_032_E1 copy

This is the end of the steep section, which includes a part around the bend well upstream.

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It’s lovely out there. Good day hike, you don’t need to be fit.  Krom_hike_24_September_2010_053_E1 copy

The first upper section starts off easy. Krom_hike_24_September_2010_055_E1 copy

Upstream photo from the one above. This was the worst tree part on the entire run, and it’s not that bad. Especially with some modification…  Krom_hike_24_September_2010_062_E1 copyInteresting roots.

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At the top of the hike is this beautiful waterfall. The section downstream has too many strainers and would be too steep to paddle.  Krom_hike_24_September_2010_110_E1 copy

The Krom lies in the valley. Krom_hike_24_September_2010_112_E1 copy

Upstream of that waterfall just shown, the river carries on.  Krom_hike_24_September_2010_115_E1 copy

Hiking out again. Krom_hike_24_September_2010_136_E1 copy

On the way home. Krom_hike_24_September_2010_141_E1 copyLooking down from the alternate route, if you miss the tunnel.

After a drive up on one day it was too low to paddle and we could not attempt it. I was there with Johnny and Leon that day but it was a no go. Then on another day it poured down with rain and this time Johnny Heatlie could not make it. Corné was also stuck at work until the afternoon so Leon Pieters and I hit it. In true Du Toitskloof weather it was really biblical! The rain from the Wittenberg rain gauge showed as follows:

2010-10-10 18:00 3.2
2010-10-10 19:00 6.4
2010-10-10 20:00 0.6
2010-10-10 21:00 3.6
2010-10-10 22:00 9.8
2010-10-10 23:00 11.2
2010-10-11 00:00 0.2
2010-10-11 01:00 5.8
2010-10-11 02:00 1.6
2010-10-11 03:00 1.4
2010-10-11 04:00 1.4
2010-10-11 05:00 0.0
2010-10-11 06:00 0.0
2010-10-11 07:00 6.0
2010-10-11 08:00 2.6
2010-10-11 09:00 7.8
2010-10-11 10:00 4.4
2010-10-11 12:00 3.0
2010-10-11 13:00 3.4
2010-10-11 14:00 2.2
2010-10-11 16:00 0.2
2010-10-11 17:00 0.0
2010-10-11 18:00 0.0

The column on the right hand side being the rain in mm. So it rained, a LOT, that day…

The downside of the run is that you have to hike up the entire way. Luckily it’s not that hard and there is a fairly decent path to walk on. We parked outside of the tunnel and climbed in on the Elandspad to be able to make the ferry to the river left bank as the river was in full flood. Be very aware of that low level bridge type thing there with the steel bars. We avoided that and Leon just missed the strainers downstream, I went next. Maybe I was too lazy or not warm enough but I botched the ferry and charged through some sketchy trees, but still making the ferry. I wouldn’t recommend starting from further downstream and walking across the low level bridge as the path gets steep and exposed across a short cliff section and wouldn’t be fun (or safe) in pouring rain.

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Lekker rain. I like. Krom_11_October_2010_004_E1 copy

Yes, we had water. Plenty of it. Krom_11_October_2010_005_E1 copy

The view down onto the Krom. The rapid with the rock and the overhanging tree can be seen on the bottom right. It’s nothing, but fun to run. Krom_11_October_2010_006_E1 copy

The final section of the Krom before it ends. Krom_11_October_2010_009_E1 copyTree rapid.

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Random spot on the easy section.  Krom_11_October_2010_019_E1 copy

This is the spot for the ferry. The ferry is quite easy. This marks the end of the steep section. So if you’re not up to it, or if the level is high then consider doing a short run down from here. Krom_11_October_2010_020_E1 copy

Leon Pieters making the ferry quickly. Krom_11_October_2010_023_E1 copy

Done. Great spot to cross. There is no choice, as the path crosses.  Krom_11_October_2010_028_E1 copy

The put in. Looking lekker full.  Krom_11_October_2010_029_E1_CR copy

Upstream things were cooking. Very steep. Krom_11_October_2010_031_E1 copy

Taking the final photo from under the umbrella. Leon (left) and me on the right. Krom_11_October_2010_033_E1 copy

And that’s it, we didn’t take any more photos from that first run. No chance to. This is the Elandspad. Note the steel under the bridge. Stay away. Krom_11_October_2010_034_E1 copy

Leon stoked with the first run. Krom_11_October_2010_035_E1 copyLekker, now we get Corné and do it all again! A good day.

I rigged up my backpack system but that didn’t last long. Not even 100m in and a buckle snapped. I threw it into the back of the boat and shouldered it. The first section you need to walk carefully in the river for a few metres and then you’re back on the path which is fairly easy going. 500m from the start we arrived at the end of the Krom. It was very high, and looking very fast. Leon and I felt good about it though, as it looked really awesome. Up we went. Eventually the path crosses the river to the river right bank and at this spot is a swift flowing pool and conveniently it makes the ferry quite easy. Up on the other side we carried on with the path but then had to wade through the freezing cold water, through some trees. This was followed by a whole lot more path and up we went. The rain didn’t let up and the river roared next to us, one look at the torrent below us said one thing only - don’t swim. You would lose your boat for sure, there was no doubt about it. Almost no eddies and the water flowing quickly through the trees, but it still seemed ok, so on we went.

After almost 2km of walking the paths crosses the river again. However from our scout I knew there were two or three dodgy spots upstream and the ferry here would also be incredibly difficult. We decided to put on. Lined up on the bank we got into our boats and Leon pushed in with me a few seconds after. I caught up to him and took the lead, the theory being that I had walked a lot of it with no water so in theory, should know it. Immediately we realised this train was going quicker than what we first thought. First few rapids and drops were quite basic, nothing to worry too much about. Then it started dropping. It was bloody fast, maybe the fastest river I’ve ever paddled and it was thick with action. I had my camera between my legs and an umbrella in the back and the plan was that we might take photos at a few spots. But in the end, we simply could not. For a section of about 400m, maybe more, the river drops steeply. There were strainers on the sides and some rocks to avoid here and there, no holes to be overly concerned about except for maybe two spots. It was just very technical and super fast. It got my heart racing out of the shear exertion of keeping lines, avoiding rocks and holes and staying upright, which is highly recommended on this low volume run. Leon says when we hit that section he didn’t even look at me once. I turned around twice to see if Leon was still there but that almost landed me in trouble. It was simply incredible. And then all too soon it slacked off as we arrived at the spot we had ferried across.

From here it was friendlier and the scenery just whipped by and we could almost relax now, and enjoy it. Almost at the end is a small drop with an overhanging tree. I headed towards the rock in the middle but not fast enough, it threw me right and my paddle hit the branch above, resulting in the paddle knocking me on the head. Twang! Quite funny. With that the river flows quickly into the Smalblaar and we did that short section into the Molenaars. Done. Stoked.

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The Molenaars was very high.  Krom_11_October_2010_038_E1 copy

Leon Pieters (green Solo) and Corné van Daalen (orange Solo) hiking up on the path. Krom_11_October_2010_043_E1 copy

The hike up. Krom_11_October_2010_046_E1 copy

And up. Krom_11_October_2010_051_E1 copy Krom_11_October_2010_054_E1 copy Krom_11_October_2010_059_E1 copy

Leon running the rapid upstream of the ferry point. Krom_11_October_2010_062_E1 copyPut in rapid, a fair bit lower than the first run.

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Put in rapid. Scroll up and compare to the first run we did. Krom_11_October_2010_066_E1 copy

Corné coming through. Krom_11_October_2010_075_E1 copy Krom_11_October_2010_077_E1 copy Krom_11_October_2010_079_E1 copy Krom_11_October_2010_080_E1 copy Krom_11_October_2010_081_E1 copy Krom_11_October_2010_082_E1 copy Krom_11_October_2010_083_E1_CR copy Krom_11_October_2010_085_E1 copyMe in the front with Corné behind. This is a part of the good section. With more water it’s intense. Photos by Leon Pieters.

But of course Corné had wanted to paddle this river too so Leon and I headed to the Du Toitskloof Lodge. The river was brushing the top of the rock, and probably dropped a bit as the last 45 minutes the rain had slowed down. Corné joined us and we mustered up the effort for round two. The walk up went quite well and we noticed the Krom had dropped a fair bit. We didn’t really mind.

Once paddling it felt a lot more manageable. We were hitting rocks now and there was time to put in controlled strokes and survival was easy. We even managed to get a few photos at one spot although it doesn’t do the river too much justice. Next season I’ll film it with the GoPro HD and then it’ll be interesting to see how it looks then. I nailed a fun boof off of the rock in that last drop and this time avoided the branch, stoked, again. The second round was still good and we had no problems, only big smiles. It was great to have done something different, it was refreshing.

The crazy Christmas season is upon us and for your northern hemisphere folks, I can only say, shame, rather you than me. It’s hot sunny days and the wind is blowing in Cape Town – happy days. So when we get good waves with little wind I’ll be surf kayaking or bodyboarding, otherwise windsurfing. Our river season has been over a while now so I can only dream about next year, for now. The rest of South Africa gets their rain now. Enjoy people, and make the best of it! I’ll probably post again before the end of the year. In the meantime, stay safe and happy holidays!

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Lekker little barrel down at Van Riebeeckstrand. Melkbos_11_December_2010_310_E1_CR copy Melkbos_11_December_2010_467_E1_CRP copyI took some photos of professional sailor Ben Proffitt the other day in super windy conditions. More on my FlickR if you’re interested. I love windsurfing, been sailing longer than I’ve been kayaking actually.

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