Right, so this is the first real article of the year, and naturally these are back logged from last years river missions, and whatever comes through in terms of new stuff in the surf. As I’m sitting down to write this I feel at a loss for words, which is not unusual, believe it or not. I’ll allow myself to delve a little into this.

In the past I wrote some interesting stories on the trips and relived some good times. Now it’s not that I don’t have a good time on the river anymore, not at all. In fact I enjoy my kayaking as much as when I first started, but I feel that to conjure up the words to make you, the reader, ‘experience’ it too is perhaps not worth the effort. And by that I mean I’m not lazy or unmotivated, it’s just that, well, I guess we paddle the same rivers down here in the Cape and every time  I paddle the Witte is an excellent experience but I don’t think I should bore the reader with how awesome it is over and over again. The only way to do that is to keep taking photos and I’ll also make a plan to get a lot more video. This season I have a GoPro HD which will be useful for a helmet as well as boom mount to get some cool angles. Also, because paddling this river often comes with rain the GoPro makes a lot more sense than hiding under an umbrella with my DSLR. There isn’t really too much to add to this trip and again the photos will do the talking.

The river was a lot lower than what we thought it would be, but then again, as Peter Ridgway always says, it’s a 7 hour river. From full flood the river will pretty much reach this level 7 hours after the rain. So yes, paddling in the Western Cape is often about critical timing. And unfortunately one cannot explain this to a boss so many people miss out on some great runs because of the realities of life. On this day it was Peter and myself, and also new to Cape Town, Leon Pieters. Leon hadn’t paddled the Witte before but being a very experienced and skilled kayaker it obviously would be no worries for him.

As I said already it was quite low. Not bloody low and one can still go a fair bit lower and the level was still ok, not hitting too many rocks. The absolute bonus was that the sun was shining. First half was a little chilly through the ‘warm up’ section as it lies in the shade but after that it was down to business as our chilled fingers got some life into them after the left bend into the sun, which marks the end of the easier section, which is still super good anyway. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t paddled the Witte how good it really is but ask any of the locals here that paddle it often and you might get to understand a bit more. But to truly experience it you’ve got to make a plan this winter to get your stuff together and make a mission this winter – all the time remembering the fickle nature of the weather here so no guarantees. Here are the photos.

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The marker rock is the striped one in the pool. Keep an eye on it. Just covered or slightly above is really nice. 1 m under water and you better know the river and well skilled… Witte_12_October_2010_009_E1 copy

Peter Ridgway entering a random rapid.  Witte_12_October_2010_016_E1 copy

Peter touching the rock to his right for fun. To the right of that rock is a nasty siphon so you’ve got to make that narrow gap.  Witte_12_October_2010_018_E1_CR copy Witte_12_October_2010_022_E1 copyLeon Pieters coming through.

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Peter Ridgway through the last bit of the above rapid.  Witte_12_October_2010_030_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_031_E1 copy

Leon through the same.  Witte_12_October_2010_033_E1 copy

Short pool then the next rapid as shown below.  Witte_12_October_2010_036_E1_CR copy Witte_12_October_2010_039_E1_CR copy

Adrian Tregoning on the ‘against the wall’ rapid. Photos by Peter Ridgway. Witte_12_October_2010_041_E1_CR copy Witte_12_October_2010_043_E1_CR copyLeon Pieters on the same one, obviously :-) Photos by Peter Ridgway.

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Adrian Tregoning on the rapid we call Go Right or Die. Photos by Peter Ridgway. (and now I’ll wait for the next hero to e-mail me why we’re naming the rapids… lol. You call it what you will. Maybe rapid # 36D) Witte_12_October_2010_057_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_058_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_060_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_067_E1_CR copyLeon Pieters – Go Right or Die. Photos by Peter Ridgway.

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Adrian Tregoning through the narrow slot rapid. Photos by Peter Ridgway. Witte_12_October_2010_086_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_087_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_089_E1 copyLeon Pieters styling it no worries. Remember, he only scouted Double Drop, and ran everything else based on what I told him. Photos by Peter Ridgway.

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Peter Ridgway coming down the 30m slide.   Witte_12_October_2010_094_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_097_E1 copy

Peter up front with Leon behind.  Witte_12_October_2010_101_E1_CR copy

Leon smiling away. BTW, he makes sick paddles at great prices. Contact me if you wish to get hold of some.  Witte_12_October_2010_104_E1 copyThe location of Phil’s wrecked boat. The throw rope had wrapped around the upstream rock. This is the pool below Double Drop.

Witte_12_October_2010_AT_Double_Drop_SEQ copyAdrian Tregoning on Double Drop. Photos by Leon Pieters.

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Leon Pieters on the entry to Double Drop.  Witte_12_October_2010_131_E1 copy

Leon still coming down. Unfortunately no sunshine at this one.  Witte_12_October_2010_134_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_136_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_137_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_139_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_140_E1 copyLeon through the much feared (and portaged) Double Drop. At high levels that bottom hole is super evil though…

Witte_12_October_2010_142_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_171_E1 copyPeter poses with the boat before he hiked up to bring it to the road. You can see this boat at the Bainskloof Corner Lodge. Note that the river was fully flooding when it destroyed this boat. Not surprising.

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Adrian on the first part of Two Teacups. Photo by Leon Pieters. Witte_12_October_2010_186_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_191_E1_CR copy Witte_12_October_2010_194_E1_CR copyAnd Adrian finishing off the Two Teacups rapid. Photos by Leon Pieters.

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Leon in the big pool below Double Drop. The biggest and longest pool on the 7.5km section. Witte_12_October_2010_210_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_212_E1_CR copy

Leon through the entry… Witte_12_October_2010_215_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_217_E1 copy Witte_12_October_2010_220_E1_CR copy…and finished off Two Teacups. Fun rapid. Gets a lot more scary at higher levels.   Witte_12_October_2010_228_E1_CR copySome sunbird at the take out. It could be the malachite sunbird. I haven’t checked my books yet.

Much later we found Phil Solomon’s brand new medium Detox, (which he actually borrowed from his girlfriend) totally wrecked. Phil, Scott Reinders and Andrew Kellett had run the river the previous day at the highest level it had ever been run, with eventually only Andrew finishing the run alone. A noteworthy achievement – well done guys! Phil had been pinned I believe and forced to exit, with the kayak disappearing. There are some photos around on Stalk Book, it looked big and scary from the photos and I’ve seen it at that level before. One definitely has to think more than twice before running it like that. Maybe one day I’ll harden up, but it’s no matter for me, I enjoy it as much as anyone else on the more manageable levels anyway and if you’re having fun, you’re doing it right. Right? Hope so. If your reasons for paddling differ then question your actions.


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