In 2008 I paddled the Doring for the first time. It was an excellent trip which I did alone and could not wait to return for more as soon as possible. 2009 rolled by and so did 2010. Yep, a lot of sorry excuses and lack of people to get together but also the 2010 season never produced the goods after the river spiked nicely early in the season only once, but eventually this year I managed to get on it again, this time introducing a mate to the world of rivers.

Rob had never been rafting nor had any form of river trip and with him getting every second Friday off of work matters were quickly settled after giving him less than 48 hours notice of my idea. I had won a very cool 1-man raft in a lucky draw, an Ark Alligator, at the Gravity Adventure Festival the year before and apart from almost drowning my old man and him having a fractured foot (with 3 screws added as a result, and which were later removed during more surgery) the raft had not seen any other rivers and only a few drinking, er, I mean fishing trips which were excellent fun. Which reminds me, I need to still post the photos of that fateful day with my dad. I think Rob was aware of this but he was still game, so off we went.

I picked Rob up at 16:00 at the refinery where he is an engineer, and we cruised north on the N7 towards the Clanwilliam area. We stayed at another mate of mine Johan van der Merwe’s farm and proceeded to knock back a few beers and chucked some meat on the fire. It had been raining nicely and the trip was set to be an excellent one. Well before the crack of dawn the next day we set off in his bakkie (pickup truck) as he had very kindly offered to drive shuttle for us. To the put in and back, and to the take out and back to his house is a total of 310km. So what I’m trying to say, is that Johan was more than just a friend, but a life savior. Without him the trip would be a lot more expensive, slow and annoyingly challenging. Cheers brother!!!

After some mud sliding on the drive there, we arrived at the river some 70 or 80 minutes later. The rain had abated but the sun was still below the horizon. It was quite cold and totally overcast but the river looked a decent flow. The vehicle was unloaded and then we were left as Johan had to go and do a day’s work on the farm still. Raft packed, my boat (Fluid Big Bang) packed, and then a short instructional of how to paddle a raft was given to Rob, who looked a bit nervous. The stretch would be done in 3 days, and 68km needed to be covered. It is mostly remote with a mishap being a serious problem for much of the way, but luckily the rapids are quite tame for the most part. The flow on the Friday measured at the weir at the takeout was around 50 cumecs. I estimate we had around 70 to 100 up where we were paddling as it takes many hours for the water to reach that far down.

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Rob (left) and Adrian (right) at the put in. Photo by Johan van der Merwe. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_009_E1 copy

Level at the put in, known as Doringbos. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_013_E1 copy

Rob Weyer idling in the Ark Alligator through the top section. The clouds came and went, the rain came and went. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_020_E1 copy

Scouting the very top part of the biggest rapid on day 1. Hard to see from here, this is only the top third. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_026_E1 copyGeneral scenery.

The first day went off smoothly. We had no flips and just enjoyed the scenery and the rapids as they came and went. One thing is for sure, was that it was bloody cold. There was a bit of a breeze and combined with chilly water (maybe 7 or 8 degrees) and air temperatures hovering around 12 degrees the wind certainly did not help. I still looked at my pogies at home and laughed, thinking we’d have sunshine and balmy weather, how wrong I was. Next time they’re coming with. At stages it rained, but mostly it was just windy and cold. That didn’t detract too much from the experience and even though the river isn’t overly exciting it’s a beautiful place and the lack of any civilisation makes it one of my favourite rivers to paddle. The scenery rolling by and the fact that almost all the flat water actually moves makes for blissful times.

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Adrian on some random spot, day 1. Sun came out, excellent lighting I thought. Photos by Rob Weyer. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_065_E1 copy

Ah, I love this place. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_076_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_077_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_084_E1 copyRob Weyer coming down. He was filming quite a bit with my GoPro HD camera on the helmet. The video is at the end of the article.

Towards the end of the day the sun started peeking through from time to time and dare I say it got marginally warmer. That first day was quite long. We arrived towards late afternoon at the confluence with the Brandewyn River and the cool waterfall which is visible from the Doring River itself. The drop looked pretty much good to go but with Rob being the only other person there and not trained in swift water rescue like most of my mates, and the volume being low with some strange boils making me question the depth, and the time factor I decided to give it a skip. The risk was too high for the reward and I’m not sure how deep the landing really is. So we set up my tent and enjoyed a few rays before the rain pulled in. Cooking was done in the bell of the tent and a little whisky was consumed as is customary. Supper was some John West tuna with chilli (which turned out to be very hot) mixed with pasta and smoked mussels. A meal fit for a king! It had been a long day with 33km being paddled. After dinner we just lay in the tent and chatted for a few hours before nodding off to bed.

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The Brandewyn River. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_132_E1 copy

The Fluid Big Bang unpacked on this awesome beach.  Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_139_E1 copy

Rob enjoying his spicy food.  Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_143_E1_CR copy

Me playing the fool while cooking. Photo by Rob.Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_151_E1 copyOur campsite early morning day 2.

The next morning (Saturday) arrived with clear skies and a river which appeared more than double in volume. It had risen almost a metre I’d estimate. The rocks in the rapid below our camp had vanished and the river was moving very swiftly – I was stoked. We would later learn from DWAF that the river had actually peaked on Sunday at 250 cumecs, an excellent level. So it would be rising pretty much the entire trip at a rapid rate. Check the graph. We could not have been any luckier.

Breakfast consisted of a simple oats mixed with water. This was washed down with some tea. Keeping things light and simple. Although having said that, the Ark Alligator can take a lot of stuff (as can the Big Bang) and next time I definitely won’t skimp on anything, perhaps if the forecast is good I’ll throw in a grid and some thick rump steaks. We packed up and made a conscious effort to tie everything onto the raft even better than before. Not that we had slacked the day before but with these higher levels the chances of Rob getting flipped had risen and this proved to be a wise decision… The first rapid was pretty big and we got some cool photos. A very straight forward rapid just with big waves, and pretty much no holes, with any line good to go, but excellent fun.

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Adrian Tregoning on day 2, first rapid below the confluence with the Brandewyn. Photos by Rob Weyer. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_200_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_201_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_204_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_207_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_208_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_214_E1_CR copyRob in rafting heaven. Good times!

Soon after this one we came to another fun looking rapid but just bombed it. I noticed something coming up and motioned for Rob to move right and went right myself but he went straight and nicked a fairly big curling wave, almost flipping – it’s in the video. More rapids came and went, and then we finally got to where the commercial guys put in. They only do the last 24km, which is quite a good stretch if you’ve never been out on a river before, and paddled the rapid which is there. There are some enjoyable wave trains afterwards too. Eventually we caught up to them as they were scouting a long rapid, probably one of the biggest and longest on the section. I had forgotten about it but knew we could easily handle it without scouting from the bank anyway. Unfortunately Rob had some bad luck and hit a small curler sideways, which threw him off the raft. A long swim resulted, at least 300m later he made the shore, and not a happy camper. But he was ok, having only swallowed a little water, hit his ankle on a rock and as a bonus we had lost nothing from the raft. Lunch was on the cards so we took the time to eat something and take it easy, regaining composure. The commercial group went past us but stopped soon afterwards at a ready set up camp. We continued on with Rob being a fraction more wary of the rapids.

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The position shortly after the rapid that caused Rob’s swim. I think they call it Kraanz Rapid. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_224_E1 copy

Lunch after the swim :-)  Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_225_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_226_E1 copy

Island Rapid. At certain levels there is a big hole at the end. There is also a left channel but scout first.  Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_230_E1 copy

Idling down to find a camp site.  Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_233_E1 copyRob in the Ark Alligator. This is basically the 1 man version of the well known Ark Croc. Tapered ends, perhaps a bit shorter, I think.

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Me, stoked to get to such an awesome camp site!!!! :-) Photo by Rob Weyer. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_248_E1_CR copy

Unpacking the Big Bang in 20 seconds or less.  Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_257_E1 copy

‘Camp Bali’ Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_264_E1_CR copy

Ah yes. Photo by Rob Weyer. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_269_E1 copy

Now this is the life. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_272_E1 copy

The best part about kayaking is days like this. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_277_E1 copy

An excellent evening. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_279_E1 copyEXIF info: Nikon D80 body, Sigma 10-20mm lens @ 10mm, f/3.5, ISO-200, exposed 1738.3 seconds (just under 29 minutes) Long exposure noise reduction to ON. No exposure compensation. Zero post processing work apart from watermark. I lit up the tent for 30 seconds with a flash light too. The hill got a red glow from the small camp fire. It appeared black in reality but obviously over time… :-)

At Island Rapid we had a scout and the bottom part looked ok. We had no problems. It’s quite flat after that and eventually we passed a left bend, and found an awesome beach on the left hand side of the river. The sun was shining, it was still early afternoon and we proclaimed this beach as ‘Camp Bali’. I don’t think camping gets any more perfect than that. Maybe only ice cold beer on tap and a few more degrees of warmth could have made the afternoon perfect. But hey, we take what we can get! We lazed around, pulled up some driftwood for a fire and eventually sipped whisky and enjoy a wind still evening with stars strewn above us in every direction. Perfection.

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Fluid have a very cool recreational paddle which is far better than any others I’ve seen in that price range. Good design, check them out. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_305_E1 copy

Early day 3, Sunday. That paddle is a Sawyer Sidewinder. I love ‘em. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_310_E1 copy

Packed up and ready to go. The river was flowing around 250 cumecs at this stage. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_314_E1 copy

Final look at our campsite. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_319_E1_CR copy

The weir where the flow rate is measured.  Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_321_E1 copy

Take out! Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_323_E1 copy Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_324_E1_CR copy

The end. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_330_E1 copy

Interesting sign. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_331_E1_CREL copy

The reason is was cold. Doring_24_25_26_June_2011_333_E1_CR copyDriving home.


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The following morning I took a look at my marker and the river had risen even more, roughly another 20cm. We had only about 10km to go and I think we did that in about an hour. Johan came to fetch us and we enjoyed the scenic road back to his farm. It was an incredible trip, and I believe Rob will definitely be returning to the river. The Big Bang from Fluid is a really sweet boat and makes overnighters so blissful. No more struggling to get dry bags in and out of the boat. That Ark Alligator also impressed me and I think I might give it a bash myself sometime. Let’s hope for more rain to hit this again!


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