The Tradouw River lies dry and asleep for much of the year just outside of the quaint little town of Barrydale. The region nestles between the semi-arid Klein Karoo and the beautiful and fertile valley of the Tradouw. Daily summer temperatures of above 40 degrees Celsius and an annual rainfall of less than 300mm per annum means this river almost never flows. To make matters slightly more complex is the fact that it sits about 270km away from Cape Town, so driving there after some rain is a gamble. Luckily it comes to life every now and then. (There were so many good photos I had to condense them somewhat, but have split the remainder over two parts – enjoy.)

The days leading up to our Saturday of paddling saw a lot of rain fall. Over 100mm within 24 hours on the Wednesday I think it was. Then I believe the Thursday also got a little action with nothing on the Friday. This made us a little worried but Leon called up a spot outside of Barrydale and they said a lot of water was still around, and we also knew that the one road had been closed for a bit, something which could impact our drive. In the end the road opened up on the Friday at midday and Saturday morning early we were on our way. Stefano Sessa and Leon Pieters met up at my house and off we went, hooking up in Worcester with Corné van Daalen who would drive home later that evening, whereas the rest of us would be staying at the backpackers. More than 100mm of rain, over one third of the entire annual rainfall within 2 days! The section is 6.5km long, and drops 126m, giving an average gradient of 19.4 m/km, quite decent.

We left Stefano’s car somewhere near the bottom and Corné’s at the top. The river looked like a decent flow, a touch higher than most of the photos I’d seen. We were stoked, higher could be potentially problematic, as none of us had run the section before and we knew there was one mandatory portage of a decent sized waterfall landing into the back of a rock, and the rock has a large siphon underneath it too – nasty.

Tradouw_11_June_2011_004_E1 copy

Upstream of the put in. Further up it’s relatively flat, but perhaps worth a look one day. Tradouw_11_June_2011_015_E1_CRP copy

Adrian Tregoning (me) before the start. Photo by Leon Pieters. Tradouw_11_June_2011_024_E1 copy

Looking downstream from the first drop. Tradouw_11_June_2011_030_E1_CR copy

Leon Pieters on the first drop. Tradouw_11_June_2011_033_E1 copy
Stefano Sessa. Tradouw_11_June_2011_042_E1 copy

Stefano (left) and Leon doing some foam boating. Unusual river. The Kaaimans River also has foam like this, but not as heavy. Tradouw_11_June_2011_050_E1_CR copy
Me on the first drop. Photo by Leon Pieters. Tradouw_11_June_2011_054_E1 copy

And through the shelf after the drop. Photo by Leon Pieters. Tradouw_11_June_2011_062_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_066_E1 copy

Corné van Daalen also through. Photos by Leon Pieters. Tradouw_11_June_2011_075_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_077_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_078_E1 copyLeon with a very sweet run of the left line of the first drop.

After a 10 minute walk we arrived at the first drop, a clean one of about 3m, with a small shelf below. Everything went off smoothly, and Leon also fired up the line river left of it, which looked pretty cool. Downstream was a narrow rapid and then small stuff before a decent horizon line, which we scouted. An interesting rapid ending in a very bad hole, which was followed by more rapids directly below. The river looked really good! The drop with the hole seemed fine except for the hole. There was a huge amount of foam around the hole, which could hide a swim… The hole itself was sucking back from more than 3m out and even under good conditions it would be tricky to punch, maybe with less water, or more balls? We left it alone and did the rapid below, which turned out to be a lot wilder than what it looked. Next up (which we didn’t photograph) was another excellent rapid. Again, because we were scouting from high up you cannot appreciate the gradient until you drop in. It was really good, I had a super smooth line and was stoked.

Tradouw_11_June_2011_088_E1 copy

Severe hole at the top of the photo, next to the big rock. Note the massive amount of foam. Photo by Corné van Daalen. Tradouw_11_June_2011_091_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_093_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_096_E1 copy

Me enjoying my Fluid Big Bang. Photos by Corné van Daalen.  Tradouw_11_June_2011_115_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_116_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_120_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_128_E1 copy

Leon, same drop, and the one after. Photos by Corné van Daalen. Tradouw_11_June_2011_135_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_136_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_137_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_139_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_151_E1_CR copyStefano decided to probe for small species of fish which could possibly exist. Photos by Corné.

The very next rapid is the ‘supertube’ slide drop against the river left wall. I had seen photos from Peter Ridgway and knew it looked great, and good to go. Leon was out the boat scouting and it was decided we wouldn’t scout (to save time) while he’d get some photos of us. I went first, good rush! The kind of rapid I’d usually scout looking back. Needless to say we all loved that one, with no incidents. Immediately below (you have to paddle hard to even make the eddy) is another drop, then a short pool and yet another ledge drop. That top section is action packed with a good number of rapids dropping a fair distance – something similar to the top part of the Dwars. I must mention that the river contains a fair amount of wood and even if you know the river well you’d be advised to scout for any strainers which could come and go.

Tradouw_11_June_2011_170_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_172_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_173_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_175_E1 copy

Me on the ‘slidy’ drop. Photos by Leon. Tradouw_11_June_2011_183_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_184_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_185_E1_CR copy

Stefano cracking through. Photos by Leon. Tradouw_11_June_2011_193_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_195_E1_CR copyAnd Corné firing it up too. Photos by Leon.

The ledge was very fun, Leon and I ran it twice. This marked the end of the steep top section. Downstream was a short section between cliffs entirely covered in thick foam and the river took a right bend. From here the river also begins to drop away from the road but if you’ve survived the top rapids you’ll probably make the rest of the run. But be aware that the river drops into a gorge with steep sides, so getting out would be quite horrendous should you decide not to continue.

Tradouw_11_June_2011_205_E1_CR copy

Leon Pieters boofing the shelf drop. Tradouw_11_June_2011_218_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_219_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_220_E1 copy

Corné heading into the maw on the left.  Tradouw_11_June_2011_225_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_226_E1 copy
Stefano with the same line. Tradouw_11_June_2011_232_E1_CR copyMe opting for the boof line. Photo by Leon.

Tradouw_11_June_2011_236_E1_CR copy

The little foam gorge section, just before the river turns right and away from the road. Photo by Leon. Tradouw_11_June_2011_244_E1 copy

Corné deep in the gorge. Tradouw_11_June_2011_248_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_249_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_252_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_253_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_255_E1 copyStefano boofing… Now you see the GoPro, now you don’t. Ouch…

For a while we boat scouted and enjoyed the rapids, avoiding trees in between the action. This is probably the longest section which is quite mellow. Some distance down was a fun 1 metre boof on the left. Unfortunately this is where Stefano managed to go over and lose his GoPro HD camera… Yep, some bad luck, but he also didn’t have it attached with a rope. Ugly lesson to learn :-(


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

White Fluid Name deep etched with white inside copy_250