Directly after this drop is an interesting section. I think it could potentially be quite terrifying with double the water volume but Leon checked out one channel and then directed me into another as I went in without scouting. Excellent times and the four of us worked together nicely – making fairly decent time whilst still getting photos and maintaining safety. Just no photos here, next time. There was another ledge type drop with a sliding option on the right. Leon was feeling particularly on form and made it look easy. I decided to probe the meat which looked serious but easier than the slide, but I pretty much missed my boof and the Fluid Big Bang I was paddling disappeared totally into the aeration, taking me with it. Somehow I popped out the other side upright and stroking, with a huge grin on my face – oops. The Big Bang operated nicely. I’m still impressed with how well it handles, I love it!

A few more rapids and we came to an exciting looking horizon line. A technical rapid twisting and turning with a few rocks which could upset a smooth ride. Corné portaged immediately and be safety downstream, while Leon decided to take it on. He almost came short at the top but then held on to make the rest of it look quite easy. Leon was definitely paddling very well that day! After his run Stefano and I portaged. Rather safe than sorry, that’s always my motto.

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Me on the same boof. Photos by Leon. Tradouw_11_June_2011_271_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_272_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_273_E1 copy

Leon running the right line of another shelf type drop. There is a meaty on river left which is easier, but also an excellent option. Just remember to hit it right :) Tradouw_11_June_2011_284_E1 copy

Two medium Solo’s and a Big Bang in the middle.  Tradouw_11_June_2011_300_E1_CR copy
Corné doing more foam boating. Tradouw_11_June_2011_301_E1 copyCorné in the thick of it.

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Leon with a good line of one of the trickier rapids on the run. Looks far less steep when viewed from above. Tradouw_11_June_2011_319_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_329_E1 copyPortage drop. Note the big siphon under the rock.

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Next drop after the portage. Leon heading in. Photos by Corné. We won’t mention again he missed my run on the camera :-)  Tradouw_11_June_2011_348_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_350_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_351_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_352_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_353_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_354_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_355_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_356_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_357_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_358_E1 copy

Me showing exactly how not to do things… Hmmm… At least I survived quite smoothly. Photos by Corné. Tradouw_11_June_2011_362_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_363_E1 copyMe, foam boating this time. Strange. Photos by Corné.

The big waterfall which lands into the back of a big rock comes up next. We portaged on river left, although discussed that it could potentially be run, perhaps with a little more water. No doubt it’d be a difficult run and one with extreme consequences. From the photos it looks quite runnable but in reality the water is moving quickly and to get far enough river left would be very hard, if not impossible. My guess is that one day someone will fire it up, in the right conditions. I’m pretty sure it won’t be me.

Next drop looked dubious. A low one of about a metre and a half, sucking back nicely, kicking hard left and also lined up with foam on that left side. We set up some decent rescue and I fired it up first. My run was perfect but unfortunately Corné forgot to turn the camera on and missed it, I was also not that keen on running it twice in one day :) Leon went next and this time it was captured. Strange rapid - I wouldn’t want to mess it up to see what happens.

We enjoyed a few more, and at this stage I must say that there are a lot more rapids which we simply did not have the time to capture for the camera. Really cool rapids, many of them quite technical. Again, scout for trees at any steep horizon lines, not all lines go. The last rapid we photographed was quite a beefy one. I felt I had paddled reasonably well that day and decided to go first. Maybe I was too confident and went in paddling a bit too slow. I thought this would work but underestimated how shallow the lip would be. It was quite important to head left on the first drop, as you’d then be pushed straight and thus avoid the river right side which looked like a good place to be pushed upside down. My lazy boof twisted my boat more than it should have and I pitoned into the rock I was trying to just go right of. It twisted me around and the rest of the rapid I somehow, smoothly (I might add) managed to survive! Oops! Leon went next and creamed it, making it look easy. Stefano came down, going a bit far right but managed to hang on and complete it nicely. Corné went right too, the funny water got him over but a blistering roll and he was back in action.

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Leon with another smooth line for the day.  Tradouw_11_June_2011_378_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_379_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_380_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_381_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_383_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_384_E1 copyStefano taking a fine line but making it nicely.

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Another view of this rapid, and the scenery. Tradouw_11_June_2011_389_E1_CR copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_390_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_391_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_392_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_393_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_394_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_395_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_396_E1 copy Tradouw_11_June_2011_397_E1 copyCorné showing why we were avoiding the right hand side. Good job though!

A few more rapids awaited, but we hurried along as we were running out of light, with no more photos being taken. There is one evil rapid and then the final one has a nice run left, ending in a technical boulder garden on the right. Within 400 metres we were probably at the end, I think it took us around 8 hours to paddle it, I can’t quite remember. Taking decent photos always takes longer, but it’s worthwhile. I don’t see the point in rushing a trip.

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End of a long day… Tradouw_11_June_2011_417_E1 copyLong day out! But what a super day with super people!!!

The river was better than I expected, with some really incredible rapids. Some of them are fairly difficult and because of the bony nature it’s advisable to remain upright at all times. The rapids were also more powerful than what we anticipated and generally just bloody awesome. A top run to do in South Africa if you’re fortunate enough to get the correct conditions! We had an excellent group and as soon as we got to the top the celebrations began. Corné took the lonely drive back on his own while Stefano, Leon and I started dominating some old brown sherry and got into the swing of things. Maybe celebrating a bit too much even! An excellent day on the river! With such low rainfall and a small window you can only hope a paddleable day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, so who knows when we will be able to return. Hopefully next season. Paddle safe.

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