West Sumatra 2009 – Introduction

Welcome to the first article in a series of stories of a kayaking adventure I will be undertaking shortly to the Solok Selatan regency of West Sumatra. West Sumatra is a province of Indonesia and lies on the western coast of Sumatra, which is right in the middle. Its capital is the coastal city called Padang and this is exactly where I’ll be landing on the evening of the 14 November at 20:40 local time. From here an exciting adventure follows.  

The aim of this article is just to give a little background as to how the trip came together, the people involved, its mission and information of the area itself.


On 6 May 2008 I received an e-mail via my website from a gentlemen known as Toto Triwindarto from Central Java; Indonesia. He stated that he enjoyed my website and was planning to develop white water kayaking in Indonesia. Several e-mails followed in which I began to ‘know’ Toto a touch better, and eventually he bought some boats from another company to get the ball rolling. From that time, we would be in contact every now and then via e-mail and I watched his website with interest as his pupils gained skill and confidence in white water kayaking. Then at some stage I heard from Celliers Kruger (the owner of Fluid Kayaks in case you didn’t know) that Toto was buying some Fluid kayaks too. Soon afterwards, I got a message from Celliers with the subject line “Indonesia trip”. It simply stated the following, and I quote: “Roundabout 14-27 Nov. Pay own ticket (waiting for prices), expenses covered in Indonesia. You're in?”


How could I say no?


So that was easy enough, I was in for sure. Celliers invited  Hugh du Preez, Andrew Kellet and me. We are to join four Indonesian paddlers on that side, Puji Jaya Haryanto, Sigit Setiyanto, Agus Hermansah and Toto Triwindarto. Only Toto can speak English... Celliers and Hugh are very good friends and only live maybe a kilometre from each other and I’ve paddled with both of them a couple of times. Andrew and I are both from Cape Town and we have paddled a few times together too. So everyone knows everyone and there are no problems as the other three have known each other for years already. Andrew and Hugh are also experienced swift water rescue instructors, so we’re all in very good hands.


On Friday 13 November I leave Cape Town to fly to Johannesburg. Once there, Andrew and I will meet Celliers and Hugh and we will meet our new boats too, me in a large Solo (should be the new green according to what I asked for – what other colour could I have taken!?), and Andrew in the new medium sized Fluid Detox if it’s ready in time! From there we fly to Dubai, then to Jakarta and then finally to Padang. The route will be reversed until I arrive back home late at night on 28 November - a total of 8 potentially painful flights. I will most definitely go for aisle seats as per usual. I’m just glad that I’m not as tall as Hugh who sits at 6’6”.... Ouch. Gentlemen, we have 19 hours and 45 minutes worth of flight time, well Andrew and I because we’ve got an extra 2 hour flight. Brandy, beer and good in flight movies should do the trick again.


In alphabetical order, the 4 South Africans to go over. Here, Adrian Tregoning (me).


Andrew Kellet. I couldn't find a photo of him without a hat or a beanie... The kayaking photo is from the Tsitsa River, I'm pretty sure Celliers Kruger took it and I'm sure he doesn't mind me using it here :-)


Celliers Kruger. The kayaking photo is also the Tsitsa. I have no idea who took it, maybe Hugh du Preez or Jaco Lubbe.


Hugh du Preez. The only picture I had of Hugh without a helmet on!!! The kayaking photo is from the Buffalo River.


The mission of the trip is quite simple – to have fun. But apart from that, we have been invited to explore this region to ascertain the potential for commercial rafting and kayaking in that area. Every river we do will be a first descent. From what I can tell, we will paddle in the region south of Solok, paddling mainly rivers that flow into the Batang Hari. The government has identified 71 rivers with strong flows that are likely candidates; we will paddle just 7, some of them being overnight or multiday trips depending, as we really can’t say for sure now. The average elevation of the area runs between 500 and 1700m above sea level. The highest peak in the area is Mount Kerinci which stands at 3805m. It is the highest volcano in Indonesia, the highest peak in Sumatra and also one of the most active volcanos in Indonesia. I believe our hotel for the first night has a view onto this. The hotel also has no telephone. The terrain is thick jungle and home to thousands of wonderful insects, plants, and mammals of various descriptions. Although we would be extremely lucky to sight anything spectacular on the mammal front, Sumatra is home to the smallest species of rhino, the Sumatran Rhino. And in fact, the Kerinci Seblat National Park is home to this species of rhino, as well as Sumatran Tigers, Sumatran Elephants, the Bornean Clouded Leopard, Malayan Tapir and the smallest of the bear species, the Sun Bear. Apart from all these exciting things, Sumatra also has some world class waves and stunning beaches. Too bad we’re not there for the waves... But Andrew has already mentioned we need to check out a beach at least once. I concur. Satisfaction guaranteed!


The dark blue line is the minimum temperature, the dark red, the max. Looks warm there! And rather humid. This is all at the coast. Will be more humid inland, and at higher altitude, a bit cooler at least.

My goal for this trip is just to relax, have fun and enjoy the trip. I don’t believe it will be a hardcore creeking type trip because the four Indonesian paddlers joining us are not as experienced, yet. And of course they aren’t, they’ve not been paddling for that long at all. I don’t really have any expectations from the trip either. It’s probably better that way – just arrive, enjoy every second of it and see the kayaking as a bonus. That way I cannot be disappointed. The rivers chosen seem to have been picked by a man called Yul Amri, whom I think works for the government, although I can’t say for sure. So this worries me a bit as someone who doesn’t kayak can’t really decide what goes and what doesn’t. But we will see, and I’m sure plans will change as we go along and everything will work out perfectly, just like life.


Andrew will surely take along his camera and video camera. Celliers his camera I’m positive of that, and Hugh I have no idea what his plan is. I’ll be taking my Nikon D80 with, but not my video camera. If it arrives in time I may take along a waterproof wide angle video camera. The new Predator VX360 – Google it to find out more, I hear they are great. That would be quite fun. The trip will be thoroughly documented on this site, as my other big trips have been, and I can assure you loads of photos and stories. But have patience; it’s going to take a while. There should also be an article in the Kayak Session as well as a local magazine here called the SA Paddler – which sadly covers mostly surf skiing and those ‘people’ in the long fibreglass K1 and K2 boats and not white water because the interest and numbers are so pitiful.


I got these pictures from Toto Triwindarto. They serve only to add a touch of spice to the article. It must be NOTED: None of these pictures are from Sumatra. They are from different island entirely but show the type of vegetation etc. Looks good if you ask me. There was one really great photo I had of Sumatra but I could not post or link to it. Let's see what we can do photo wise while we're there.


I started off doing a bit of training for the trip, but in true Adrian fashion I went overboard and after some running, hiking with 15kg up the hills behind my house and some home gym and training about 90 minutes, twice a day, I was wasted after the first week and lost momentum. So the remainder of the time has been the usual - some kayaking, bodyboarding, with Charl van Rensburg giving a birds eye view report on current conditions (thanks!) and a solid windsurfing session at least twice a week has kept me on my usual ok levels.


Some photos my dad took of me at Langebaan the other day. Training hard for the trip. If you look closely you can see the sweat and the painful look on my face from the torture ;-)


I got my visa yesterday (5 Nov) on my *COUGH* temporary passport and yesterday Hugh called me as he couldn’t even get a temporary passport. ! I had to quickly get one, took about 3 hours, and then I returned to hand in my papers for the visa. My passport wasn’t valid for the minimum 6 months, it was 7 days short. Hugh’s was no days short. We arrive 14 November and his expires 14 May but the consulate told him to get lost. Fun and games... I have no idea why they have that rule. They only allow up to 30 days entrance for most cases anyway. I hope Hugh managed to sort his stuff out. Initially we were going to arrive and get the visas at the airport for a cheaper 25 US Dollars (R405 here in SA), as we could do that. But Celliers said we should get them before the time in case we run out of time in Jakarta and miss our next flight to Padang. JUST AS WELL, so thanks to Celliers for that! Hugh and I might have been sent home. And then our connecting flight to Padang was moved from 55 minutes earlier.


For those that are wondering, Padang is the city that was hammered by that major earthquake a few weeks ago but we should be fine and trip continues as per plan. It’s going to be an adventure. So that’s all there really is to say about that. It is now only 7 sleeps left at the time of this writing. I cannot wait! Speak to you later. (Scroll down for a video of my last few months of paddling...)



Photography by: Adrian Tregoning. Unless otherwise stated.

All Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: The articles that follow will be a mix from the Sumatra trip, as well as what I’ve been up to in the last few months. There are more river articles and also soe sweet surf kayaking photos that I’ll be posting! Stayed tuned to the site.   

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A video I made of my paddling over the last 12 months or so. Thanks to everyone for making it such a lekker season. Filmed mostly in the Western Cape. All these clips come out of other videos which feature everyone else and can be seen on Playak.tv :-)