Thursday, 19 November. Breakfast was some cake type stuff, and something similar to what we called vetkoek, neither of which appealed me so I wolfed down some monkey nuts and that was that. It was partly cloudy and quite hazy, it looked like it was to be a hot day. But no matter, another day of excellent kayaking lay ahead of us!

We drove to the base of Mount Kerinci which stands at 3805m above sea level. It is the highest volcano in Indonesia, the highest peak in Sumatra and also one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. Running off its slopes is the Sungai Lambai River. A small but interesting creek, actually. There is a huge double drop waterfall known as the Tangsi Empat Falls. Tangsi means jail and empat means four. Again, you say it reversed, so it’s Four Jail Falls in English. I can’t quite remember the story but I think there was a jail nearby to this drop. We first scouted it from above. There was a narrow rapid consisting of solid bedrock leading up the top drop and also the worst undercut I’ve ever seen but more on that later. This was the first time we had seen rock like this and it was very promising as all the rivers we had seen have river beds consisting of boulders. The waterfall looked very high from above and the top drop marginally runnable, so we went to look from the bottom.

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Johnny, our driver. Note how his hand is ready to hoot. This is standard practice. I think they teach this in all Indonesian driving schools – get ready to hoot!!! :-) West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1068_E1 copy

The big volcano – Mount Kerinci. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1069_E1 copy

West Sumatra – this is the main road (the only road) through the area. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1074_E1 copy

Tea plantation.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1076_E1 copy

More tea.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1079_E1 copy

Andrew Kellett dreaming of all this tea.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1082_E1 copy

The tourism office.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1085_E1 copyFluid Solo. Boat of the year in Europe 2009. Who could disagree?

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Puji (left) and Adrian (that’s me…) Photo by Andrew Kellett. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1089_E1 copy

Next to the road, typical houses.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1091_E1 copy

Standard scene. Loads of motorbike here. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1095_E1 copy

Mount Kerinci and the beautiful tea plantation.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1097_E1 copyCelliers taking photos.

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Satan’s Lair. No kidding. This is the home of the real deal – Satan. Go into that undercut and it’s game over, you’re dead for sure. It goes in plenty deep and it water is really moving into there. This photo does it no justice.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1099_E1 copy

The lead in rapid to the bad undercut just to the right of this photo. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1101_E1 copy

Top drop of the triple drop.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1102_E1 copy

See the undercut? West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1103_E1 copyStay away… 

Getting to the waterfalls base didn’t pose a problem and I admired the view from the cool pool below. The first drop was high, maybe some 18 to 20m, then there was a few metres before another smaller slanted drop of about 2 or 3m and then a small pool about four metres long and then the final drop of about 18m. The volume was quite low. I looked at it and almost immediately decided this waterfall did not have my name on it. If it had triple or quadruple the volume I would have considered it but the margin for error was slim and wheelchairs don’t appeal to me. Hugh and Andrew however, thought differently, so they scouted it a bit. Hugh stripped off his clothes much to the amusement of our Indonesian hosts and swam across the pool and got behind the waterfall to have a look. He jumped in to the relatively cool waters and reported that the back of the waterfall was landing on rocks. This confirmed my suspicion that Adrian Tregoning would not be running this drop unless it flooded, still, Hugh and Andrew thought differently and said they may run it on another day once they had scouted between the drops at river level. (Which they did, and both of them ran the bottom drop without too much injury, but that’s in another article...)

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The triple drop. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1109_E1 copy

A closer look at the Tangsi Empat.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1111_E1 copy

Bottom drop still plenty high, not much volume and the rear of the falls landing on rocks…  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1118_E1 copy

Hugh du Preez. Need I say more? West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1122_E1 copy

Me, just happy to be there.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1126_E1_CR copy

Taking shots of the small things around the falls.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1130_E1_CR copyLittle butterfly on my hand.

A local guy who was watching was asked about the river and he said there was a path leading upstream that would enable us to run about a kilometre of this river. After seeing that undercut which scared the crap out of me, I was not keen at all as I visualised the entire run to be like that but eventually decided I would give it a bash. So Andrew, Hugh, Toto, Agus and myself headed up along this jungle path to claim another first descent. The others decided not to paddle.

The path was HOT, full of jungle plants and also extremely humid. Generally the temperatures hadn’t been bad at all, but once in that forest it was pretty intense. Some sort of plant touched my knee and it burnt like fire for a bit but we carried on. Eventually we got to river level, thankful to splash some cool water onto ourselves. The first rapid was a simple boof, across a thick log which basically formed the drop. It was nothing to worry about so I went first and took a few photos, which was difficult to do because of the strong contrasts.

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Me, sweating like a pig. I think this picture is too small to see it properly.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1135_E1 copy

Celliers on our jungle path. Man was it hot…  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1138_E1 copy

First little drop, off a BIG log. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1139_E1_CR copy

Andrew Kellett boofing off the tree trunk.  West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1143_E1 copyAgus also boofing.  

Down we went, through some easy but technical rapids and a quick portage around a tree block. No doubt this would be an incredibly serious run with more water. It was pretty dark along the river and unlike anything I had ever run before. We came to a rapid which looked promising for photos so Andrew suggested I get out on the lip for pictures. It was really hard work because I was getting out onto a small log which was thrust against the slippery rocks. And of course, I didn’t want to be washed over the rapid either. Andrew ran first with a sweet line, Hugh next, with a piton… Toto and Agus had no problems. I struggled to get into my boat and my balancing skills were put to the test but I made it. Down I went, very easy, no problems.

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Toto behind me with the red helmet. Quick portage around a river wide section that was full of strainers. Photo by Andrew Kellett – Andrew’s camera.

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Andrew with a sweet run. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1159_E1 copy

Andrew getting out for photos. Note the jungle! West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1164_E1 copyHugh going for a nice piton. Ouch.

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Me, heading off the same drop as below. Didn’t piton though :) Photo by Andrew Kellett – Andrew’s camera. IMG_0812_E1_CR copy   Me, paddling. Photo by Andrew Kellett – Andrew’s camera.

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Andrew Kellett coming through easily. West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1182_E1_CR copy West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1183_E1_CR copy West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1184_E1_CR copyToto Triwindarto also going through no worries, just a little deep maybe ;-)

It was pool drop and the river moved gently to the next drop, which was a narrow drop just over a metre high. It seemed good to go so I went first and made the eddy on the left to take photos. Just down from me was a solid horizon line. The others came through without any problems and then we scouted an interesting double drop. It had a hole at the bottom, backed up by a dodgy rock so Hugh set up a live bait rescue there, just in case. The terrain surrounding the river was a nice patch of bare rock, but then from there on it was steep and full of plants. A swimmer heading downstream would not be an ideal situation because we didn’t know what was still in store for us. Andrew ran it first and had a styler line, no problems. I decided I would run it and went up. I felt a little nervous and made sure I had the moves in my mind as clear as possible before committing to the run. I got in, got the single that the camera and video camera as well as safety was ready and down I went. First drop I had a good boof, second drop came up fast and I managed a stroke and sunk into the hole, leaning over the right a touch and bumping gently into the rock at the base. But no problems, it was a light bump and I was wearing my elbow pads. Agus ran next, needing a roll but otherwise making it nicely. Toto had a pretty good run and when I he let out a yell of delight at the end it just made me happy to see how stoked he was. He certainly was loving it! Hugh was last to run and went in half asleep. He doesn’t take a lot of rapids seriously, I have no idea why. He dropped down, didn’t boof, pitoned in and went over onto his face, hugging the rock. I’m sure it looks great in the video.

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West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1201_E1 copy West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1202_E1 copy West_Sumatra_Nov_2009_1203_E1 copyAdrian Tregoning on the double drop. Photos by Andrew Kellett.

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To see the rest of this article with many more photos and also Hugh’s run and the final rapids, click HERE!