Puma Team Build

Had a good day with the team from Puma, having them construct rafts in a beautiful location at Simola Estate in Knysna. DSC_0090

Once rafts were constructed teams raced them across the river in a relay event. DSC_0114 DSC_0096

Olifants river Gorge into Gouritz river

Did a quick 2day kayak trip down a beautiful section of river between Calitzdorp and Herbertsdale with a friend of mine Ico Schutte. We were entertained by so much wildlife paddling through these remote gorges. (Klipspringer, Otters, Dassies, Baboons, Kudu, Bontebok, Fish Eagle, Water turtles) The river consists of long flats with a few nice rapids which I would grade at about a class 3. Best to scout the bigger rapids for holes, siphons and strainers. At a higher water level 2 of the rapids will be quite serious in the Olifants gorge if my memory is correct.

Found a fresh water stream for the nights camp out under the stars, which was a great. I would advise to take some spare fresh water on this paddle or at least fill up when available from small streams entering river, which is very sparse since you are paddling through arid country side.

Some thing to watch out for when making fire is an exotic invasive species on this river system called Oleander, this plant is very poisonous and you don’t want to throw it’s wood on the fire. Cooking on it’s wood can  be fatal and the smoke inhalation not to pleasant. So make sure you know what wood you are collecting when making a fire!

Can definitely recommend this as a nice 2 day river trip, with an easy put in at Calitzdorp Spa and a take out at tar road bridge below Herbertsdale.

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Garden Route and Karoo Rivers in Flood

Friends

Left: Ico Shutte; Right: Marthinus Esmeyer

Has been a few great days for me with all the rivers in flood. When water levels rise, I drop all to go whitewater kayaking since this does not happen often and one needs to make the most of the time when it does. Most rivers in the area are technical creeks with pool drops, waterfalls and technical rock gardens to navigate. Makes for adrenalin pumping paddling but only for experienced paddlers. Many danger spots in these rivers and rescue in many places not an option. You go in with the knowledge that if things go wrong thats it, you get yourself out or die trying. Most people think we crazy but for me crazy is spending your time in a office not doing what you love! Pushing my limits makes me feel alive and being out in nature where few have been before makes it all worth it. Out there is where I feel closes to my God and can appreciate His creation that I have the privilege to experience on a daily basis.

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Fortunately for me my friend Ico Schutte just got back from river guiding in Canada, so I had a crazy friend to join me on whatever the rains had to offer. First river we took on was a new one in the Karoo through Paardepoort, called the Doring river. This is normally a very small stream most of the year but was a raging torrent of water on the 1 September 2015 bursting its banks over farmlands. Not sure if anyone has ever actually done this river before, highly unlikely. Very dangerous due to many strainers, from tree blocks to fence lines and trees running the rapids alongside you! If it wasn’t for all the exotic invasive tree species (Wattle) along this river causing the problems, it would be a very nice section to run. Only had one descent rapid before it got so congested by the wattle that we called it a day and took a long run back to our vehicle in the pouring rain.

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Then on 2 September 2015 we ran Meiringspoort above a small town called De Rust. This river drops just as quickly as it picks up and one has a very small window of opportunity to paddle it, not unlike most rivers in the Western Cape. Due to this few paddlers have had the privilege to experience this river. I have been blessed to be able to do it 3 times in my life so far, most likely more than any of the other handful of paddlers that have ever done it. This is the only river in the area where you have the luxury of a road running alongside the river making it nice to take a support crew along who can organize coffee stops along the way! If you have ever driven through this poort you will know the river bed is strewn with huge boulders. Running it at flood you are constantly navigating in-between these rock gardens dropping down between the boulders. Watch out for siphons, holes and strainers. ”Oh, and nearly forgot about the road bridges”  This is a very nice relatively easy paddle if you a competent paddler, if you go upside down though you have problems and a rock in the face is highly likely. The gradient drops constantly and very few flat sections keeps things interesting. The scenery is unbelievable and paddling through this poort really gives you the time to enjoy it. I will always be grateful for Sean Evans with whom I did this river with many years ago as one of my firsts in a whitewater kayak and for showing me the ropes back then!

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Ico going for a big Boof!

Ico going for a big Boof!

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Vibram Five Finger Review in DoItNow

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Vibram rockclimbing

Vibram FiveFingers’ outdoor trail shoes review

When it comes to choosing specialised, albeit costly, outdoor trail shoes these days, we are spoilt for choice. However, few seem to last.

Vibram FiveFingers’ Maiori

I have always believed that if I spent more they would be of a higher quality and last longer, but I have yet to find a shoe that lasts longer than six months. Most don’t even make three months. To be fair though, I do seem to be quite hard on my shoes for outdoor. So over the last few years I have been testing out a few different brands to see how they last in mountainous environments.

For the last three months I have been testing Vibram FiveFingers’ minimalist trail running shoes, the Spyridon LS model, as well as their men’s Maiori outdoor shoes, in various extreme conditions to see how they will last. This is also the first time I have tried this barefoot style of shoe, so I had no idea what to expect. A few of my friends that have them swear by them and have stopped wearing anything else, so I thought I’d give them a try.

Spyridon LS
Tested while trail running, hiking, climbing, canyoning and kayaking, I was impressed from the first outing with these trail-running-specific models.

They provided a nice balance of the barefoot feel and protection on rugged surfaces. The aggressive-tread design provided good grip, while allowing for proper barefoot dynamics. Running across a boulder field never felt so cool, and even the wet rocks were no trouble.

The shoes were often exposed to canyoning and were therefore constantly wet from walking and swimming in them down rivers. Swimming in these shoes was so much better than normal trail shoes, and when I wanted to do a quick, unplanned scramble or rock climb they proved very handy with the aggressive rubber sole around toes providing great traction.

I even went so far as to test them out on a Grade 20 climbing route and once again they managed very well.
Over the past three months, I have put these shoes through a lot in the mountains and rivers and they have continued to impress with their performance. The soles are still good and there’s only minor cosmetic damage on the top layer and two small areas where the sole and upper is separating on the one shoe.

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Maiori
Tested while canyoning, hiking and kayaking, the Maiori is for more intense water activities. The design helps keep sand and debris out when walking in the water. The 2 mm neoprene upper provides a secure fit, added ankle protection and kept my feet nice and warm in the cold mountain water.

The soles are thinner than the Spyridon, so you get a more pronounced barefoot feel in them. The grip on the soles is really good in wet conditions, even over rocks and boulders.

However, you want to avoid walking in them for a long portage with your kayak or over very bad terrain because the rubber soles are thin and soft and don’t do well in a technical approach hike. They want to be in a water environment, so rather do the hike to the river in something else. Furthermore, the neoprene will get destroyed quickly in our mountainous-fynbos environment.

These shoes are not as hardy as the Spyridon LS, but you need to remember that they are specifically for use in water and therefore use on land will destroy them. As a result of this, I often used the Spyridons for approach trails to canyons and only then put on the Maioris at the river.

The Maiori have not held up as well as the Spyridon, even though they have not been worn nearly as much. After only a few uses in the canyon, a number of spots occurred where the sole and uppers were separating. They still work fine though and have not separated any further. However, water environments are harsh on shoes and I have not found a shoe that hasn’t started separating from the sole; it’s only a matter of time.

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Conclusion
Vibram FiveFingers’ shoes are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn, and I struggle wearing normal shoes for various other activities. Your feet muscles develop so much and your toes actually start straightening and are not bunched up in the way normal shoes affect our feet. I saw a difference in my feet quite quickly and their muscle development. I seriously feel faster when running up a climb in these shoes, with my foot placing being as it should be.

Vibram FiveFingers’ Spyridon LS shoes are light, easy to pack and take up very little space. As a result, they would be my first choice to take with on backpacking trips, to wear around the camp after taking off my boots from a long hike. I found Vibram FiveFingers’ Spyridon LS to be a nice all-rounder and would recommend them if you like being out in the rough terrain and not knowing what the next obstacle might be.

So far the Spyridon’s have lasted well, passing the three-month mark and are still going strong. I am quite sure that I’ll be using them for a while still.
As mentioned earlier, Vibram FiveFingers’ Maiori shoes are water specific and a good choice for water sports. They kept my feet warm and proved to be more comfortable than any other water shoe I’ve tried. They are also a very popular shoe for kiteboarders.

Although they have separated in a few places, they have not hampered the shoes performance as yet and should last through another canyoning season. They are definitely not as hardy as the Spyridon’s and won’t last as long.

The Maiori and Spyridon LS both get the thumbs up from me.

More information

Vibram FiveFingers has a range of specific models for various uses, as can be seen on their website: http://www.theoriginalminimalistshoes.co.za

– See more at: http://www.doitnow.co.za/content/vibram-fivefingers-outdoor-trail-shoes-review?

This months issue: http://www.doitnow.co.za/content/do-it-now-magazine-31-july-2015-0

Kayaking First Descent – DoItNow

Link to article in DoItNow :- Kayaking First Descent

kayaking whitewater

These days, firsts of any kind are hard to come by. Mountains have been climbed, places discovered and rivers run all around the world. Fortunately though, the world is a very big place and there are still firsts out there for adventure seekers looking for new thrills.

Exploring and finding undiscovered places makes me come alive and that is why I find white-water kayaking so appealing. You get to see places that few others have and go where even fewer are able to get to, due to the extreme nature and risk of it all. There is also nothing like running a technical rapid for the first time and getting all the moves dialled in your head. You are completely focused, the roar of the river drowns out everything so that nothing other than what is right in front of you exists. Your nerves are on edge, but as soon as you hit that first rapid, everything comes together and you become one with the river.

Luckily for me, I don’t have to go looking for new and exciting thrills in far off places as there are a number of amazing rivers right on my doorstep, in the Garden Route, which are still waiting to be claimed.
But it’s not as simple as that because the rivers in the Garden Route area can only be paddled when in flood; this doesn’t happen very often and the timing is random. The water levels also drop just as quickly as they rise. Therefore, if you want to catch one of the rivers at a good level, you need to drop everything and get out there while it’s raining.

Living so close to these rivers has meant that I’ve had many opportunities to paddle them over the last 15 years. And due to the fickle nature of these rivers, not many paddlers have had the opportunity to paddle them, which has allowed me to get in some first descents of a few of the rivers and creeks up in the mountains in the Garden Route area.

Eugene

My most recent ‘first’ conquest was the Plaat River, which confluences with the Karatara River up in the Outeniqua Mountains.
Having seen some of the technical rapids after the confluence on a previous trip, I have wanted to explore and run this river for a long time. Adding to the creek’s appeal is its location in the valley. By just looking at it I could see there would be a serious gradient drop – something any good run should have. With some good rains and having checked the river levels earlier that the morning, I made the call to go out and explore this creek.

Now, not many guys in the area can just drop what they are doing and go for a paddle. But I am fortunate to have a friend, Eugene Fourie, who is just as keen as I am when it comes to pursuing epic, spontaneous adventures. Making our way up high up into the Outeniqua Mountains, my feelings were very mixed. I felt great excitement but I was also nervous not knowing what to expect or what was around the next corner. My nerves were not unfounded because as we rounded the first bend in the river, I realised there would be no time for a warm up on this river. It started with a bang into a technical steep drop. From there, it never let up with rapid on rapid, never giving you much flat water. It was awesome tight creeking with breathtaking scenery.

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Nerves on edge, senses alive and adrenaline pumping – these are key to keeping you alive.
The river entailed scouting a rapid as far as possible, then running it, eddying out, scouting the next section and then doing it all over again. We were unable to scout a rapid too far down once the river dropped down to cliffs on either side, and where possible at the serious rapids, we would take turns to stand ready at a critical spot with a throw rope, just in case one of us made a mistake. The creek really gave you a bit of everything staying at a steep gradient.

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When we finally got to the confluence with Karatara River, it was still early in the afternoon, which meant we wouldn’t have to sleep out in the mountain on this trip. I also kind of knew what was ahead of us, but this was of no comfort since there were some big, technical rapids waiting for us.

All went well though and with the last of the big rapids behind us, all that remained between us and where we had left our vehicle was a flat-section paddle. However, the closer we got to civilisation the more chocked the river became with strainers, which consisted of numerous exotics that had been chopped down and left in the river. This all made for some interesting channels, which we managed to navigate through and be finished by late afternoon.

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Safety on any paddling trip is a priority, especially a first descent. With this in mind, we skipped three rapids – for now. We will return, but we’ll bring another paddler along should things not go as planned.
It was such a blessing and privilege to have spent the day out in nature and had the thrill of running something new. Thanks to Eugene for taking it on with me because any experience is always better shared.

Warning: Creeking is high risk and most rivers in the Garden Route should only be taken on by experienced paddlers.

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– See more at: http://www.doitnow.co.za/content/first-descent-plaat-river-and-karatara-upper-reaches?

 

Gear TEST

Currently testing out two different models of shoes from Vibram fivefingers.

Will be posting a review on them soon, so you can see how long they lasted and performed under proper use in the mountains and canyons where I am blessed to find myself on a daily basis! vibrams canyoning1

Wet

What is Coasteering?

Coasteering is a physical activity that encompasses movement along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming, without the aid of boats, surfboards or other craft. A defining factor of coasteering is the opportunity provided by the marine geology for moving in the ‘impact zone’ where water, waves, rocks, gullies, caves etc., come together to provide a very high-energy environment. – Wikipedia

Abseil
Being in the adventure business, I get asked on a daily basis what coasteering is, so I thought I would dedicate this article to shedding some light on this incredibly exciting activity that offers loads of exciting experiences in one day – guaranteed!

The first time I heard the term coasteering was when I was based on the north coast of Ireland, back in 2011. Although not a well-known adventure activity around the world, it is a very popular activity that’s practiced along the UK coastlines. In fact, the UK is one of the biggest coasteering destinations worldwide, boasting the most commercial operators.
Whilst here, I had my first ‘official’ coasteering experience with Matt Wright, who owns a coasteering operation called IrishC, based out on the north coast in Portrush and right next to one of the world’s natural wonders, the Giant Causeway. We would jump off a big cliff into the ocean and then swim alongside the cliff to the next big jump while exploring this beautiful coastline in a very exciting and different way, and so we went along. What makes it all so exciting is that you are very much a part of the ocean, in the swell, and are able to explore cool spots, like sea caves, which are not otherwise accessible.

My time spent exploring with Matt, as well as assisting him with taking out groups to some of the incredible spots he had scouted along the coastline, enabled me to really get to grips with this activity and understand what makes it so special and unique. For example, not any section of coastline is feasible for coasteering. One needs something different and spectacular to show people, something that would generally be inaccessible to most without the proper knowledge and experience. What one needs is a section of coastline that is rugged and unspoilt, with various adventurous aspects to it, like big, adrenalin-pumping jumps.

Bitten by the coasteering bug, I decided to create the ultimate aquatic adventure in South Africa that offered a blend of rock hopping, shore scrambling, swell riding, cave exploring and cliff jumping.
However, this trip is different to what I was doing in the UK, as there were a number of ‘local’ factors that had to be taken into consideration. The first was the sharks that frequent our coastline, which make taking clients into the sea somewhat risky. The other big, limiting factor was access to the cool spots that are actually worth exploring and doing trips on. The result is a trip that takes place along a private reserve on the coastline, about 15 minutes from George, which is incredibly beautiful and untouched.
Go coasteering locally
The trip kicks off with a 1,5 km hike through indigenous coastal forest to the cliff’s edge and then an abseil down to the sea. Once back on terra firma, there is no trail, so there’ll be lots of boulder hopping along a very rugged coastline, in and out of the intertidal zone.

There are a number of safe spots I’ve found along the way where you can swim, while at the same time enjoy the wave action in tidal pools that are protected by rock formations. What’s so awesome about this is that you’ll have the opportunity to get a close-up view of the coastal ecology as you walk and wade, depending on tides, in the intertidal zone.

After a few spots that are sure to put most out of their comfort zone, you’ll get to a sea cave that is quite special as it has stalagmites and stalactites. Thereafter, there’ll be a steep walk up a valley and through pristine coastal forest back to the start.

One thing I can guarantee you is that this adventure will get your pulse racing as you abseil off huge cliffs, swim through caves and scramble along rocky coastline – and leave you with memories of a lifetime.

Ireland
Other trips
In addition to this trip, the only other coasteering trips offered in South Africa, which I’m aware of, is around Simon’s Town, by Gravity Adventures.

But if you ever find yourself in Northern Ireland, the Giants Causeway area is a coasteering paradise and definitely worth a visit. And afterwards, be sure to treat yourself and head down to a local Irish pub for a steak and Guinness pie, all washed down with another pint of Guinness to replace all the calories lost in the cold water.
– See more at: http://www.doitnow.co.za/content/take-plunge#sthash.u15tFEQN.dpuf

Abseiling

Do It Now – Canyoning Article

Explore a river system that is not usually negotiable by any other means, discover hidden gorges, swim through fresh-water mountain streams and slide down natural waterfalls; this is the thrill of canyoning!

The terms canyoning or kloofing are often loosely used to describe a river walk, but this is not technically correct as it is far more technical and requires skill in a number of areas, such as abseiling down waterfalls, jumping, swimming, hiking, down climbing and scrambling over boulder fields. In addition, the area should at least be enclosed by cliff walls to call it a canyon. Therefore, once you have committed to the first abseil, there is no way out except down river, where the canyon ends.

Although canyoning has increased in popularity in South Africa over the last few years, it is still an extreme activity that many people don’t know much about.
Overseas, especially in Europe, this activity is much bigger and a number of canyoning events and competitions are held.

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The appeal
So what is the appeal of canyoning? For me, the appeal is about the opportunity to explore and discover new places that few people are able to get to, and often where no one has ever been. It’s about experiencing the raw, unspoilt beauty of nature; the technical parts are just a bonus. Then there’s the anticipation and fun of not always knowing what is around the corner and having to find a way down the next waterfall; especially when there is no way out but down.
The risks
As with any outdoor sport, there is always some risk involved. Canyoneering is no exception and has received some bad press around the world in the past, due to accidents caused by a rise in water level or flash flood. Some of these could have been prevented had experienced guides made the call not to go into the canyon in the first place. Unfortunately, with some operations money is more important than people’s lives. When done correctly though, by making informed decisions or getting help from someone who is knowledgeable and has experience in white water and mountaineering safety, it is no more risky than any other outdoor activity.


Try it
If you interested in getting into canyoning, go and experience one of the many guided operations in South Africa. If you decide that this is for you and you’d like to do some of your own expeditions, then I would recommend you first get some training at a mountaineering establishment, as well as undertake a white-water rescue course, a very important aspect of canyoning and something that should not be overlooked or omitted.

To be safe out there, a good knowledge of your environment is also vital. However, nothing beats experience, so find someone who has loads of it and then invite him or her along for the adventure.

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Where to go
There are numerous commercial canyons around the world that have excellent safety measures in place to cope with high volumes of people moving through them, without you having to worry about anything other than enjoying the breathtaking scenery.

Great canyoning places to go to are Austria, Italy, France, Greece, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, Canada, Mexico and the United States.

In South Africa, we also have many amazing canyons all over the country to be explored. Unfortunately, due to a lack of knowledge regarding the activity, access has become problematic in some areas, which has prohibited visitors from being able to experience these great places. The best canyoning in our country, in my opinion, is in the Garden Route area. Saying that, the rest of the country also has great places, especially in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Natal. Generally, where there are mountains and rivers, your chances of finding a canyon somewhere along the rivers course, mostly closer to the source, are good. A quick internet search will also reveal the many operators found throughout the country, who will arrange to take you on a stress-free trip.

Breathtaking sceneryTip: If you ever decide on a canyon that is anywhere below a dam wall, check for any scheduled water release first. I prefer to avoid these canyons since I have experienced an unscheduled release, which was not the best experience ever! Furthermore, when water levels are high and there’s rain in catchments areas, canyoning trips should be called off because it is just not worth the risk.

Check out the full article on Canyoning, in the online Adventure Sports Magazine DO IT NOW at: http://www.doitnow.co.za/content/experience-thrill-canyoning#sthash.VKKzoync.dpuf

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