Garden Route and Karoo Rivers in Flood

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 adrenaline pumping kayaking but only for experienced paddlers. Many danger spots in these rivers and rescue in many places is 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. 


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.


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!


Ico going for a big Boof!
Ico going for a big Boof!