New Years eve, this day is celebrated my most people. The ritual is get dressed up, meet with friends, get wasted, kiss your girl at mid night then try and remember it all the next day. Expedition Inception decided to try and celebrate the coming of the New years in a slightly different way. Accompanied by Brett from Umgano Eco Adventures, a friend of ours from Uganda we set organizing an epic multi day adventure to bring in the new years EI style.
With help from AD from Titsa Falls Backpackers we researched on Google earth and old OS maps. This was going to be a long trip, 70km with at least 30km of flat water. The first few kilometers and the last few kilometers had been run but in-between was unknown. Our main concerns were hoping the sections had enough water as the upper section needed around 1/3 the water the bottom section needed and we had no idea how much water was needed for the middle section. When the day came we made the decision to go for it with the forecast predicting rain on our first night we hoped our timing was good.
As this was a first descent we packed our boats for 3 nights on the river making sure we were prepared for worst case scenario. Along with this we had to pack tents in the boats as the rain forecasted was very heavy and we had know idea if the campsites were going to be any good. Every adventure kayaker will tell you know matter how hard they think they are a good nights sleep can make a huge difference in terms of energy levels and decision making when on the river. With our boats loaded up to the max our only exit from the river was the first road bridge 60km down stream.
With help from 2 backpackers we drove for 2 hours to the put in and ventured into the heart of the Transkei with our gear and a sense anticipation of what was down stream. The top section started with 7 amazing low volume drops, tight technical rapids that didn't seem to let up. Our team by now has a good understanding of how we paddle and we move in sync down the river. Scouting from the bank is a last resort and the person leading the charge makes the judgment if the team needs to scout. This is a very effective way of covering distance fast. As we entered a steep section we were given the line and started paddling. As Brett came over the last drop he lacked speed and missed his boof smashing the nose of his boat into a rock just under the water. I was at the bottom watching it all happen, his go pro clip snapped off with the impact and the camera went to the bottom of the river, this was the least of my worries as I thought he was going to be vertically pinned in the drop but thankfully he popped out. We all went to the bank and had a rest. Poor Brett needed to get his mind right after losing his go pro and putting an almighty dent in the nose of his boat. Our energy levels were starting to hit critical level and we all agreed to find a campsite soon. Once again the adventure of doing a first descent, we hadn’t a clue if we would find it soon or not. We were still guts deep in a steep section of whitewater and had to navigate it fast and safely. Once our rest was over and we took on some food we scouted the next rapid. Clearly there was a hole at the bottom and I had picked my line from the top. Shannon decided to do safety for me just in case anything happened but I was dead set it would be fine. As I got to my boat I see Shannon pointing for me to take the hole on the left and I wanted to take it on the right. I sat in my boat thinking id make my decision as I was on the water. The line was tight and technical having to catch an eddy that wasn't really an eddy to line up well for the middle section before the hole. I came through online well but I had to take the hole on the right. It was a curler on the lip that made it hard to keep my nose up. As I hit it I ended up plugging the hole. I capsized twice almost loosing my paddle in the hole before I gained control. I looked up to see no exit from the hole however Shannon my ginger angel was standing right next to the hole and roped me out. With a big smile and a sigh of relief I said thank you and took position to do safety for the other two lads who of course took the hole on the left. Thankfully around the next corner we found a campsite. It was raining hard at this stage and we all just wanted to get off the water and eat dinner. We set up our tents on the most uneven ground you can imagine and made our way up to a small cave above our tents. We stayed in our kayaking gear until the rain stopped and dinner was ready. We spent New Years Eve night at 9 o clock all tucked up in our tents. That night as I slept soundly there was a thunderstorm right above us that kept the lads awake, I was told id was terrifying.
Day 2 of our mission started with some more amazing class 5 rapids. They just kept coming till we hit a forested area. It flattened out for a while which was a nice rest for the nerves. As the day went on we encountered beautiful rapids along with lots and lots of flat water. We kept on plugging on hoping to cover as much distance as possible in the day. The rain the night before had brought the river up nicely for us so we were moving fast. As it started to get to late afternoon we decided to take the next nice campsite we saw. All of a sudden we heard a rumble down stream, we moved down stream to find an epic drop along with an amazing campsite. We could not have planned it any better. We unloaded our boats ran the drop and set up camp for the night.
Day 3, we woke up lazily had breakfast packed our boats and started down what we thought was going to be flat water to the end. Our GPS told us we had 38 meters of gradient to loose in over 30km of kayaking. We had lost all hope of a big ending to our trip, however because of this trip we have lost all faith in a GPS, as after lunch we were gifted with 10 -12 long big volume rapids, we couldn't believe it. We arrived on the third day at the take out totally worn out after an amazing trip. If you are interested in watching the little video of this trip you will find it here (enter link).
Right now I am writing this blog in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe where we have found yet another gem of a river along with some other classics. My next blog will be about my favorite river in Zimbabwe. Please keep come follow us on instagram, Facebook and on our website www.expeditioninception.com