Sunday, 7 January 2018

Crossing the Vaal where the Voortrekkers once crossed

Our plan this afternoon was to practice skills at Gatsien but after we arrived and discovered that Ruben had forgotten to pack in our spray decks for the kayaks, Celliers and I decided to undertake an 'adventure' that I've wanted to try for many months.

Back in the day there was a Voortrekker encampment on our friend's farm (of course it wasn't their farm back then!). This was back when Mzilikatsi was on a rampage (around 1836). There are old graves on the farm.

But what is even more interesting, is that it is from the farm that the river can be pretty easily crossed. We paddle here often so we've seen the sheets of rocks. I even had New Year's Eve dinner on these rocks a year ago... The bottom of our kayaks bump across the rocks when the water is low.

Jeanne-Marie recalls crossing the river at really low water when she was young (the farm was owned by her parents before her). I've been keen to cross the river like a Voortrekker, which is exactly what we did.

The river level is low, but not as low as we've seen it. Maybe 20 cumec. Some rocks are visible on river right, but covered by water for the rest.

Off we went wearing our paddle shoes (gifts from Santa), wading into the water. Rusty came running around to find me. When we set off to cross the river (a different spot from where we'd been hanging out), Rusty had been down at the water seeing what Ruben and Kyla were up to. My mom, who was chilling next to the river, said that Rusty had all-of-a-sudden looked up, didn't see me and she (to quote my mom) "bloodhounded" me - following my scent to find me.

We stepped into the water and she followed. We were no deeper than up to our middles at this stage. I've only ever seen Rusty in water up to her elbows or belly (her previous people had not seen her swim before, also only venturing up to her elbows). She kept coming with me until she was swimming. She swims beautifully! We crossed a short piece to the next section of open and visible rock. Rusty came running along with us.

The next part was totally water covered by flowing water. We told Rusty to stay and Celliers and I went back into the water. The deepest we got was chest deep and this was only for about 2-5 metres. Some sections were only shin deep.

And then we were across - just like the Voortrekkers with their oxwagons and horses. The rock structure here is mostly big, wide flat sheets - the perfect place for river crossings.

Once on the other side we turned around and headed back to Rusty, who was patiently waiting on the rock. We took a slightly different route back to her to check the depth there. It was a little more shallow.

Back on the exposed rocks, Rusty was delighted to see us. We walked over to the final section and stepped into the water again. Rusty got in a few metres away from us, swimming confidently to the bank.

She was so pleased with herself - skittering and pronking on the sheet of rock. What a joy to see my doggy girl so happy. Celliers even smiled.

I intended to take a photo of the river crossing area to show you but my dog was looking so sweet and happy with herself that I took photos of her and forgot all about taking a picture of the river.

We got in on the other side of the reeds (left of photo). Blue shows water-covered rock. Yellow shows exposed rock. And then the exit (nice slab of rock) on the right of photo. Yes, that's a smile.

Yes, that's another smile xxx

My sweet girl Rusty.

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