Monday, 12 November 2018

First local river trip of the season

I'm a bit behind in my posts...

Last weekend, I enjoyed a trip down our local stretch of the Vaal River. The water level has been low and on that Sunday morning it was even lower than the normal low.

In the past, I had paddled the fibreglass prototype of our Vagabond Kayaks Usutu whitewater creekboat on a river in KZN (earlier this year) and then a plastic pre-production Usutu on the whitewater park in Oklahoma.

For this trip, I had another pre-production Usutu -  a blue one. The Usutu is named after the river in Swaziland, which we paddled a number of times for the old Swazi Xtreme adventure race (and the Swazi Whitewater Festival). It was my first time taking the Usutu down our regular section of the Vaal.

That's me on the blue Usutu, Cindy on my pink Do It Now and Karen in her lime Soul sit-in. Photo by Graeme Addison. 
When the water level is low, all it really means is that the river is really rocky. There are parts where you can't squeeze a boat through, rapids are far smaller, water moves more slowly and even on flat water you can connect with a rock just below the surface.

I actually really enjoy the river when it is rocky because the scenery seems to improve with more features from the rocks along the banks and in the river itself. I also most enjoy looking for - and successfully negotiating - sneaky little gaps between rocks. As a bonus we saw two malachite kingfishers.

I paddled the Do It Now whitewater sit-on-top last summer (and my sit-in creekboat only later in the season). The Do It Now is a super kayak but the Usutu beats it in speed, better tracking, agility and responsiveness. Despite it being a sizeable craft, the Usutu doesn't feel big when you're on it. Its nose is a bit longer and pointier than that of the Do It Now, to punch through waves with ease. I found it easier to control for ferrying and catching eddies. I look forward to challenging my skills on more water later in the season ("rain, rain come again").

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