Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Paddling in winter

I've had two successful paddle outings recently. 

The first was a two-day trip on the Vaal River, almost from my doorstep, with Celliers. Our boats have been gathering dust and we've been a bit all-work, no-play for weeks. It was time to get out to celebrate our products.

I've never been on this section before so it was a revelation. I printed off Google Earth images so that I could follow along and really get a feel for our location - twists, turns and distances on rivers can be a blur. It was spectacular!

Day 1's section of about 15km was mostly flat sections with clumps of islands, channels and class 1 rapids. There was only one class 2. We stopped, got out, scouted, chose our lines and then hit the water. It was a piece of cake on my trusty Marimba.

Day 2's section of 13km was all flatwater but the hills of the Vredefort Dome area made up for the lack of excitement on the water with the move lovely scenery.

We had good sightings on both days of fish eagles and Goliath herons and even a big likkewaan (monitor lizard). 

We paddled for around 4hrs each day, enjoying the sights along the way. We camped on a small island in the late afternoon, setup and got to enjoy the last of the day's warmth. I'd packed a home-made hearty soup, which we heated and ate for dinner before dark. By 18h15, we were in our tent with plush sleeping bags, warm jackets, beanies, headlamps and books. Like this, you don't feel the cold.

We had a leisurely morning making tea, coffee and instant oats for breakfast before packing up camp and our kayaks. We were in no rush with only 13km ahead of flatwater and our pick-up at 2pm.

We had spectacular fish eagle sightings on this section and a lovely warmth. To our advantage, this trip was a few days before the real cold set in. 

Celliers last paddled this section more than 20 years ago. It was my first trip down here and I'll definitely be back. If you're looking for exercise, it can easily be done in a couple of hours. If you're looking to have a break, the two days is superb.

I made a 2:30 video with photos and two video clips.

My second paddle outing was on Sunday afternoon. 'Top Section' is a stretch of whitewater above town. The water level was up on Saturday but unfortunately it was down again on Sunday but we still decided to go anyway. I have only done Top Section three or four times and this was my first time taking the right-hand channel.

I paddled my Pungwe whitewater kayak. I got in quite a bit of paddling before lockdown so my skills have much improved and my roll is getting more solid in current. But in the cold winter water?
Before going down the weir (there is a 'slide'), I did a roll. I figured that it was worth a planned dunking to get it over with rather than a surprise dunking in a rapid. I was very pleased that the brain freeze wasn't as bad as I'd expected and that my dry top and spray deck had kept me warm and dry. This was good for my confidence - to know the bad is not really as bad as I'd imagined (which is usually the case!).

Start of the section - weird in the background. That's me in the blue kayak.

I did pop a Valoid before heading out. Generally going straight down river is no issue for my weak sea stomach but any kind of playing in rapids makes me queasy. I find the whole experience is better with my equilibrium chemically balanced so I'm getting in the habit of taking a tablet at least 30 mins before getting on the water when I paddle whitewater.


On this outing it was me, Gideon, Celliers and Ruben. Gideon and Celliers have paddled this side a lot and there are loads of channels and options. At such low level, everything looks different and the paddle was very crunchy with lots of rocks. We had to get out only once when a channel was obstructed by rocks, we snuck under some low branches and I slithered my kayak over barely-covered rocks. 

It was stunning and I loved it. Looking forward to the next one.

Winter in all its glory.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Droopy drawers, I'm 44

I'm hoping that this bingo call for 44 is not a reflection of the state of my drawers!

Today marks my 44th year of existence. I find myself in a bit of a mixed mood.

I've been quite off the last two days with the cold and rain and an abundance of load shedding, load rotation, blown power substations in our town... It has really gotten to me of late for the ongoing and massive disruption to everything.

My annual 'Days of Running' hasn't been fantastic. I've been fairly consistent but had a wobbly when Rusty injured her paw (her state really affects me psychologically) and these last two days with rain and cold I've been totally pathetic. Willem's Badger Hunt was great because I loved getting out to find the clues and I got in some nice longer-than-usual runs.

I decided that I rather felt like postponing my birthday until it was warmer, sunnier and we had electricity.

But, this morning dawned with a flash of sunlight, the power was on and calls and messages from friends and family have brightened my mood substantially.

Like other 'lockdown' birthday celebrants, I haven't got big plans. No tea parties, no group runs or paddles...

I've got work to do this morning and then lunch with my mom and a run with the dogs.

A pretty fair day it i going to be.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Putting myself out there in video

I'm not shy at all. I love a stage and I'll gladly speak to large groups of people. This is usually within a sporting environment. I also enjoy radio - whether speaking in studio or over the phone. And I do enjoy a dash of tv too. This is usually in the interview - interviewee environment. Of course, I write. From this blog to magazine articles, and website and social media content. And I have done a dozen shows, speaking to strangers about products.

This is all familiar ground and I'm comfortable in these environments.

And then there is YouTube. I have done very, very little in this sphere despite having had a few years of working in the tv industry where I have been behind the camera as a camerawoman, an interviewer, and scriptwriter. I have sat in on hundreds of hours of editing and voice-over sessions.

We have needed to make videos for Vagabond Kayaks since we launched. Aside from being too busy, unfocused and distracted to get around to it, I've got tech limitations with my computer really not able to handle the Adobe editing software that I bought a number of years ago. Making videos has been on the back burner.

About two weeks ago we finally started shooting video, beginning with the many fittings and features that make our kayaks so exceptional.

A few days later I got a lockdown haircut :)
I found the desktop version of a video editing app that I have had on my phone (Filmora). After a test run on my computer, I purchased the annual licence, which removes the watermarks.

The editing is going well and I'm enjoying the process. My computer can only just handle these short videos. I can't watch the videos in the program as I edit so I'm winging it a bit, drawing on my editing experience all those years ago to get a good outcome.

In some of the videos you see me talking to the camera. In others you just hear me and see my hands.

As much as I tried not to do funny things while we were shooting, of course I did. I'm out of practice and as we progressed, I warmed up.

There are so many people putting their faces in front of cameras every day. From How To and singing videos to a whole lot of nonsense. It really is quite remarkable how 'normal' it is.

As with any art - painting, sculpting, acting, singing, photography, and even writing and sports performance - you open yourself up to criticism when you put yourself out there. What you say and what you do and how you do can be replayed a dozen times and commented on. That's the way of social media. You can be placed on a pedestal or hung up to dry. Sometimes, you just have to do it.

Our focus is on short, to-the-point, informative or instructional videos. They're up on our YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram and embedded on the relevant pages on our website. These are just the start - we have a long wish list of videos to make. Celliers will be in front of the camera for some; I'll be in front of the camera for the rest.

This is new 'putting-myself-out-there' journey. As my old running buddy Jason would say, I've just got to take a spoon of cement and harden the f-up. Yee-ha!

Monday, 18 May 2020

Badger Hunt clues and locations - half way

We've got a really fun running 'game' happening in Parys at the moment. One of our local guys, Willem, a cross-fit trainer, created a super game for May. It is called the Badger Hunt.

Every night, the people who have signed up are sent a clue on Whatsapp for the next day's location. The clue could be a few lines - cryptic / poetic - that relate to the location or there could be scrambled letters or, like this morning, a word in Morse code that gives a hint as to the location. At the location, Willem leaves a badger footprint tag to confirm that you have the correct spot. You have to take a selfie and Whatsapp it to Willem to verify that you were there.

He is also collecting kilometre submissions - not only to the location but your distance run for that session. I haven't been logging any mileage so I won't be part of that aspect of the 'competition'.

That's the thing with living in a small town - the whole town is the play area. It is really fun puzzling over the clues.

I began hunting locations a few days after it started. I knocked off the first bunch of clues in three sessions to catch up. Most days, I just do that day's clue with an extended out-and-back to extend my distance run if the location is near home. It is fun seeing other clue hunters around the area.

I've created an album on my phone for clues and selfies so that I can keep track. I've got quite a collection now.

I'm missing the one from this past Saturday as I didn't go out and I'll miss tomorrow morning's one (I haven't solved the clue yet either!). Rusty cut the side of a toe this afternoon so I'll do a yoga class at home with her instead. I'll catch up on these when I can figure out where they are.

Willem will be dishing up 30 days of clues. Today was Day 15 so we're halfway.

I've told Willem that he'll need to do this as an annual activity (but maybe 10 days instead of 30 so as not to exhaust the clue locations) because it is such great fun! He and his wife Lelane are really doing so very well with this.

Here are some of our selfies (I couldn't get Rusty in all of them but she was with me).