Monday, 14 November 2016

Parys Flower Festival and Vaal paddling

After the big rains in Jo'burg last week, the Vaal River is up. And, when the water is here, it is time to... paddle!

I've been back from Spain for two weeks today (yes, I still plan to do a wrap-up email to fill you in on costs and logistics) and life has been a bit hectic. Returning to normal life is very much like a space shuttle re-entering earth's atmosphere -  a bit of a bumpy ride.

It has been a treat to return home to lush green and, of course, these most magnificent rains. I've logged over 120mm on my rain gauge at home in the past two weeks.

The first of this weekend's treats included a magnificent street parade at the first Parys Flower Festival. The dancers and five flower-festooned floats were stunning. The rain held back until the parade was done. With the main road closed to cars, it was brilliant to be able to cruise the street and the shops. We saw so many places we'd never seen before because they are usually blocked from view by vehicles.

We also got more rain - last week and Friday and Saturday.

Rains in the Parys area doesn't mean that the level of the Vaal increases, just as rain in Jo'burg doesn't mean an increase in the Vaal Dam (catchment is Ermelo direction, not Jo'burg). But, rain in Jo'burg does feed the Klip River, which goes into the Vaal River and through Barrage (at Vanderbijlpark - Barrage is like a cross between a dam wall and a reservoir).

Barrage has gates. And they opened them!

That meant that we got water - lots of it. We think it probably went up to about 450 cumec late on Saturday. Athough it dropped during Sunday, we've still got loads - certainly over 300 cumec. Compare this to the flow we had most of last summer and through winter at 15-25 cumec.

On Sunday 'town rapid' was working beautifully and kayakers from far and wide were there to play in the wave. A block from home, we took a walk down to check out the action and to hang out. We were planning to trip the river anyway and within an hour we had recruits keen to join us.

After dropping vehicles at the end of the car shuttle, we got in at town rapid. 12 paddlers in their brightly coloured boats decorated the water.

I was paddling a sit-on-top white water boat. I've paddled it twice before - once on the Vaal and once on the Orange. As I haven't been in my white water kayak since November last year, I didn't want to try big water. I need way more practice rolling before I go there. The sit-on-top is perfect.

I took three swims - at Big Daddy, Stepping Stones and Look Sharp. I was almost through Big Daddy when a big wave at the bottom got me. Stepping Stones... I think I hit a stone and Look Sharp - I took a line following other kayaks and it really wasn't a great line to take. Fortunately I kept my paddle each time and for the second two swims I caught my boat too. Celliers and Gideon were great support and I was able to climb on quickly again. I was glad not to take a swim through Theatre or Gatsien.

I really need to spend more time on the water. Practice is really the only thing that will improve my skills. This evening I'll be back on my surfski for paddling at the club - if the weather holds.


Hanging in the eddy at Gatsien, watching paddlers coming through


Johan, Jonathan (I think) and Dewet

Celliers watching the action at Gatsien

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