Tuesday, 3 January 2017

When the river is up, we raft

Living next to the Vaal River, we pay close attention to the water level. We have a few spots in town - the bridge, 'town rapid' and the rapid at the golf estate entrance - that we keep an eye on to see how high - or not - the water is.

On Thursday afternoon the river was up - gates open at Barrage. Plans were on for rafting on Friday. Our plans were in a bit of a jumble. Too much water makes it too risky to take children on the river. They love the rapids but they won't love a big swim very much. Too little water and the oar raft is a drag that will get stuck on rocks.

It looked like we were in for 'too much' so we opted to leave the kids with friends and formed a 6-person rafting crew. As it turned out, the river had dropped substantially by morning but we had our crew and were ready to hit the water by 9am.

What a blast! It really is fun paddling a raft and Celliers gave us great lines. We had all the action with no swims. A well coordinated and committed crew.

Herman, Inke, Cor, Celliers, Jeanne-Marie and me
As the river was still looking good, we planned to hit the river again the next morning - two oar rafts with children. I ran parkrun first and then met everyone at the put-in. It was me and Celliers with Ruben and Kyla in our raft, and Jacques and Tanja with their boys, Henry and Andre, in their raft. Sylvia and Inke joined us in their kayaks.

Celliers on oars
This was a bit of a holiday jaunt for me. Celliers had the oars so I got to sit and enjoy the ride -looking out for fish eagles and goliath herons along the way.

Going into Big Daddy

Tanja & Jacques' raft (with their boys, Henry and Andre)

Kyla and Ruben. They learned how to get back into the raft on their own. This is an excellent skill to acquire - and they have it nailed.

Bombs off the raft
The river had again dropped but with good lines, we made it through all the tricky sections smoothly and didn't get stuck. But, we did have a near flip at Gatsien.

Our line going in was excellent. We'd gone into the last big wave and just as Celliers was digging in the oars to pull us through the wave, the right oar popped out of its holder and the left dug in and was got sucked in, turning the raft sideways and around.

Sitting at the front, I realised we weren't moving and could feel the rapid sucking at the bottom of the raft. I turned around and saw carnage - Celliers legs were in the air and there was water everywhere. I'm not quite sure what happened but we must have been turned around because water was pouring over the front. I flew over Ruben and Kyla, launching myself for the back to bring it down and at the same time diving for the side to grab the free-range oar. Shifting my weight helped and we popped out. Phew! The children has BIG eyes, but they loved the action and adventure of the near flip.

The river is up and down at the moment, the level changing from releases at Barrage and some from upstream rainfall. We're keeping a close eye on it as our next trip could be in kayaks - on some of the easier lower down rapids - practice for me and the children.

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