May Day 17(1): Exhilaration and Awe

The Mayday team had to split up today, two to paddle the river, the other three to proceed to where we ended off the day before yesterday and complete the last leg down to Cumberland while we paddled the section of the river that we walked yesterday along the tops of the cliffs above the river.

The morning dawned cold and misty and as Mike, Pens and Preven had declined to paddle, Pandora & I faced a chilly river start. Gary Behn and Andrew Booth arrived to take us through our paces, and we had the time of our lives.

Our mother river, like the true lady that she is, has shown us many of her moods over the last 17 days, and today was no exception. Launching in a big pool that soon ended, we shot our 1st rapids, the white water churning around us and shooting us into another still pool. High red sandstone cliffs and incredibly thick bush passed us by.

Pools lined with reeds and large indigenous trees draped over the water, a fish eagle watching us from high up a dead tree, Egyptian geese squawking their objections at our disturbance, a flight of Black Ducks flying past heading upstream.

Water droplets flying off the paddles caught the early morning suns rays that penetrated the depths of the canyon, and then icy cold water immersed me as Gary & I took a plunge as we hit a rapid crosswise, stuck on a rock and did a slow motion tip into the water.

My “waterproof’ camera stood the test to my relief, and we were soon on our way again. We threaded our way silently across still pools, morning mist rising from their surfaces, passed a baby python wrapped round some reeds.

Just past the Aas Vogel Krantz I spied Hydrostachys growing on the rocks of some rapids – this strange plant has a fairly limited distribution and only grows in fast flowing water on waterfalls and rapids.

We shot round giant tree stumps in the river, passed two broken canoes from past races where others were not as lucky as us, and all the while, the steep slopes reached up to the heavens, clad in thorny Acacia ataxacantha, only to end at the foot of massive cliffs that guard this part of the river. And suddenly I realised that we were in Lowveld country – a subtle change in the vegetation – Sycamore figs, Wild Date Palms, Schotia brachypetala( Weeping Boer Bean) tress were appearing. Once you are in there is no going back, and the 7 kilometres flew by in 4 hours, and far to soon we reached the end of our paddle, soaked, nippy and exhilarated.

Pandora & I would like to say a huge big Thank You to Andrew & Gary for tackling this section of Grade A river with two rookies – it has been one of the highlights of our ‘walk’, and as a result of today, we are proposing that next year there will be a Mayday for Rivers team paddling the DUZI – watch out here we come (we will just have to test the bread van over the portages)!!!!!

Also a big thanks to Peni and Rob Hanbury for the chickens and eggs which are keeping us well fed, Kandy and Chris Slater of Croft Farm for the chickens and Vicki and Craig Alison of Highveld for eggs too.  Dargle generosity is still with us, even though we are miles away.

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About Nikki Brighton

I live in Howick, between the river and the hills. I enjoy pre-dawn walks in the streets with my dog, sitting on the veranda with crochet and tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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