Note: This is an older post I included to test this new blog, enjoy!
The Deepdale Hella Hella Bridge section on the Umkomazi River in South Africa truly is member of what Celliers Kruger, in his book Run the Rivers of Southern Africa, calls the 'Old Classics Club`…and rightly so. The 38-odd kilometre paddle takes you through one of the most beautiful river valleys I have ever seen and the white water is a good class 3-4, depending on water levels. Most of the bigger rapids are awesome boulder gardens with umpteen chutes and boofs and great boat scouting 'boogy-water`.
Thirteen local paddlers (the largest group ever on this section to our knowledge) assembled for a 2 day over night trip in late November. It is doable in one day but then you must be floating by 8am and paddle hard! One of first drops is Deepdale Falls, a multi-line 12m beast with a reputation for hurting paddlers. We had some world class paddlers on this trip and only Luke Longridge had the cojones to giver 'er! He ran a good line but over-rotated and face planted a bit. His peaked helmet was a necklace when he surfaced….
The rest of the run was trouble free and despite some good rain, a chocolate colour and the online gauge showing a spike in level, we had it about as low as you want it (1m on the Hella Hella Bridge). The boulder gardens on this section channel the water well so it`s a good run, even at lower levels. We did have one swim and a lost paddle at the infamous 'Long Drop` Rapid but no injuries it`s a bugger of gorge to walk out of I have walked out of the lower gorge while rafting guiding there!
This section is followed by a great 25km class 3 section (one 3+/4 at higher water), known locally as '1-8` that would suit less experienced, but none-the-less competent paddlers. The top Deepdale section ends at Highover Camp and the 1-8 section starts there. Highover arrange shuttles for a great rate and it`s well worth it. While on the topic, Highover is one of the THE BEST river camps I have ever had the pleasure of staying at. You can stay over the night before, leave your car and get shuttled into the bundu by them and then take out right at the deck of this Umkomazi paradise after a hard paddle. Dave and Marge are fantastic people to deal with. Go to Highover for more details. We also learned that Highover is under Land Claim. This area is of very high ecological value, including endangered Blue Swallow habitat, and is of low agriculture value due to the lack of arable land and topography. The provincial conservation authority has an interest in this farm and there is talk that the claimants want to maintain status quo and keep it as a reserve/camp…I am very interested in the dynamics involved in this, so watch this space.
Well, a picture is worth a 1000 words, so here are a few...