A person could be forgiven for thinking that outdoor adventure options in Gauteng are somewhat limited. The area lacks alp-like mountain ranges and there’s a distinct shortage of major rivers and dams. However, despite the seeming lack of topographical elements typically associated with outdoor adventures and sports, Gauteng residents have not been left wanting for outdoor activities.
Speak to any rock-climber and they’ll be quick to point out a number of challenging natural walls. Quad-biking, camping and fishing venues are numerous; abseiling, hiking and in-land scuba diving trips can be easily arranged; canopy sliding, sky-diving, kloofing and bungee jumping are common and white river rafting is easily accessible.
One operator which offers white river rafting excursions is Paddle Power. Situated in Broederstroom a mere 35 minute drive from Johannesburg, Paddle Power offers a variety of outdoor activities and trip packages with white river rafting at the core of their offering. The Crocodile River acts as the platform for all their trips.
In need of a ‘weekend less ordinary’, my partner and I recently booked a trip with Paddle Power. We weren’t disappointed. Paddle Power’s base camp is a rustic affair comprising a camping and braai area, a grassed preparation area, canvas enclosed ablutions and a river facing brick pub which has incorporated the area’s stinkwood trees into its very fabric.
Upon arrival we joined a cluster of like-minded adventure seekers. A brief explanation regarding how the day would run was given, following which everyone clambered into the back of a Paddle Power truck which took us to the nearby launch site. At the launch site, everyone donned life vests and helmets and were allocated two-man inflatable canoes. A friendly and informative guide discussed how best to use the paddles and a few river safety rules following which we were launched into the brown waters of the Crocodile River.
The Crocodile River originates in Constantia Kloof. At the time of our trip the water level was quite low, which we were informed would serve as a “nice introduction to white river rafting.” Apparently during the rainy season the river can reach ‘grade three’ levels which presumably only experienced canoeists should attempt.
The most challenging weirs occurred at the beginning of the trip. Supposedly easy-going though they were it became apparent that things can quickly go wrong on rivers and those traversing them have to keep their wits about them. The first weir out of the way, I realised why Paddle Power had recommended visitors don lashings of sun cream. It was a hot, cloudless day and I was beginning to cook. Thankfully I was wearing a sleeved shirt and peak cap and sun cream on my face but my legs and forearms had effectively been left to the mercy of the African sun. A fair skinned person of Scottish origins, this was no small matter.
Idiotic though I thought I had been, it became apparent that any such initial efforts to screen myself would have come to nought anyway as water kept splashing over me which no doubt would have greatly diminished any sunscreen. I consoled myself with the fact that the only way I would have escaped unscathed would have been to carry sunscreen with me in the canoe. Needless to say my arms and legs stung every time I moved for days afterwards.
The rest of the river trip was characterised by short rapids underpinned by devilishly concealed rocks, clouds of midges which proved interesting to navigate and lazy stretches of water enclosed by walls of rock which reminded me of scenes from the end of the first Lord of the Rings movie. It was appealing countryside and would have been more so had the opposing lush grass embankments and trees not been littered with pollution.
Snacks were served halfway into the trip at a convenient sand bar, following which a few brave souls opted to jump from an opposing rock face into the water. Continuing with our journey we observed families picnicking and fishing and spotted a number of large birds hunting for their dinner. It occurred to me that the Crocodile River might be healthier than it looks but I have my doubts.
All too soon the adventure came to an end. We arrived back at Paddle Power’s camp where we de-kitted and enjoyed a cool drink at the pub deck with the resident pub dog. Although not hugely challenging the rafting had proved highly enjoyable and, importantly, everyone arrived back safe and in high spirits. What more could you ask of a day in the sun?
For further information, go to www.paddlepower.co.za