Jono's announcement of his Senquyane trip read something like '... raft through wild rock gorges in a pristine riverine environment ..... blah blah blah'. Really horrific marketing and then the river went and spoiled it all by being absolutely wonderful !!
Heidi missed her train in Pietermaritzburg (do train schedules really run on GMT) and hitched all the way up to JHB to meet Sue and Paul and they left JHB around midday on the 14th intending to have a relaxing trip down in daylight. They lelt JHB again a bit later on the 14th having fetched Heidi's passport. Joey and Peter (Joey's brother) left JHB early on the 15th intending to have a relaxing trip down in daylight to Zastron and then catch up with us in Maseru. They made it as far as Maseru
The rest of us ? Well, a serious game of cricket at the storeroom was interrupted when Megan eloped with the ball so we crossed the border post at midnight, drove up and down Maseru for an hour or two and then chose a suitably arbitrary looking road with and even more arbitrary looking motel as a good place to find Joey who stubbornly resisted to let us wake her up at 2AM. The geese at five am did a much better job!
The morning of the 16th saw us winding our way up and over the spectacular Blue Moutain and God Help Us passes to the Mohale dam and then down a steep grade on the other side (which melted the hubcaps off my Jetta) to a very Sluggish looking Senquyane. The drive around was a humongous 10 hour roundtrip in the pouring rain - all the way down past Mohale's Hoek to Mt Moorosi and then back again to find everybody else ensconced under the tarpaulin (having moved tents three times) and dinner ready,
The morning of the 17th after breakfast, packing, fixing the 25 holes in one of the crocs and generally flailing around we finally got on to the river about 10 am. The river was low to start with and the first stretch required more than a bit of dragging. Paul & Ann and Heidi & Joey made it look relatively easy but Sue & Cornell and Ben & Pete managed to hit every rock in the boulder gardens at least twice and by lunch time the crocs were pretty spread out. Late in the afternoon we found a campsite just as the rain started to pour down the tarp went up in record time and we huddled under it drinking hot chocolate eyeing out the fascinated Basotho's, blanketed and comfortable despite the downpour.
The next morning Sue nearly caused an international incident by refusing the hot porridge that her Basotho friends from the night before had been slaving over since dawn to cook and carry the 10km to our camp. The river had risen in the night and the rapids right next to the campsite weren't in the least inviting, The first serious rapid was 500m further down but despite its fearsome appearance everybody ran it fine (though Ollie hurt his shoulder). Another kilometer downstream Jono & Clara and Ollie portaged an even uglier rapid with a serious boil and pour over but the rest of us snuck down on the left and then lazed in the sun while Ben & Pete unwrapped their (very) well~wrapped croc. The river kept getting better - clean, fun rapids with the odd unexpected hole or drop just to keep thing interesting, Coming up to one gnarly drop Joey stood up in the Croc to have a look, gulped and promptly leapt onto a nearby rock while Heidi with , grace and adrenalin neatly negotiated the huge hole at the bottom on her own.
By mid-moming on the 19th we were paddling into the Senquyane gorge proper - high steep sandstone walls with spectacular onion-skin arches and classic cross-beds, and dark smooth water and we all just gaped and said "Wow !" and took a zillion photo's. Just before midday we squeezed through a narrow gap that made me wish my kayak had thinner hips and then the river ran into a maze and the only way through was a mildly hectic portage through a rockfall. The portage took a couple of hours and we camped not much further down the river on a pleasant shoulder.
The 20th saw us basically out of the gorge - Jono was muttering under his breath about waterfalls, sea monsters, lepredmauns and other dangers but the rapids were still easy and clean until I came up from a roll to watch Heidi &Joey miss an eddy and head straight for narrow gap that was making a really ominous roaring sound. Heidi nobly leapt out of the croc and desperately held it against the wall - until a quick recce showed that the gap was safe and runnable and
we were off down the river again and never saw the supposed waterfall at all. The river was flattening out now and we drifted more than paddled - but even so we covered something like 50km that day. As usual the rain reappeared in the afternoon and we camped close to a roaring waterfall which was more mud than water. Sue gave Paul the ritual haircut and by morning the waterfall had dwindled to little more than a trickle and the weather had cleared.
By now the the rapids are essentially over and Heidi took my kayak and Taryn took Ollie's and we paddled lazily down the river singing and chatting and generally having a good time to choruses of "Hello How are you Where are you going We ask provisions " from the locals on the bank. Paul & Ann almost caused another international incident by flipping their
croc with a whole bunch of joyriding kids but then in the interests of diplomacy ferried a huge fridge across the river so that was all right. We camped that night on a high beach and sang all the song that we knew while abusing Algy and schnacking Ollie's (now) world famous popcorn and Ben's mother’s even more famous couscous under the stars.
The 22nd dawned cloudy but warm and we drifted the last 15km to the take-out. A quick hitch to the cars and we headed off to our various Christmas destinations in the warm afterglow of a
really fantastic trip !