The N2 crosses the river near Quimbu and served as a good put-in. with 209km to the mouth of the Umzimvubu, and with the fairly rough Umzimvubu trip still fresh in our minds, we felt pretty apprehensive. To put ourselves a bit at ease, we recced the sections both above and below the Falls, as these were the steepest parts according to our river profile. In the first few days, however, the river was kind to us, allowing us to first find our feet. The gorge was beautiful & lush, liberally sprinkled with shining yellow acacias. Bird-life was ample.
As the river gradient steepened, we hit some fairly big rapids, managing to shoot a 2m waterfall and had a few portages. The big moment was the Falls, which plummet 60m down a crack (this is a unique wateriall, in 'that it's been formed at a cut-off meander). Here we abbed down our kits, boats and ourselves and very much welcomed the `free’ day and pizzas that were to follow.
There was a tremendous roar, the locals went wild and we witnessed the river level rise about a meter in just under 5 minutes. what was a fairly calm river, became a furious, brown, pumping mass. We hurriedly moved our campsite to higher ground. Several rapids were rendered unrunable, but it also made things easier over the `boulder gardens'. On the river early; lifejackets and helmets on; off at 12, when the heat of the day becomes unbearable; lunch; a rest; maybe a game of volleyball or cricket.
On an amble in this serene and `untouched’ world, we remarked upon its apparent isolation, whereupon we came across an elderly Xhosa gentleman, who spoke impeccable English and enquired of us what we thought of the war in Iraq. Urged on by the thought o€ a cold Castle ("actually, Mnanti is not for everyone"), we paddled long and hard, and into the Ocean deep of the Indian. Eat your hearts out Joburg
Here's a short report from Helen
It has almost become a midsummer tradition that a small, hardened band of explorers head for the hills of the "T" in the cluster of banana republics known as the TBVC countries, to raft a new stretch gf the Mzimvubu River system over a period of two to three weeks often to the dismay of many a Transkeian who can cover the same distance far less laboriously by taxi. The end of the Christmas Vac.has been chosen for these missions so that not many people get to know about them and to give potential undesirables more than enough time to become penniless after spending all their cash in holiday mecca's like Margate and Plettenberg Bay.
This year the Tina River was tackled from the N2 bridge to the sea. After recce'ing the biggest obstacle on this stretch - The Tina Falls we began our two week trip with the new red beauty and the old grey bitch economically laden with modest supplies. Indeed Economy was the dominant factor in preparing ourselves for this trip, bringing the final cost down to R250, in keeping with renewed safety consciousness, life-jackets were upgraded, new 10 m throwlines were sewn up and diving knives sewn to the lifejackets.
It was at the desolate N2 campsite that the volleyballing tradition was born. we played for hours with our brand new neon ball taunting the soccer hungry underpriveleged kids who thronged to watch the match. Volleyball enthusiasm waned as energy levels dropped and naffinese get in. we turned instead to other afternoon activities such as team vomiting little white beans, playing cricket with sharpened mugs, watching Peter and I do battle with bread knives and other nasty objects eating tons of chocolate in one day(Mike's 21st), watching Mike unpack and repack his camera and sundry photographic aids into a little cute bucket, bird watching, brewing a diabolically bad tasting porridge/beer substitute called MNANTI , ridiculing other crew members or just watching Steve T look pale and pathetic.
Under Paul's experienced leadership and his ever alert, ever roving eye we negotiated challenging white water never rafted before by anyone. Few punctures needed patching and even fewer rapids necessitated portaging allowing us to raft until 12 and then rest in the afternoons.
The Tina Falls proved to be the main obstacle on this stretch as all the kit and both rafts had to be abseiled down a steep cliff twice,as the drop was longer than a ropelength. This task was only completed well into the night. The Fal1s,formed when a meander was cut off from the river forming an oxbow lake ,provided a magnificent setting for a campsite and a free day of relaxation. We were reminded of the unpredict- ability of all rivers when the water level rose by 1 metre in about 5 minutes forcing us to move to higher ground. This occurred half an hour after we had been_practising flipping the boat near the waterfall.
It was also at Tina Falls that Brian and Gavin’s youth counted in their disfavour , when they naively ignored the C.0.D. principle of all commercial transactions. Brian's commerce background seemed to count for nought as he allowed R50 to be connived out of his sweaty pocket before the goods were made available. You see these lads had been sent up the mountain to gather some beers for their mates who were very busy portaging down the waterfall. After being gone for an inappropriate length of time, they arrived at the campfire with strange and wonderful tales of how they had been done a dirty by some naughty black youths who were seen hanging around in their vicinity. And so this delightful yarn has passed into the realm of explorer legend and can be heard at any campfire when the elders are requested to relate tales of youth and folly of times past.
After the confluence with the iTitsa and Mzimvubu rivers, the river widened considerably the rapids grew larger and more treacherous. At Dikela, a magical place where a huge cliff face looms over a meander, it was decided not to risk letting Brian or Gavin attempt to get the beers and so they were sentenced to look after the campsite while every body else trekked up the mountain to the village on top. As is tradition in the TBVC countries the afternoon was spent having an Indaba on the porch of the bottlestore . After assuring the bar-fly ladies that Heidi and I had never been through childbirth, and drinking more than our quota we set out for home after underestimating the number of hours of daylight in a day. Steve Carrot thought it amusing to sling his glass filled pack to the ground occasionally , only to diminish the beers available to those below. We finally made it to the bottom after Dave and Paul had drummed " Pullonski on banana bread" and "No danger" into the youngest Xhosas in the village. Obviously when the campsite was eventually achieved , a chaos reigned as to what was indeed for supper. David took the onerous task of chastising the youths upon himself before passing out.
The huge dog-leg rapid and small waterfall lay ahead at this stage before reaching the seas with the water level higher than what we remembered it to be on the Source-to-sea expedition, where we managed to run the dog-leg, it was decided to rope around the huge holes and drops too dangerous to raft. After camping at the haterfall, it was portaged as this is completely unrunnable at all times. Despite meticulous recce'ing the Mzimvubu, managed to catch us by surprise at times plunging the boats into huge unexpected holes which seemed to come from nowhere. The last day of the trip holds some devilishly flat water which is tedious to paddle at the best of times. we pushed past Mosquito Bay to PSJ despite the rain, the bad singing and the poor jokes which we had been reduced to. On top of this we had to sit through Steven Carrott( his surname comes from the bean vomiting on where he was seen picking small pieces of diced carrott out of his nose while no-one was looking) philosophising about what a good time he was having despite the hardships. PSJ was finally insight so we caught a few fish for supper and paddled the last torturous stretch to the sea. PSJ is favoured it seems as a explorer destination, we either hike,cycle,drive,raft or hitch-hike there at least once a year. And so the tale of the Tina comes sadly to an end ~ special mention must go to Heidi whose imaginative budgeting in terms of food left us all pretty satisfied, and to Paul who was once again the driving force behind the expedition. Finally to Brian who in a fit of despair after receiving an unusually large amount of flack about his general ineptitude tried to commit suicide by allowing lots of hornets to sting him, and when he found out he was still alive tried to bash his own face in with a rock, managing to destroy his front teeth only, don’t worry we like you Brian, not a lot, but we like you.