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.O.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 theyrere 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 occasinnally , 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,nanaged 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.