Friday, July 17, 2009

South Africa River Rafting part II interview featured by Colorado Whitewater Rafting blog

part two of interview with Celliers of South Africa
[W.A.] Do you think it will ever be legal to paddle the Augrabies Gorge? Is there any sort of pressure being put on the park authorities to allow this?

[Celliers] Well, I've paddled it legally a few times. The first time was when I did safety for the Camel Whitewater Challenge in 1999, we ran the section at a few different levels then because we arrived a few days before the river reached the competition water level. I've also run it again in 2001 when we did safety for a movie shoot, this time at a fairly low level. It's quite pushing at any level, really awesome.

Basically, if you can find a good enough reason to paddle the gorge, like doing a movie, it's possible to arrange permission. But if you're talking about legally paddling it any time when you want to, chances are pretty small. It's really a shame, this is a gem of a gorge. There is no sort of pressure being put on the park authorities as far as I know, only requests from a few commercial operators who are keen to take kayakers down the gorge. No luck yet though.

Okay folks, you heard the man. Lets put our thinking caps on. I know! We could make a movie where Kevin Bacon forces us to run the gorge at gunpoint. I'll play Kevin and I need someone to play Meryl. "I am a nice guy. Just a different kind of nice guy."

picture of Fish River
Look Familiar? Its not the Grand Canyon
Fish River Canyon, Namibia

[W.A.] I am intrigued by the Fish river in Namibia (the second largest canyon in the world and a tributary of the Orange). What time of year holds the best chance of running that river?

[Celliers] Only a few guys have ever paddled it. The river only comes up after heavy rain in the catchment area, and as you probably know, the catchment area is pretty much a desert. It will be very difficult to try arrange a paddling trip in the Fish canyon from overseas, unless you have lots of money and can book a ticket the moment the river is up. The rains do come in most years though, but not always at the same time. Bargain on one or two weeks when it will be possible to paddle, any time during our summer.

[W.A.] What other rivers or attractions are worth visiting while in the country?

[Celliers] There are lots of rivers to paddle, but not in the same region as the Northern Cape where the Onseepkans - Pella section is. Most consistent rivers are in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where there are all sorts of rivers to choose from. We've recently started to explore previously unrun rivers in the Transkei region and have done a couple of first descents this year. There are still a few rivers waiting for us, but it's very difficult to arrange transport, so it's not something I would recommend for your group. The Lowveld (in the Mpumalanga province) has some really good rivers of a technical nature, but not as consistent as those in KZN. The area around Cape Town has some world class creeks, but they are also very rain dependent and it's a winter rainfall area. There are plenty of attractions, depending on what you're into. Game lodges, ocean surfing, mountaineering, whatever you can think of. I appreciate the interview and I love Colorado River Rafting with all the variety of rapids and scenery too.

Well that wraps it up. I hope to make it to Africa someday and run some of these rivers. As always you can contact Colorado River Rafting with feedback.

South Africa river rafting edited by Colorado River Rafting

Featured article on Colorado Whitewater Rafting blog
Interview with Celliers Kruger by mania

[W.A.] The Orange seems to be a very long river (2245km). What sections would you recommend if you had two weeks and wanted the best combination of whitewater and scenery?

[Celliers] If you want to do one long trip of two weeks, your best bet will be Onseepkans to Goodhouse. This section goes through the desert, which makes for some awesome scenery. There will be a couple of long flat sections, but there are some very nice rapids (class 3 to 4 mostly) that make it more than worthwhile. The Onseepkans gorge specifically is quite unique. The river splits into two channels a few kilometers downstream of the Onseepkans bridge. The right channel stays fairly flat with one or two nice rapids, while the left channel drop into a gorge with class 4 and 5 rapids. After about two kilometers, just below the biggest rapids of the gorge, the right channel joins the left channel with an unrunnable waterfall. There are still fairly big rapids below the waterfall, really cool.

One thing to keep in mind is that it's always hot here, so it will be difficult to keep food in good shape for two full weeks. An option might be to arrange a re-supply at Pelladrif, roughly halfway.

The Onseepkans gorge has a special place in my heart, my wife and I did our honeymoon on this section. Just the two of us on a two man raft, taking a week to do a trip that normally takes four days. We are actually going back to this area later this month after Christmas to do a trip on the section just above Onseepkans gorge. The river is flatter on this section, but the scenery is still beautiful. We're taking our 15 month baby girl along on our oar raft, so we can't tackle a too difficult section this time.

[W.A.] What time of year would be ideal for optimal flows and temperatures?

[Celliers] The Orange is dam controlled, and all the dams are pretty full at the moment, so a good level can be expected any time of the year if you plan to come in the near future. Temperature wise, autumn and spring will be best. Although I've done an Onseepkans trip in the middle of the winter (July) as well, and it wasn't too cold. The days were actually quite warm, just the nights were a bit chilly.

[W.A.] What kind of experience would you recommend for someone attempting these sections?

[Celliers] If you want to run Onseepkans gorge and don't plan to run the main gorge (most people don't) you will run everything with class 3-4 skills. The river is completely of a pool drop nature with long flat sections, so less experienced paddlers can easily portage the bigger rapids. There are some interesting rapids in the Pella section as well, but nothing more difficult than you'll find below Onseepkans. Remember that this section is not just an adrenaline rush, it's a whole experience.

[W.A.] Tell us a little about the camping, wildlife and side hikes? Any hazards to look out for?

[Celliers] The river runs through a desert so there are not too many big animals. But there are many small animals and lots of different bird species. The fish eagles especially are quite a treat to see and hear. There are many side hikes you can do to explore the side ravines, and you have to climb at least one of the small mountains alongside the river to get a bird's eye view of the area. Apart from the main Onseepkans gorge, which you'll miss completely if you stick to the right channels, there are no serious hazards to look out for. There are also very few people in this area, chances are good that you won't see anybody else during the trip. The people that you do find in this area are always friendly in any case.

[W.A.] Where is the closest international airport? Is it possible to rent equipment and transportation?

[Celliers] You'll fly to either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and then catch a flight to Upington. From there you'll have to arrange shuttles. Remember that public transport is really bad in our country unfortunately, so you'll either have to rent vehicles or arrange your transport beforehand with somebody you know or with commercial operators. It won't be too difficult to get transport arranged though, I'll put you in contact with guys who can do that for you. As for equipment, it is possible to rent, but if it's a big group you might find it difficult to rent everything you need. I would recommend you bring at least all your gear and just rent kayaks here. It will most probably be Fluid kayaks, of course.

Look for part two of this interview soon: Colorado River Rafting Blog

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Colorado River Rafting & India's river rafting

Zanskar River, India... part III completing part I and II

The 7 days river journey on the Zanskar takes you through the Zanskar gorge referred to as the "Grand Canyon" of Asia, through Grade III and Grade IV rapids, much like Colorado River Rafting grade III and IV, which add a dimension of excitement and adventure. A fresh water spring that can be mistaken for a water fall is the lunch point on one of the days. Hikes to monasteries and villages which are otherwise inaccessible all add to the charm of this trip.

The only other way to cross the Zanskar river is in winter when it is frozen and the locals trek across it to cut down their travel time to Leh.

There is always a good chance to spot wild life as we travel along since the area is home to the ibex, mountain goat and snow leopard. The trip ends at Alchi, 60 km, downstream of Leh where our jeeps come to collect us and take us to the comfortable Lha Rimo Hotel in Leh. Two nights in Leh at the end of the trip give you time for last minute shopping in the bazaar and savour a few extra moments in this magical place.
Sample Itinerary

* Day 01 : Fly Delhi / Leh (11,000 ft). Check in at a comfortable hotel in Leh. Relax, don’t exert yourself, your body needs to acclimatise to the altitude.
* Day 02 : Light activity and short walks around Leh. The quaint Leh market is a great place to start exploring as are the numerous bakeries selling mouth - watering gourmet delights. For the more energetic a visit to a few monasteries such as Spituk, Thikse and Hemis will be arranged. Overnight at the hotel.
* Day 03 : We drive 180 km from Leh to Mulbek/Kargil, through a spectacular 'lunar' landscape. Crossing the high mountain pass, Fotu La (14,000 ft), from the Indus valley into the Suru Valley. We visit the Lamayuru monastery en route, known to be one of the oldest monasteries amongst the 'Red Hat' sect. Overnight hotel / PWD Rest House.
* Day 04 : The most spectacular drive filled with natural wonders. We drive to Ringdum Gompa (12,000 ft). Few mountain drives get you this close to the Great Himalaya. The awesome mass of the Nun Kun massif over 7000m high with its hanging glacier across the road from us, dominating today's journey. Overnight in the PWD rest house at Ringdum.
* Day 05 : We drive for approx. 06 hrs to Remala which is the put-in point for the rafting trip. The drive is across the Pensi La at 14,500 ft, at the top of which we stop for lunch surrounded by an awe inspiring arena of the Zanskar peaks at the bottom of which is the Drung Durung glacier that feeds the Zanskar river, 40 km below, on which we begin our rafting trip tomorrow. Overnight tented camp.
* Day 06 : Rafting expedition commences from Remala to Karsha Gompa, near Padum. We cover approx 30 km in 5 hours, which includes a break for lunch and hot beverages. We are surrounded by 6000 m Himalayan and Zanskar peaks. Rapids encountered today are all Class II, a good introduction for first time rafters as well as to the river in general. After settling into camp by 3 PM, take a short walk to Kharsha Gompa for the evening incantations by the monks.
* Day 07 : After breakfast trip starts in the late morning from Kharsha up til Pidmu. This stretch is approximately 30 km with Class II & III rapids. After settling into the camp by mid afternoon, we visit the nearby villages of Pidmu and Hanomil.
* Day 08 : Today we raft approx. 20 km to Nyerak, through Class III rapids and the canyon closes in on us through this gorge section and the views are akin to the Grand Canyon. We make a camp in a steep gorge below Nyerak village.
* Day 09 : Today's rafting stretch is approx. 35 km from Nyerak to Lamaguru. This is the heart of Zanskar. Awe inspiring rock formations with indescribable colours. A good white water day with continuous Class III rapids, with a few Class IV's where the river narrows down to 15 ft in width. We stop for lunch at a huge waterfall at the confluence of Markha river with Zanskar.
* Day 10 : Hiking day today. We hike up the Markha valley to Skiu village to partake of the local culture and colour. Picnic lunch en route. Overnight in Lamaguru camp.
* Day 11 : Rafting from Lamaguru to Nimu today. 40 km on the water through class III / IV white water. The Zanskar joins the Indus river near Nimu. We camp short of the confluence of the two rivers. Overnight.
* Day 12 : Raft approx. 25 km from Nimu to finish the trip at Alchi through class III / IV rapids. After taking out at Alchi, we walk up to the centuries old monastery to view the beautiful frescos and wood carvings. Drive back 60 km to Leh and check in to hotel in Leh.
* Day 13 : In Leh - Rest and relaxation (and those much needed baths !) and time to catch up with any last minute shopping.
* Day 14 : Fly Leh / Delhi.

Go on a Colorado River Rafting expedition or travel to an exotic place to have a new experience if you have the time and funds.

Monday, July 13, 2009

India Whitewater Rafting part II...

by Anupam Chandola
part II of III
Anupam Chandola (Arnie) is a native of India and has guided around the world including the Zanskar

About the History and landscape you would receive on this whitewater expedition in India where Ladakh is in the North.

Located in Northern India, Ladakh is a high altitude desert land abounding in awesome physical features, set in an enormous and spectacular environment comparable to Colorado River Rafting. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Karakoram in the north and the Great Himalaya in the south, it is traversed by two other parallel chains, the Ladakh Range and the Zanskar Range.

For nearly 900 years, from the middle of the 10th century, Ladakh was an independent kingdom, its ruling dynasties descending from the kings of old Tibet. The kingdom attained its greatest geographical extent and glory in the early 17th century under the famous king Singge Namgyal, whose domain extended across Spiti and western Tibet right up to the Mayum-la, beyond the sacred sites of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar.

During the British rule in India, Ladakh, together with the neighboring province of Baltistan, was incorporated into the newly created state of Jammu & Kashmir. Just over a century later, this union was disturbed by the partition of India, as a result of which Baltistan became part of Pakistan, while Ladakh remained in India as part of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Geographically, Culturally and Politically, Ladakh is completely different from Kashmir. The mighty Zanskar Range forms a natural barrier between the regions of Kashmir and Ladakh.

Today, with political stability, Ladakh is thriving as a Mecca for adventure travelers. Only recently opened by the Indian government to tourism, Ladakh is still relatively untouched by the excesses found in most developing countries.

In the ancient Kingdom of Ladakh the majestic Himalayan ranges, drawing adventure seeking travelers, shape an incredible variety of whitewater challenges for paddlers. A series of worlds most outstanding rivers journeys are found in the Himalayas and Ladakh is no exception. An uncanny blend of natural splendor, exotic cultures, warm weather and exciting whitewater makes river travel in Ladakh especially unique. Adventures in Ladakh are not limited to whitewater excitement. In this fairy tale land of temples, monasteries and medieval villages, a varied and complex culture has evolved rich with distinctive art forms, joyful ceremonies, and deep religious traditions of the ethnic groups that populate the land. Linked by a rich heritage, the people of the Ladakh have created a kaleidoscope of exotic customs and beliefs.

The history and culture of Ladakh only helps deepen the understanding of the land we river raft by, realizing we are just very lucky to a be in very special and ancient place. Colorado River Rafting has the scenery too, but not the heritage and new culture experience and American would be interested in seeing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Colorado River Rafing featuring rafting in India

The Zanskar River :: India

by Anupam Chandola
part I of III
Anupam Chandola (Arnie) is a native of India and has guided around the world including the Zanskar. Arnie really wants to go again so he wrote this up to entice you to join us in the summer for "a true journey of exploration and discovery". He can setup fully guided or semi-private trips where you kayak or row your own raft as I know that would appeal to many of our readers. Just contact us with questions.
Rafting in the Indian Himalayas

River running is virtually as old as civilization itself, but rafting and kayaking as recreational activities are relatively new, especially in the Indian Himalayas. A river journey in an exotic foreign country is one of the most enjoyable and effective ways to experience the rural areas, observing different ways of live, cultures and natural environments, and coming into contact with village people the conventional traveler rarely gets to meet. These pleasures are complimented by an even greater thrill: rafting through powerful, fast flowing rapids. The skills of our professional guides and the stability, sturdiness and buoyancy of modern self bailing rafts, enable us to safely challenge these exciting rivers. Nowhere are these voyages of exploration and adventure better experienced than in the Himalayas, where some of the finest white-water rivers in the world surge through spectacular land of dramatic contrast supporting an amazing variety of flora and fauna, interlaced with a myriad of centuries-old culture. History you will find with India River Rafting in the Himalayas. Colorado River Rafting has more rapids...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Colorado River Rafting and what to wear...

You will be the most comfortable in things that dry quickly. If the weather is warm, and that is most typical, dress to get wet. Swimsuits, shorts and T-shirts are fine. Appropriate footwear is a must. Old pair of tennis shoes or the Teva-type sport sandals (the guides choice of footwear) is best. Wool socks or no socks. If it is expected to be a cool day, rule number one is COTTON IS WRONG! A wool sweater or fleece jacket is good to have along on any raft trip. There are brands of wetsuits and one of the best for coldwater 45 degrees is this wetsuit approved by scuba pros and this wetsuit for waters ranging 60 to 75 degrees, spray jackets, and river boots preferred by Colorado River Rafting professionals. Again, expect to get wet!

If you wear glasses or plan to wear sunglasses, a retaining strap such as a chums or croakies is the key to still owning your glasses at the end of the day. Only waterproof cameras are recommended. A water bottle is nice to have along. Most outfitters rent the river wear and some provide certain things for free like on your Colorado Whitewater Rafting trip. Sunscreen and/or a hat are also good to have. Don't forget your spirit of adventure.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Colorado Whitewater Rafting Terminology for beginners

Boat & Equipment Terminology

Paddle: A paddle held in the hands, not attached to the boat, used to paddle. Can be single-bladed (for rafting and canoeing) or double-bladed (for kayaking, solo cats, inflatable kayaks)

Paddle Boat:
A raft with a crew of paddlers and a guide.

Oar: A long blade, attached to the boat by an oarlock on thole pin, and used to row.

Oar Rig: A boat rigged with oars, so one person sitting in the center of the boat can row.

Stern Rig, Paddle Assist: An oar/paddle boat, in which the guide has oars and frame in the stern, and thecrew, sitting forward, has paddles. Ofen used on high water.

Bow: The front of the boat.
Stern: The rear of the boat.

Duckie, Inflatable Kayak, Funyak, Splashyak: A one or two person inflatable boat, usually paddled with double bladed paddles.

Cataraft: An inflatable boat with two pontoons.

Solo Cat: A one-person cataraft paddled with a double-bladed paddle.

Hoopi: Tubular webbing used for multiple purposes in rigging and preparing boats. Some into Colorado Whitewater Rafting do not know this term.

A clip, used to secure items into the boat, and to construct safety and rescue systems.

Wet Suit:
A neoprene rubber suit which allows a small amount of water in, to help retain body heat.

Dry Suit:
A suit designed to keep all water out, under which any amount of layered clothing can be worn.

Dry Bag,
Day Bag:
A bag for keeping gear in on the river, to help keep things dry (but probably not 100%)

Life Jacket: A personal floatation device, coast guard approved, and worn like a vest.