A woman in a man’s life jacket – Nicola Simpson

Raft guiding on big volume rivers like the Zambezi is hard work, and normally reserved for tough men who manhandle these big rafts through the monstrous rapids with brute strength combined with well polished skills. There are women who step up to the challenge though, and more often than not, display a certain kind of finesse in doing so. Nicola is one of that special breed of women who succeeded in earning the respect of their more muscular counterparts in this tough environment.


1992. Rafting season on the mighty Zambezi, Victoria Falls. First African Woman River Guide. Grade 5 rapids, big holes, steep gradients, diagonals that hold boats and surf. Big Surf. Terminator, Devil’s Toilet Bowl, Oblivion. Aching arms and back. Bleeding hands, cracked ribs. Open infected wounds from oars smacking into shins, bruised hip bones. Black eyes from surfing in rapids with flying paddles and oars. Swimming so deep below the surface that ears pop, nose bleeds. Dark, murky, quiet. No sympathy from anyone. “You want to be like us – show us you can – carry the boat, pump the tubes and thwarts, fix your own oar rig.” Some 23 km of rowing a day. A sizzling 40 degrees Celsius heat in the gorge. Walking out at the end of the day, against a two-in-one gradient. Cool refreshments at the top, the elation from clients whose expectations have been surpassed. And tomorrow I get to do this all over again. Bliss. (more…)

Read More

Olifants River – Visgat

This rarely run but awesome piece of the Olifants River cuts right through the Groot Wintershoek wilderness and is one of the most beautiful gorges in South Africa. There are no roads even close to the edge of the gorge, so once you start, you are locked in until you leave the walled-in gorge.

Access is an issue, where a permit is needed by Cape Nature and that is no guarantee the farmer will let you put in on his property…

  • Ideal for: Creek boat
  • Grade: 4 – 5
  • Length: 40km
  • Duration: 10 hours / best to do overnight
  • Type: Very tight pool-drop with some continuous sections
  • Put-in: Low level bridge, Glendonald Farm
  • Take out: The road by the Citrusdal Warm Baths
  • Levels paddleable: Usually two or three days after good rain in the Ceres area. Do not put on if flooding.
  • Permits: Cape Nature permits and Glendonald farmer permission

(more…)

Read More

Middeldeur/Twee River

On the edge of the Cederberg hides this little gem of a river. It is a short run made up of five prominent drops with some fun class 2 rapids inbetween. It is quite far from Cape Town, but it is worth the trip if you stay at the guest farm, they have some fantastic camping facilities. It is a great place to spend the weekend with family and friends where a bit of kayaking can be enjoyed.

  • Ideal for: Creek boat, or playboat if you are feeling brave
  • Grade: 2-4
  • Length: 3.6km
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Type: Pool drop with waterfalls
  • Put-in: Low level bridge at the start of the 4×4 track   32°41’10.6″S 19°16’44.4″E
  • Take out: River right where there is a short walk back to the track. 4×4 is necessary.
  • Levels paddleable: Usually paddleable after good rains in the Ceres region
  • Permits: Ask the owners of Suikerbossie nicely and they should let you in

(more…)

Read More

Tradouw River

The Tradouw is easily one of the best runs in the country, but because it borders the arid Karoo, it unfortunately only runs once every two years or so. When it does though, you will see Cape paddlers flocking to Barrydale.

  • Ideal for: Creek boat
  • Grade: 4 – 5
  • Length: 11km
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Type: Continuous creeking with some big holes
  • Put-in: River parking for the Bronze Grove Farm and Chalets
  • Take out: River left once the road gets close to the river after you exit the gorge
  • Levels paddleable: Usually paddleable when the area is experiencing floods. If Montague is flooding the Tradouw will be up.
  • Permits: Bronze Grove for permission to park at put in.

(more…)

Read More

Krom River

The Krom River joins with the Elandspad River to form the Molenaars.  It is recommended for good reactive paddlers who can read water on the fly and keep a level head; it is fast. When in doubt, boof.

  • Ideal for: Creek boat
  • Grade: 4
  • Length: 2.5km from put-in to low-level bridge
  • Duration: 1½ hour
  • Type: Continuous, open
  • Put-in: Below new tunnel at parking place. Hike up the Krom river hiking path.  33°43’7.53″S  19° 6’39.72″E
  • Take-out: Bridge for Molenaars put in  33°43’51.31″S  19° 7’4.97″E
  • Levels paddleable: When Molenaars is at a medium to high level
  • Permits: None

(more…)

Read More

A rock & roll machine

Rotomoulding machines come in two basic configurations: biaxial and rock & roll. Each configuration has its own benefits and draw-backs. I have designed and built both types in the past, so now that I need a new machine for my company, I had to think carefully which type of machine I want to build this time.

For most rotomoulding companies, quick moulding cycles and fast turnaround time between cycles is of the highest priority, making biaxial machines the first choice for the vast majority of applications. To be frank, for most rotomoulded products that approach works perfectly fine. On the contrary, I specialise in the rotomoulding of complex products that routinely require multi-segment moulds, a variety of moulded inserts, moulded-in graphics and also negative draft angles, while at the same time having critical specs regarding wall thicknesses that may vary between different parts of the product.

Having substantial experience with both types of machines, I feel that I can control the process better with a rock & roll machine. I’m happy to compromise on the speed of the moulding cycles if I can get a better quality product, consistently. I am not interested in making products that become consumables. I prefer to make products that last.

Below are screenshots of the CAD design for my new machine. The completed machine will naturally have more things added than what the CAD design shows, such as the cladding and insulation on the oven shell, the rotating components, electrical wiring, gas and pneumatic pipes, control panel, etc. But when I design a machine that I build for in-house use, I rarely add these final details in the CAD phase. I’m pretty hands-on with the building of my machines, so those details are perfectly stored in my head until my crew gets to that point in the building process.

I’ll post some pics of the completed machine in a few weeks’ time.

Rock & roll 2

Rock & roll 1

 

Read More

Pungwe River

The Pungwe River is in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. For part of its course, it runs through the Nyanga Nature Reserve, where permits are required. Below the reserve there are other sections that can also be paddled.

The river is a typical creek, with mostly class 3 to 4 rapids. Some sections might contain even more difficult rapids and unrunnable drops. Scouting of certain rapids is essential. Bear in mind that the pools are likely to contain crocodiles.

The area is beautiful, making it worthwhile to go there for a longer time to explore the surroundings. (more…)

Read More

Zambezi River

The “Mighty Zambezi” has become one of the most incomparable rivers in the world. It is big, wild and intimidating, but relatively easy and safe, making it a mecca for commercial river rafters from all over the globe, and a playboater’s heaven.

At a length of 3540km it is the fourth longest river on the continent. It rises in northwestern Zambia, from where it makes a bend through Angola, and then travel south through Zambia, before heading east to the Indian Ocean. On its course it forms the border of northeastern Botswana and the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe, where it flows through Lake Kariba. Further down it crosses central Mozambique, where it flows through the lake of Cabora Bassa Dam, and then into the Mozambique Channel, before meeting the ocean. Along its course, various sections of whitewater can be found, but the most famous rapids can be found in the Batoka Gorge.

Victoria Falls, alias “Mosi-o-Tunya” or “Smoke that Thunders”, is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is also a World Heritage site. The Falls mark the start of the Batoka Gorge, where the Zambezi provides the best one-day whitewater rafting trips in the world.

Apart from the rafting, other commercial activities are also offered, providing a full-on adventure holiday. Anything from bungi-jumping to body-boarding to hot-air ballooning is on offer for thrill-seekers.

Several luxurious hotels and bush camps in the area cater for all levels of affluency. More rustic activities can also be undertaken, such as game drives and flat-water cruises above the Falls. The river is wide and flat above the Falls, offering close-range viewing of Africa’s plenitude of wild animals.

The myth of the Nyaminyami, the river god, has been exploited on a large scale by entrepreneurs, who have amplified its status far beyond that which the BaTonga people could have imagined.

The small town of Victoria Falls used to be the hub of activity for travellers, but since the political turmoil in Zimbabwe, it has lost some of its business to Zambia on the other side of the river. The little town of Livingstone on the Zambian side, named after explorer David Livingstone who discovered and named the Victoria Falls, is used as a base by many kayakers who want to play the Zambezi. (more…)

Read More

Kunene River

The Kunene is a major river with some serious gorges in totally inhospitable terrain, cutting through the Kaokoveld and Namib Desert.

The river has been paddled from source to sea, first by Willem van Riet and Gordon Rowe, and then by Darron Raw, Johan Radcliffe and Matt Pitman. Other parties have also done shorter sections of it. All those who lived to tell the tale (and not everybody did) have stories of extreme sections interspersed by pools inhabited by crocodiles. Some major portages are also part of the mission at certain sections.

The upper part of the river, going through Angola, is relatively uneventful, with crocodiles being the greatest cause for concern. There are a few waterfalls that should be portaged, and the terrain is rugged and isolated. Unfortunately for the environmental cause, but fortunately for paddlers, there are no more hippos on the river, as they were all shot during the ongoing war in Angola. This applies to wild animals in general in this region.

From the well known Ruacana Falls, the river forms the border between Namibia and Angola. A hydro-electric scheme at Ruacana regulates the flow of the river from here on. The 120km section between Ruacana and Epupa Falls is as accessible as you can get in this rugged area, with a road following the course of the river. Commercial operators offer ad hoc rafting trips on this section. The rapids are mostly class 3 to 4, but don’t under-estimate the section. A highlight is the Ondurusa Falls, about 40km downstream of Ruacana, which can be negotiated. (more…)

Read More

Fish River

The Fish River Canyon is regarded as the second-largest canyon in the world, next to the Grand Canyon in the USA. The appearance of the canyon is very similar to the Grand Canyon: deep, barren, rugged.

Unfortunately the river runs through a desert, and seldom has moving water in it. During the winter months, when the river is reduced to a series of standing pools and the temperature is bearable, the canyon is a popular hiking trail.

Every summer the desert receives its share of rain, and the dry riverbed is transformed into a lively stretch of water with some interesting rapids. The river normally retains a paddling level for close on two weeks, during which competent paddlers can enjoy an otherworldly experience. (more…)

Read More