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Section 1

Gairezi Expedition
December 2010
Day 0 and Day 1

Gairezi Expedition
27 to 30 December
2010
This account of the Gairezi expedition has been written as a memento for the benefit of the
8 persons who went but some explanation of the route and the background is given for
third parties who may be interested.

Who?

The participants were;

Robin Jarvis, Alastair


Watermeyer, Laurie
Watermeyer, Joe
Holmes
Helen Patchett, Zia
Thomas, Karin Stoll,
Anita Stoll

Seen here brimming


over with enthusiasm
and energy BEFORE the
event

Where?
On the Gairezi river, about 100 km north of Nyanga, Zimbabwe, where the river is the
border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The full three day route is shown on this
Google Earth Image ………… see the red line, the rivers runs from south to north.
The river enters a gorge in an impressive mountain range. The consequence is that apart
from a single route about one third into the gorge, there is no entry or exit surface access.
The Google Earth Image below shows detail of the section covered on Day One

Camp Night 2

Bad Place

Cave

Camp night 1 and


Start at Fig Tree Camp

Overleaf is a copy of the 1 : 50 000 map (MAP 1). The rapids have been numbered in
sequence as they occur.
MAP 1

Exit route walked by Al and Patch

Margaret’s Lodge

Camp second night


Exit below Rapid 11

“Bad Place”

Cave
Rapid 1

Start at Fig Tree camp

Before relating what we did we should


first mention who went.

Trevor Volker (36), keen cyclist and former


rafting guide at Victoria Falls has lots of
experience as a qualified white-water
operator. Trevor was with the team, but
only in spirit, after he was obliged to work
through the December shutdown period
at the last minute. He was involved in all
the preparatory work and he came on
most of the reconnaissance trips.
Although he is certainly not unique in his
personal qualities, his strength, staying
power, humour, knowledge and constant
concern for his fellows would have made
him an ideal companion for this trip, so,
well……… he will just have to come along
on the next one……….

So without Trev, we had a place to fill at


short notice.

Zia Thomas, always keen for an adventure


was quick to accept the invitation. Zia
completed the 500 km Blue Cross walk in 2010,
mostly on her own (no-one can keep up with
Jack Hulley!) Zia has become a regular rock
climber at the Mountain Club of
Zimbabwe and it was clear that she would fit in
well and gladly carry more than her share.
There certainly was no disappointment.
Joe Holmes (59) has been a close friend
since those first days of school back in
Umtali. He lives in Johannesburg. As
tough as they come, he has a huge appetite for excitement and enthusiastically seeks out
everything new, so a first descent of a white water stretch of the Gairezi was just what he
liked. For the rest of the party his bush skills learned as a tracker coupled with an amazing
ability to find a practical solution to nearly every physical problem made him an ideal
resource. Joe likes to keep up with what is available to enhance his activities and brought
along a brand-new waterproof camera attached to his helmet, which could fire still or video
images from a remote button on his wrist.

Whoever said that dynamite comes in small


packages surely must have met Karin Stoll.
This tough young lady (with a PhD in Bio-
Chemistry tucked away in her head) can
certainly take it. Another VERY ATYPICAL
Johannesburg resident.

Every trip has to


have someone
sensible along,
so a few were taken, just in case some got used up. Alastair Watermeyer (61), great story
teller, with a huge heart, and above all, excellent in a tight situation was essential for his
younger brother’s well being.

Robin Jarvis (58) would probably prefer to be classified as one of the sensible ones but one
does have to take his history into account, particularly when it comes to reptiles. Rob has
been a friend from the Umtali days and this whole Gairezi exploration idea came from his
interest in a curious circular geological feature in Mozambique which he had noticed on
Google Earth. After we inspected that, back in August 2010, we visited the Gairezi from the
Mozambique side and remarked on how interesting it would be to paddle down the river. Of
course what we were looking at then was not quite the same as what was upstream, but
more about that in the pages to follow.

Helen Patchett, cyclist, overland tour operator and great


organizer. Certainly would put herself, correctly so, in
the sensible box. For her there was a personal demon to
demolish, having had a very frightening experience in
the rapids below the Victoria Falls some years ago.

Patch organized the catering and as always nothing was


lacking, quite the contrary in fact given the special treats
purchased by Karin and
her sister Anita in
Johannesburg.

Patch was occasionally


given the title “Alpha
Cat” and sometimes
that was a little unfair.
Things needed to be
done and they
certainly were done.

Anita Stoll, Karin’s


sister, was a
newcomer to most of
the party but what a delight she turned out to be. Another one with a PhD tucked away in a
totally modest personality, she has been one of the top South African Adventure Sports
champions. Great strength, great enthusiasm, plenty of courage and always working hard
for everyone else. Anita is currently attached to a company in Nigeria.

And of course someone has to write this stuff, so the 8th member of the team was Laurie
Watermeyer, about whom the writer prefers not to make any comment save that he
thoroughly enjoyed the experience and is privileged to have been in such excellent
company.

Right, so introductions are out the way, and you will be asking “so, what happened?”.

Well, to tell you that, we need a


beginning of course and as was explained
above Rob Jarvis had taken Al, Laurie and
another friend, Rob Fisher, to go and see
this apparent crater in Mozambique,
about 20 km from the Zimbabwe border
at around the latitude of Mutoko.

This Google Earth Image shows the


“crater” clearly, it is about 6,5 km in
diameter. The red line is our route on the
Gairezi river and mostly shows the
distance we covered on the last day. To
orientate yourself the river (the red line)
is also the Zimbabwe/Mozambique
border.
This photograph is of the south
eastern rim of the “crater” The
hills in the background of this
picture surround the Gairezi
gorge.

No……… you can’t read about


that trip to the crater now, we’ll
both be up all night, me writing
and you reading. Save to say
that the climb to the rim of the crater/caldera (actually a remnant of major buckling
according to our geologist friends) was achieved in much less time than anticipated and so
we drove on down this small dirt road and came out on the Gairezi river where it borders
Zimbabwe.

This is what we saw……

A gentle river with


“probably enough water
for us to bring our
canoes on, we should do
it sometime.” This was
in August 2010, at low
water levels.

Several days later Patch


was asking what we
were going to do this
Christmas…. In 2009 six
of us had spent Christmas and New Year drifting lazily down the Zambezi for 14 days.
Patch’s question stimulated the idea to see what could be done on the Gairezi, a river that
had intrigued us ever since we had explored, and even raced, some of the upper-river
stretches back in the 80’s.

A Google Earth journey down the river, starting just below Nyamaropa, soon showed some
deep gorges and many rapids. The trusty old 1:50 000 maps confirmed this. A lesson was
learned many years ago that when those old guys looked through their stereoscopes and
decided to call something a rapid or a waterfall, you better take them seriously.

So a walk-in
expedition was
planned for one
weekend in
September to
what looked like
the worst place.
Bernie Cragg from
“Far and Wide”
was visited to ask
his advice about
the river but he
had not been
down that far,
and nor had any
of our old
contacts from the
early kayaking
days. There are
separate written accounts of this exploration trip in September 2010 and the subsequent
follow-ups in October and November for those not familiar but interested, but to cut a long
story short, the river was inspected and passed as “probably navigable provided the water is
not too high, there will have to be some hard portages around the biggest rapids”. Nyanjiwa
Falls, as named by the locals, and seen here in the low water conditions of September was
clearly going to be something to avoid.

It was during these exploratory trips that the idea occurred to attempt to travel the full
length of the Gairezi from the source at the top of Nyangani mountain to the sea, to do
some research into interesting aspects like history, geology, flora and fauna and take lots of
pictures. Different sections would be covered in short trips, no doubt leading to many
adventures and good times. The objective being to build up enough material for a book one
day. This descent of the rapids in the gorge below Nyamaropa would be the first of these
trips.

Returning to our story, with


the exploration done, we
started recruiting friends and
buying inflatable two-man
rafts, called Ark Crocs. These
craft were originally developed
for running commercial white
water trips in South Africa.
Bernie Cragg was retiring his 5 boats so we bought them all and Joe and Anita each treated
themselves to a new boat from the factory. There was a lot of effort and time put into
repairing the old boats and we did a couple of trial runs on the first few rapids of our
intended trip on the Gairezi . We also took the boats out for some fun around Harare, while
Joe, Karin and Anita had a go at the Vaal river.

That sorted along with extra kit like grip-on-slippery-wet-rocks shoes, throw-rope bags and
water-proof dry bags obtained, we all met up at Nyanga on 26th December 2010 and drove
down into the Gairezi Valley.

Then something went wrong. Despite planning for 4 months, intending to gather images for
a photographic book, Laurie had forgotten his spare camera battery at his office and the one
in the camera was nearly flat. Everyone expected the water to be a big problem so only
waterproof or small format cameras had been brought by the rest of the team. So to you
dear reader, apologies that some images could be better but the kind contribution of
everyone else’s pictures still provides a good record as you will see.

As we looked at the
steep road winding
down to Nyamaropa
we saw much rain,
and we all prepared
ourselves for a
thorough soaking
over the next few
days.

Our first view of the river meandering through


the fertile Nyamaropa valley showed us that
there had indeed been a major increase in the
river flow and the water had turned from
crystal clear into dark brown water, heavy with
sediments. But, that was expected, and bode well for some exciting rapid riding.

We needed to set up
vehicles at our exit
point so three of us
had to drive through
to a school we had
recce’d before,
about 65 km
downstream of our
intended start point.
First, we all had a
brief lunch at the
river’s edge.

Rather than have the


rest of the team
waste their time, Al and the girls pumped up three boats and set off from a pump house for
a pleasant 15 km flat water glide to our pre-selected camp site for the night.

The paddling party reached Fig Tree camp,


which we had used before, well before the
drivers were back. A truly magnificent tree.
There had been, of course, some
nervousness that they would simply paddle
past the camp (none of the 5 in the boats
had seen Fig Tree camp before). If they had
paddled past, there would have been no
cellphone communication and no way to
find each other. But with the diligent use of
two GPS’s, they had no problem finding
the place, particularly because we had
explained that it was just beyond another
landmark, a place we had called “Border,
Border” a spot where a ferryman and his
son operate 5 boats carrying people across
the river (and the border) on a regular, fee
earning, completely out in the open, manner. This is a very porous border here and makes
one a little annoyed thinking of all those many wasted hours at official border posts, in hot
conditions, waiting for some underpaid, under-performing official to grace you with his
attention. Down here you can just wade across any time you please.
Joe, Rob and Laurie left two cars and the trailer at the school near the exit point, along with
a frozen cool box of beers, cokes and fresh rations. The return journey in Joe’s car back to
the rest of the group was uneventful apart from the deep finger tip impressions left on his
dashboard by Laurie. Joe is not the world’s slowest driver. Meanwhile the others had
carried the kit up from the river and made camp under the tree.

Dinner was easy to prepare, lots


of dry wood about kindly brought
to us by the lady farmer on
whose field we were next to and
it was not long before that
familiar click/fizz sound of beer
cans and cider bottles was heard.
Spirits were high as we feasted
off adrenalin in anticipation of
the rapids to come.

The nearby termite mound was a


fine place to toast the sunset.

Even if it did take Laurie three tries to get back up the ant
heap before the shutter went off.

Next morning we sorted our kit out, met another friendly


local farmer at his house on the hill and asked him if we
could leave Joe’s car there. He willingly obliged and
proceeded to tell us about the crocodiles in the river which
so far had only taken goats and cattle. Little did he know
that when Joe was to return to fetch his car a few days later, Joe would be out of change
and the fee paid for caring for the car would be USD50! A fine, if late, Christmas present for
him!

We
woke
after a
pleasa
nt
night’s
sleep.
There
was
no
great rush that day, about 22 km were planned and Rob and Laurie had already seen some
of the stretch. We knew about a vicious set of rapids which had been named by a local we
had met on the Mozambique side, “Ah Sir, around the corner there is a Bad Place” a
remarkably accurate description as it turned out. In October there had been dozens of
people on both sides only too willing to
lend a hand with portaging so we were
rather relaxed and embarked at just
before 9:00 am.

Joe started using his helmet camera for


the first time, and as with all new things
one needs to learn the tricks. This camera
takes very wide angle shots and it is
important to have your head in a vertical
position to get the horizon right, but
nothing that a bit of photo editing can’t
fix. It may be that the constant presence
of his cap brim caused the camera some difficulty with auto focussing, we will know for next
time.

It was a glorious morning,


calm water for a few km to
allow the butterflies to settle
and just a pleasure to be on
the water at last.

The first few ripples we came to


caused yelps of delight and we
zipped along at over 9 kph
according to our GPS’s
Within
a
quarter
of an
hour
we had

reached rapid No1. (We had numbered them from those marked on the 1:50 000 map) This
rapid was smoothly negotiated by all, more excitement. Rob and Laurie had needed to
portage around No1 on the October recce trip because the channel was just too tight for a
boat.

The old red boats needed air topping up within an


hour.
After
about 5
km
from
our
start
point
we
turned
right
into the
hills of
the
gorge.
The
river cut a picturesque channel through the rock and once again everyone had a smooth
ride through.
Even Jarvis was
showing good
form at this
stage.

Al had the look of a


serious professional about
him, but then, who would
not with Miss Evinrude
(Anita) in the front.

The river passes through eroded bands of rock, this is where the rapids are and then there
are long, peaceful “pools” in between.

Sadly the wildlife has become wilddead due to the number of people and poverty about, but
the bush was magnificent.
After about an hour of this idyllic paddling we came to
the Cave that Rob and Laurie has visited in November.

Look back at Map 1, it is marked there.

This looked like a fine spot for a snack and cool drink so we pulled in.

We took some
pictures from the
same spot of a
few weeks before
and the
comparison with
the picture
below, taken
before the rains,
is interesting.

Note the position


of the dead tree
down by the
boats, the large
black rock
bottom left, the
missing rock mid
stream, as well as the vegetation and the colour of the water.

An amazing transformation in such a short time.

There is a curious pink stain on the white quartzite here,


something we will have to ask some expert about.

Joe went exploring and found an exit up at the back of


the cave.
But all good things
must end sometime so
after a half hour break
we went back down to
our boats, some more
pumping and we were
ready for…….

Some knarled tree roots …


And then the next big feature…………………BAD PLACE!

Rounding a
corner just above
Rapid 4 we saw
that familiar wall
of rock which has
formed the rapid
and we knew Bad
Place was just
below it.

It was now 10:30


am.

Rapid 4 is just a
hundred metres or so
before Bad Place, which is a series of 5 rapids.

Rapid 4 was very inviting and we took a while inspecting it.

Anita was
very keen
but Laurie
kept
recalling
what he
had seen
under
those
swirls.

The rock
had cut
channels
under the
rocks and
the
thought of
falling out
and
getting
pulled into one of those dark channels was a bit scary.
This pair of photographs taken from nearly the same spot but weeks apart and show what
was being covered up by the flood water. There was a big hole just a few metres into the
rapid which could easily have flipped us and we would have been left to swim very fast for
the bank to avoid the certain death of going down Bad Place with just a life jacket.

So, ashamedly, we chose discretion and proceeded to look for a passage to portage from
there down to the bottom of Bad Place.

When Rob and Laurie had come down in October the water had been low enough to allow a
rope portage down the Zimbabwe bank. This entails tying two long ropes to the front and
back of the boat and then manoeuvring it down the rapids from the bank. But the river level
was too high and the boulders on the bank were just too large to get around.
Joe explored the length of Bad Place, in all about 1 km, seeing nothing but huge falls and
contorted twisting water that we would have had no chance in.
The
Zimbabwe
bank has
impossibly
huge
boulders,
like blocks
of flats and
carrying the
boats over
these would
have been
extremely
difficult.

The
Mozambique bank has a near sheer cliff and the high level water is right up against this. So
the best choice was to try and cut a path up above the cliff and then along the right bank.
Being the tracker, Joe was assigned the job of cutting
the path, while the rest of us would roll up the boats
and start ferrying the kit. Now this was where we were
supposed to be flicking out the USD 5.00 notes to the
locals but there was no sign of anyone.

One needs to recall that we deliberately were carrying


as little kit as possible, knowing that we would have to
portage often. That meant that a simple but really
useful tool like a panga (machete) had not been
brought along. Joe had a tough time of it breaking
creepers and bushes with his bare hands or usinga stick
club just to get a path through.

The rest of us
moved the kit
in a series of
short hops, just
a hundred
metres or so
each time. It
was a steamy
day and we
were doing this right through the hottest time
of day. We were soon dehydrated.
The boats were real bitches to carry
through the thick undergrowth and the
steep hill side.
None of us would be ashamed to admit that this was definitely beyond our comfort zone.

But Jarvis was still alert and noticed an unusual


plant in our path. He had the energy to dig it
out of the ground and get Patch to photograph
it for later identification.

This identification was done, subsequently, Dr.


Fay Robertson commented “I am favouring
Costus macranthus var gigantifolius at the
moment” She sent the photo off to Mark Hyde
who replied ”I discussed this with my
Zimbabwe flora project colleague Bart
Wursten and he and I agree that it looks like
Costus spectabilis” and “It has the distinctive 4 leaves flattened against the ground. Of
course the yellow flowers would be necessary to clinch the determination. I've never seen it
in Zim (or indeed anywhere else), so it would seem to be an interesting find” so……… Well
Done Rob, no doubt he will have to return to Bad Place in the flowering season.

P.S. Rob did place the plant gently back in the ground

Eventually we were able to drag the last of the loads into


our supposed re-launch spot.

Anita, ever the helpful one, was quick to


lay out an intensely needed and simply
delicious meal for us.

Of course it was delicious, would you


argue with someone holding a
Leatherman knife like that?

Seriously, It was really delicious,


especially that ready made pickled bean
salad from somewhere in Johannesburg.
It was now 14:30. We had been toiling
away in that steamy jungle for 4 hours!
Now some of the more observant of you will have seen the chopping board on Anita’s lap
and struggled to reconcile that with the earlier comment that we were travelling with
minimum kit. Sure…. but taking those two chopping boards along really made a huge
difference to food and tea preparation. They saved many a spilled cup of tea and kept
handfuls of sand out of our food We did not regret the decision to take them along one little
bit.

After lunch we decided to have a break to rest and allow those so inclined to walk back up
Bad Place to get some pictures.

We have a couple of stronger and younger friends who are keen on kayaking. No doubt they
will be thirstily looking at the pictures and thinking about what they could run, and certainly
they will succeed with more manoeuvrable craft than the Crocs, but guys, this is no walk in
the park. Take it from someone who did a lot of swimming when he was your age.
Laurie
considered
that this was
a sufficiently
spectacular
place to
photograph
so he tried to
capture the
power of the
water with
the last few
electrons
with any
potential to
wander
across from
the negative
to the
positive side
of the
battery in his
Nikon via all
those tricky
little circuits.

And Al surveyed
the scene.
This is a good before picture showing his healthy reserves on this day, things were to change
dramatically!

But the team


soon got edgy
about moving on.
Joe went for a
quick check that
there was a safe
route,
fortunately…. We
could not see
round the corner,
but it had looked
like an easy run
hugging the right
bank.

Until we saw this tight little gulley which had CAPSIZE written all over it.
So there was nothing for it but to lug the boats along the bank a bit further.
We used a
combination of
carrying and
ferrying and it
worked out rather
better than we had
thought.
The portage/ferry went well until we tried to pump up one of the old red boats. There was
so much noise from the rapids that we could not hear where the air was leaking, but it
certainly was not staying in the boat for long!

We tried in vain to
get the boat hard
enough to float
safely but
eventually realised
that there was just
such a big leak that
we would have to
collapse the boat
and carry in on one
of the others, so
that’s what we did.
This combination
of two boats with
kit underneath was
a bit more difficult
to handle over the
rocks. Patch was
temporarily
trapped and
squashed under
the heavy boat
when we lost our footing but fortunately she had a frightening but fractureless experience.

Having got the last of the kit to a safe launching spot, it was now after 4:15. Now it was time
to make
morale
saving
decision
s so it
was
announ
ced,
without
debate,
that we
would
simply
cross
over to
the Zim
bank
onto a bit of a beach we could see a couple of hundred yards downstream and camp for the
night. There were no objections to this decision. Exhaustion was now very evident. We had
only covered about 500 metres with our portages but it had taken us 5 and a half hours.
Two boats took three passengers each and Laurie and Anita brought the rest of the kit and
the wounded boat over.

Don’t be misled by the


smiles on Anita and
Laurie’s faces, it was
just the thought of
sitting down to a cup of
hot tea that spurred
them on.

As luck would have it, the


campsite was ideal, with a
wide beach and clear areas
above any freak flood level
for us to pitch our tent on
secure dry land and to drag
the boats safely away from
the water.

Morale rapidly picked up


after Al brought out his
bottle of rum (a bottle, incidentally, that had a very short life after it left his pack).

Al generously offered to walk out the gorge next day if we could not mend the leaking boat
and Patch made the same offer. It was indeed fortunate that we were just above Rapid 10
because we knew about the one and only access point just below raid 11 (Rob and Laurie
had used this as an exit point on their October recce).

It was now time for Al and Laurie to reveal a secret surprise that they had planned. We have
a great friend called Heino Detering. He always loves to come on trips with us but has a
young family and is an excellent father, so this trip had never been considered possible for
him what with Christmas and so on. However, just before we left, he and Al concocted a
plan that Heino would drive out and walk down to the bottom of the Nyanjiwa falls gorge to
meet us for our last night camping n the river (29th Dec). He would bring fresh meat and
bread rolls for a braai, cold drinks and basically be an unexpected delight for the rest of the
team who, we knew, would be a bit worn out by then. The plan was that Al would swop
places with Heino so that Heino got one days worth of paddling on the last day which,
although it would not be through the big water, would still be fun. Now, of course, if we
could not fix the leaking boat there was a new option open to us to ask Heino to come a day
early and look after the two people who would have to walk out.

After some brief discussion about these alternatives we retired early. We slept well that
night………
Section 2
Gairezi Expedition
December 2010
Day 2 (and a bit of Day 3 … read on you will
understand)
Map 2

Camp Night 3

Nyanjiwa Falls

Camp Night 2

Walk in with Porters


from school

Margaret’s Lodge

Start Day 2
Or if you prefer a Google Earth picture. The river is shown as red…...
After sleeping off the
worst of the effects
of that Bad Place
portage we roused
our stiff bodies, had
a quick muesli type
breakfast and went
to see what we could
do about the broken
boat.

We had several rolls of duct tape, tubes of contact adhesive and


other repair kit and so it seemed we had a chance.

Now that we could hear ourselves think we quickly pinpointed


the problem area to being all the front seams on the boat. It
was as though the seams had simply pulled apart. These boats
are cemented with hot melt adhesive and perhaps it was just
too old or the boat had over heated in the sun but for whatever
reason the seams had split. We tried in vain for over an hour
and used up more than a roll of duct tape but every time we
inflated the boat, the duct tape would simply blister off the
surfaces we were trying to seal. The contact adhesive too was
ineffective on the old PVC surface.
So we came to the sad realization that the boat could not be fixed and that we would have
to pursue the option of two of us walking out the gorge, reducing the river party to 6 people
on 3 boats.

We still had rapids 10 and 11 to


negotiate before the exit point
so once again we set off with 3
people in two boats and Anita
and Laurie dragged the floppy
damaged boat on a rope.

When we reached the top of rapid 10 it looked too big for overloaded boats and Al and
Patch walked around on the Zimbabwe bank. This was fortunate because it gave Patch an
opportunity to take some spectacular pictures as the three boats negotiated Number 10.
The limp red boat was released and allowed to find its own way through.
Joe and Karin set off first
in fine style, choosing a
line on river right.
But unfortunately for them they placed themselves too far over to the right and could not
turn in time to catch the stream behind the flat rock.

Laurie and Anita came


steaming in behind
them, starting on the
same line but they saw
the tricky corner that
had snared Joe and
Karin, and managed to
slip down the channel
on the left of the big
rocks.
With
Joe and
Karin
still
battling
to free
themse
lves,
Laurie
and
Anita
powered over the drops and holes thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Then along
came our not
so experienced
crew of Rob
and Zia. They
had seen that
the best line
was to miss the
big rocks and
go left, but
somehow they
did not get it
right. Their
nose hit the
first rock and
they were
turned by the
current. They
now had the
rather
unpleasant job of descending backwards.
Bu to their great credit they
proceeded through all that
churning water without losing
crew or paddle, even freeing
themselves from a temporary
marooning on top of a rock.

Having freed themselves at last,


Joe and Karin had a straight run
down the right channel and then
we were all in the pool at the
bottom of the rapid
Some hearts pounding but everyone elated by this great rapid.

We collected the loose boat and the two walkers and set off down to Rapid 11.

Above
Rapid
11, Al
and
Patch
walked
round
again
and we
let the
leaking
boat
find its
own
way. 11
is a
much
smaller rapid than 10.
This brought us into the wide bay below
rapid 11. Here there is another routine
crossing place complete with resident
ferrymen with their curious square boats,
made from nothing more than flattened
petrol drums.

Al and Patch required porters to carry the


broken boat up out the gorge so with a bit of
shouting across the river in a mixture of
English, Portugese and Shona we somehow
got ourselves understood and it was agreed
that four porters would be brought across
and assist.

We
needed
to tell
Heino
that two
of our
party
would be exiting that day (28th Dec) and would Heino kindly come a day early to pick them
up. There is obviously no cell phone signal in this remote place but Patch had brought a Sat
phone. So with maps and GPS at the ready, Heino was called and the pick-up arranged.

Now you need to know that our good friend Lesley Melon was about to have her 60th
birthday party on 1st January 2011 and all her family from all over the world were coming for
the event. She had block booked the Pine Tree Inn. Heino is Les’s son-in-Law. So when he
announced that he was off to fix a Watermeyer problem and the rest of the family would
have to get themselves to Pine Tree Inn
without him it was bad enough, but when
Ant (Les’s husband) said that maybe he
ought to go along too in case there was
need for his services, this was a bit too
much for poor Lesley. Our name, or at
least Laurie’s name, was now DIRT,
because many times before the
Melons/Deterings have been called upon
to get Laurie out of a jam.

But despite this terrible thing for poor


Lesley the pick up was arranged and we
prepared ourselves for the temporary
parting from Al and Patch. We gave them
some money and some food. They were
prepared to sleep out in the open
somewhere if Heino did not make it in time. We had a quick snack to eat and said our
farewells.

Now, kind reader, you will appreciate that there will have to be two stories to tell in parallel,
what happened to Patch and Al and what happened to the rest of us. There is only one way
to do this, well only one obvious way, and that is to do them one at a time. Considering that
Al and Patch had made the big sacrifice of volunteering to miss the rest of the day’s paddling
it seems correct that their story is told first.

What is related now is second-hand with no independent verification. What we do know is


that there are a few pictures of them both having a great time and both returned to us with
big smiles, so let’s just assume that their explanation of what happened is the whole
story……..
They soon fixed up with the porters, settled some small dispute with the ferryman who had
carried the porters across the river and they set off up the climb out of the gorge. This took
them just about an
hour, passing
through the cool
forest and stream
half way up. The
distance was about
1,5 km to the
summit. They knew
that it would be a
long time before
Heino arrived so
there was no point in
walking to the
arranged rendezvous
point, the store on
the main road, well
not yet. So they
looked about for a
suitable place to stay for the night. As luck would have it, they saw a smart building just off
the track. Amazingly this was a tourist lodge, right out there in the sticks.

The lodge was run by a young lady called Margaret, who normally works in Harare and
amongst other interesting facts is a keen rugby player. Al says it a very clean and pleasant
place and recommends that the Mountain Club considers going there and using it as a base
for walking out into the surrounding hills and as a launch point for a possible ascent of the
forbidding mountain nearby called Makori shown below.
Apparently they spent a couple of pleasant hours at Margarte’s Lodge doing Sudoku,
watching the chickens and a baby pig before they decided it was time to walk off to the
store below Makori. They had not been able to get cellphone signal despite being on a ridge
so had no idea if Heino was in fact on his way. So they wandered off, leaving their kit at
Margaret’s lodge. Later they realised they had not taken warm or water-proof clothing, no
torch, no GPS and only a few dollars but nevertheless they set of gaily down the track. There
was a 7 km walk to the store and along the way they enjoyed more spectacular scenery.

A common
feature in this
region of
dramatic
folding are the
quartzite
ridges, as we
had seen at
the
Mozambique
Caldera.

Looking west
they could see
Makori.
At the store Al made friends with the local
policeman. They had a good time comparing
notes about cellphones. There was some signal
here but the only messages Al received were
mundane, still nothing from Heino.

They started to get a little concerned that they


would have to start the long walk back to
Margaret’s lodge, worried about getting lost in
the dark.

But being the types they are they decided to


make the most of a bad situation and soon…..

settl
ed
in…
…………, several warm Black Label bombers and then things were ticking along nicely. This
was the sight Heino and Ant saw as they arrived. Apparently Al was exceptionally pleased to
see them, to the extent of actually kissing Heino! We have to hope this is an exaggeration.

Ant and Heino, being in


such disfavour with their
respective wives, had to
make some urgent calls
to reassure all back in
Harare that they had
arrived safely and made
the “rescue”.

There was so much


excitement that Patch’s
bag with her valuables
including her camera
were left behind at the
store. This was
discovered some time
later, followed by a
stressed drive back to
the store. “Oh yes Sir, we
know about the missing
bag. It has been taken to the police station,” Sure enough it was there, under the car of Al’s
new police friend, completely intact.

Patch’s feet were not doing well in her


trainers so she invested all of USD 2 and
bought herself a very comfortable pair
of Chinese specials.
Back at the
lodge, Ant and
Patch became
big friends with
Margaret

Patch knew the route down to the bottom of


Nyanjiwa Falls, at the end of the forge, and
they made their plans for the next day.
The lodge
is pretty
basic,
especially
in the
kitchen
departmen
t.

Meanwhile some
economy tea ingredients
had been bought. Here
we see Heino filtering the
very coarse tea leaves
through the Al’s shirt. He
objected to our disgust
when we heard about
this and claimed that all
was OK because he had
used a clean part of the
shirt.
We assume that no-one contracted any diseases from this tea party.

After a pleasant enough night they drove off in the morning to the school that had been
used as a base for the first recce trip by Patch, Laurie and Trev back in September.

Young men we had met before remembered us and were pleased to be recruited for the
portage around the Nyajiwa Falls. By now we had learned how much effort was required
and Al contracted nine guys to help. (Please look if you can see a clean part of Al’s shirt).
They set off for the river
at about 8:30, the
porters jovially carrying
the small amount of kit
that Ant and Heino had
brought, little did they
know……….

It is a
pleasant
2,5 km
stroll
down to
the river
and it took
them less
than an
hour with
a breakfast
break on
the way.
At the river Ant decided to wait
with the coolbox and the other
kit at the little beach next to the
river.

Meanwhile Al, Patch and Heino and all the porters clambered off upstream to get above
Nyanjiwa Falls, a distance of about 1,5 km, but across a very steep and difficult route.

In the beginning
things are easy
but fairly soon it
gets tricky.
There are really two waterfalls. Here is the spectacular lower fall.

This view downstream is taken from the


same spot as the previous photograph.
The river is very broken and we never
intended trying to paddle any of the
distance between the main upper
Nyanjiwa Fall and the end of this set of
rapids. The end of the gorge is down
below the right hand bend about 1,5 km
away. That is where Ant was waiting with
the kit.
Two hours after leaving
Ant at the “beach” they
reached the main
Nyanjiwa Falls

This is as far as Trev and Laurie had walked on their first recce in September.

The river has


cut a deep
channel
through the
rock with
many dramatic
deep potholes.
The entire
river passes
through a
narrow 2 to 3
metre gap.
Here are comparative
photographs from the
September trip and the
high water in December

Downstrea
m from the
main
Nyanijwa
Fall there
is a large pool before the water turns left and cascades through the lower fall. Sadly one
cannot help but notice what an excellent site this is for a hydro-electric power dam one day.
We felt that we were privileged to see it as it has been for so long, rather like those few
people who saw the Cahorra Bassa rapids before that dam was built.

Al and Patch waited here anxiously looking upstream for the rest of the party. The boat
party had been expected to be here about 11:00, it was now after 14:00. Eventually they
saw a curious sight – just one red boat going out into the main stream and waiting there.
The porters and Heino had carried on upstream and can just be made out standing on the
large rock opposite the boat.
But now it is
time in our
tale to switch
back to the
day before
(Day 2) and
the group
that had
continued on
down the
river.
Anita, Rob, Laurie, Zia, Joe and Karin set off from the crossing bay below Rapid 11 and were
treated to some of the most beautiful scenery yet.

But first, to see what we are talking about, have a look at Map 2 at the beginning of this
Section 2 (lots of pages back), you want page numbers?... forget it. You too can have some
hassles with this long document. OK. OK …. I relent here is a second copy…
Map 2

Camp Night 3

Nyanjiwa Falls

Camp Night 2

Walk in with Porters


from school

Margaret’s Lodge

Start Day 2
The two groups parted company just downstream from Rapid 11, which was shown on Map
1 way back up this document somewhere, but so that you don’t get too annoyed we have
cut off the top off that map and stuck it on at the bottom of Map 2. You will remember that
the river runs north, (that is from the bottom of the page to the top for the blonde readers).

Now even the most unfamiliar person, when it comes to maps, will be able to see what we
were talking about when we mentioned high mountain ranges and no access. When the
brown lines come together like that it means CLIFF. No passage…. not even for baboons or
klipspringers!

Back to the paddlers.

Winding down the


river beneath the
hills on either side
was just pure
pleasure.

Gentle rapids, the


flow of the water
calmly pulling us
along, it was nature
at its most beautiful.

There was a long series of twisting pools, gentle rapids at the base of steep valleys. Joe’s
boat needed a little air at one stop.
Perhaps it is best to just let the
photographs do their own
descriptions of this serene place.

Laurie now really regretted not being


able to capture these scenes more
accurately, but hey, who says this is
the only time that we will go there?
Of course it
was not all
gentle water
and we had
some
excitement as
well. Here is a
sequence
captured by
Anita. Joe
comes down
confidently
riding the
centre line,
text book
style….
Pumps his
way
expertly
through
the hole
at the
bottom.

And
then,,,,,,,,

We have Rob
and Zia, trying
to avoid the
main white
water,
sticking
nearer the
bank.
Not really the best line as the hole looms closer.

Oh Dear! This looks a bit


tricky….How are we
going to miss that
submerged rock?

Can we make it?


NOPE ………. It’s gotcha!
Bath time is early today!
Some time later we heard some loud water and decided to take a look first, one never
knows what is around that corner and having entered water like this there is no quick pull
into the bank to stop.

We decided that
this was a bit too
tricky and why risk
injury, So it was
out with the ropes
for another ferry
round the rocks.
For the first time
we now had a
short downpour,
just in time to
make those rocks
really slippery to
climb across. Joe
fell badly once but
luckily avoided
anything more
than some
bruises.

While this ferrying was going on we were visited by Steven. He was a local guy who had
helped Rob and Laurie with portaging out of Rapid 11 on their previous recce. He had met Al
and Patch on the path out of the gorge and heard about us. He ran down the small path
along the river and caught up with us. We arranged with him that we would employ him and
a fisherman friend of his the next day at Nyajiwa Falls and off he went down the gorge.
It took a while but we got two
boats through safely, but
then, just after this picture
was taken, the last boat was
trapped in buffeting water
below a large rock and it
flipped.

When we had recovered the


boat we found that the one
chopping board and our little
fold-up braai had been torn
out the boat and were lost.
Now you need to understand
about his braai. We have a
canoe club, Ant, Al and Laurie
and a couple of others and do
lots of Zambezi trips. We
share a set of equipment for
this. One really useful piece
of this equipment was a great
little fold-up braai that
Tregers used to make. Well
one canoe trip Laurie judged things wrong, got a boat bitten by a hippo and amongst other
things, lost the braai. He felt terrible about this but fortunately for him a couple of months
later a departing friend gave him the only other equivalent braai that any of us had ever
seen. But now, here on the Gairezi, Laurie had lost the braai again…………… Bad news, it
could not just be ignored………
So he asked Joe to help and they took a rope and went back
up to the offending rapid and with Joe securing himself
between some rocks and firmly holding the rope for Laurie
to wade into the rapid and feel about under the water for
the braai which hopefully was lodged somewhere. Well, as
luck would have it, just as they were at the limit of the rope
and about to give up, Laurie touched a submerged log and
running his hand along this he felt that familiar strap around
the braai. It was recovered, still tied to the chopping board
and all was happiness again. The proud fisherman returns.

Anita meanwhile had prepared


another great meal, which we
enthusiastically tucked into.

The girls saw an interesting rock


across
on the
Moza
mbiqu
e side,
now
called
OWL
ROCK
for all
future
trips.
It was mid afternoon by now, The GPS showed us that we had made good progress and we
started to look out for a decent camp site. We were not to be disappointed because we
soon came across a perfect little beach on the Zim side. Adjacent to the beach there was a
flat topped grassy bank where we were able to safely erect the tent and to secure the boats
against flash floods.
There to meet us on the sand was a pretty tree frog.
Rob’s kit had been
soaked when the boat
capsized so he was a
bit down, but cheered
up when Laurie
produced a spare dry
sleeping bag. We
gathered a large pile of
dry wood, made a
decent clothes line
and soon had a roaring
bonfire going to dry
out Rob’s clothes.
Have bonfire, have
beach, have Scotch
and Orange Liquor,
have Ipod with dance
music and sure
enough, have great
beach party……...

Laughing and Jiving in the Gairezi moonlight, what a pleasure.

That night Rob tried sleeping on an upturned boat and found it very comfortable and vastly
preferable to trying to sleep on his wet mattress.
The sad part was that later that night we had our first attack of Gairezi Guts. Poor Anita
hardly slept, needing to constantly clear both ends and Joe and Karin also had the runs. We
assumed (incorrectly) that the tuna salad they had eaten had been the problem.
Section 3
Gairezi Expedition
December 2010
Day 3

At 5:00 in the morning Steven the porter and his friend walked past us (we were after all
camped on the only path). He bid us Good Morning and promised to see us above Nyanjiwa
in a few hours.

So
although
some
had had
a bad
night,
there
were no
wimps
on this
trip and
we were
up and
on the
water
early.
We only
had
about 6 km to go to Nyanjiwa
Falls and we had seen just one
potential large rapid between
us and the falls on the Google
Earth images. So we were
confident that we would make
the 11:00 rendezvous with the
land party and we enjoyed
more stunning vistas.
When we reached the rapid halfway to Nyanjiwa, we climbed out to inspect. It was a bit big
and we decided that some would walk, some would paddle, that meant Laurie got to ride
the rapid three times, and Anita, Joe and Zia each had a turn. Great fun and no mishaps.
Some good video’s were recorded of this but sorry, not many stills.

Our timing was till fine


despite playing in this rapid
and at 10:00 we saw that we
were just a single km or so
away from Nyanjiwa and we
were very confident of
getting there on time.
But this was not to be. Very close to Nyanjiwa the river entered a long, narrow chute. The
water speed was high and we could not see what happened around the bend. There was an
ominous air about the place. Laurie really had a bad feeling about it. So we scrambled up
the steep rock on the right bank to have a look.

There were three rapids


in the chute, each with a
drop of a few metres.
The big question was, if
you fell out and swam
the rapids, what chance
did you have of climbing
out before entering the
Nyanjiwa Falls around
the corner?
After a long time studying the rapids
and some sugar replenishment,
Laurie reluctantly decided that we
would have a go. We started off but
had only gone a few metres into the
chute when we saw our friendly
porter, Steven, on top of a rock
gesticulating to us wildly that we
should stop. This we did and he said
“You cannot go on, it is too
dangerous, the water is boiling down
there”. Well this made up Laurie’s
mind and we pulled in for another
rope ferry down the Zim bank.

This was difficult because of the large


rocks we had to negotiate and the
distance we had to cover. It took us
more than an hour to get just one
boat down the three rapids.
But with time to kill Karin was able to photograph the interesting wear patterns on the
rocks.
Eventually we got the red boat through and then Joe suggested that now that we had one
boat in the pool above Nyanjiwa, we could consider using it as a safety boat and then
paddle the other two through the three rapids in the chute. Now this was a great idea so we
despatched Steven and his mate to carry the kit that we took out of the two yellow boats.
Joe and Zia placed themselves in the red boat behind a small rock midstream to catch any
swimmers. This was the red boat Al and patch had seen. Then after allowing some time (not
enough it turned out) for the rest of the party to get down to a decent vantage point, Laurie

and Anita climbed into the first boat. Each was mentally rehearsing the Left, then Right then
through the Centre route that we had chosen for the three rapids. These three rapids were
just pure concentrated thrill. Anita is such a strong paddler that there was no way one of
those holes was going to stop us. It will take a long time before the exciting memory is
forgotten.

Regrettably there are not many clear photographs of this but hopefully some of the
excitement can be seen in these frames….
By now Al’s recruitment of porters and Heino had reached the pool above Nyanjiwa and the
cheering crowd could not believe that any boat could get through! Their yells of delight
carried down the river to Al and Patch who now understood why there had been a lonely
boat sitting in the middle of the pool.
When Al and Patch looked upstream this is what they saw.
The excitement over, we
ferried the kit and Heino
across the pool above
Nyanjiwa and happily met up
with the land party.
It was now
14:30. Al,
Patch and
Heino
knew how
long it
would take
to get back
to Ant at
his “beach”
so they
were keen
to push us
along. We
quickly
deflated
the boats
and divided
the kit up
into parcels for the porters, we now had 11 of them, thank goodness.

Then we had some bad luck, the sky literally fell on our heads, soaking everyone and
everything, but that was not the problem, it was that the rain made the rocks extremely
slippery.
The porters set off at an incredible pace. They were amazingly sure footed. Patch sensibly
grabbed our long ropes as a porter came past her carrying them.

With all the rain and


difficult climbs,
camera’s were not
being taken out of
their waterproof
containers, even
though there were
some dramatic scenes to record. We will just have to look through the water droplets on
Joe’s helmet camera. Here we see the Nyanjiwa Falls below the first of many steep and
slippery climbs that we had to take at this high water level.

The ropes that Patch had grabbed


were needed almost immediately
to assist in the descent of this
steep section of rock just above
the Falls.

Joe had climbed high up the cliff


and looped the ropes over a
protrusion in the rock, the plan
being that we would retrieve the
rope after descending by pulling
one end of the rope from the
bottom. This plan hit a snag,
literally, and Joe had to
precariously climb to the top of
the cliff and free the rope, then descend without its aid.

Next step down it was Laurie’s turn to be last man down. After much bantering and
moaning Laurie persuaded Heino to place himself as a human ladder for Laurie to climb
down.
This opportunity of course
could not be missed and Laurie
deliberately allowed himself to
slip and fall onto Heino who
was then crushed into the sand,
reminiscent of the North Africa
campaign back in 1944.

But I guess there was


more humour about
this time around
Most of the party had
not seen Nyanjiwa
before, and so were
very keen to walk
across to them and
take a look.

The whole river is channelled into a jagged gap just a few metres wide. The water thrashes
about wildly in this narrow chasm, gulping vast mouthfuls of air. The water is entirely filled
with billions of air bubbles each shattering any light that falls on it and one is left with
brilliantly “white” water. This air and water mix would offer very little buoyancy to any
hapless kayaker foolish enough to enter this churning chaos.
Without being next to this huge discharge of energy it will be difficult to imagine the power.
The deafening rush of the water crushing entrapped air up against the jagged rocks almost

shuts out all other sound, Conversations were only possible as shouting matches at no more
than a metre. The water was immensely turbulent in this place, literally awesome.

Unfortunately there was not enough time to stand and admire this spectacle for long and
we had to continue our scramble along the bank. There were many more difficult cliffs to
ascend and descend.
It is regrettable that what followed that afternoon was probably the most intense period of
the whole trip but the rain kept our camera’s wrapped up and we just became too
exhausted to hassle with pictures. The steep cliffs that had been difficult enough to traverse
when the rocks were dry and the sun was warming our backs, now became treacherous and
downright terrifying in places. Several of us had tried hard to procure shoes that would grip
on smooth wet rock but even these proved inadequate and several times we preferred to go
barefoot, so that you could at least feel it as the slip started. Two of the porters came back
to assist us at the worst of the cliff traverses, after delivering their loads. The porters were
amazing at getting the cumbersome loads across the wet rocks. Apart from a few scratches
on the heavier packs there was no damage or loss. The two guys who came back to assist
were particularly helpful, and eased they way for several of us from being ”stuck”. But even
with their help it was nearly a 5 hour trip to reach the kit and Ant, who had remained to
guard it. (Fortunately Ant is one of these people very comfortable in his own company and
quite satisfied with a book of Sudoku puzzles).

We could not camp on the little beach next to the water because of the threat of a flash
flood so, as it was getting dark, we had to hurriedly move all the kit to a flatter area up the
path back towards the school. As we moved away from the water our next morale tester
emerged. There was just an impossible intensity of horse flies. These aggressive insects
swarmed onto any exposed skin and immediately pierced deep into your flesh, injecting a
sharply irritating anti-coagulant that stung like hell. It was impossible to ignore the bites and
just let them feast. At the same time the rain started again and Patch and Zia scrambled to
get the tent erected whilst it was light and bearable. Meanwhile, the porters were restless,
they had not realized (nor had we) how hard the work would be. The agreed daily wage had
been USD 5 each but they demanded USD 15. Laurie settled at USD 10 (being the limit of
cash available and the limit of his patience as the horse flies were rapidly turning him
anaemic). The porters eventually grumbled off, but we ensured that there was a very much
clearer defined agreement on who would come back for the portage out of Ant and Heino’s
kit the next day and how much would be paid.

After the porters left we tried to sort out the camp. There was only wet wood around, the
ground was hard, rocky and sloping. But we made a fire in our rescued braai with some help
from the gel fuel we had brought along. Now this stuff is very useful, it is made from the
alcohol from sugar cane apparently. It does not smell bad, produces no smoke and seems
pretty safe to handle. Usually we take along diesel for this purpose but diesel leaks, stinks
and influences the taste of sugar amd milk powder when spilled thereon. Of course Laurie
had to proudly show this newly found product off to Ant. He said, ” Look at this stuff Ant, it
is great, you can poor it straight onto an open flame”. Well, you can, sometimes, but not if
you are using a 2 litre bottle which has already had 1,5 litres used up. What remains is
obviously a 1,5 litre cavity filled with fuel fumes and air, a very inflammable mixture. So now
what happens when you pour from such a container onto an open flame, is the flame
rapidly climbs up the column of poured gel, enters the 2 litre bottle and there is a
spontaneous explosion of the fumes, which in turn results in a considerable jet of exhaust
fumes shooting out the neck of the bottle. This, to the unexpectant holder of the bottle,
results in the rapid propulsion of the bottle away from the fire. But as the mechanically
minded amongst you will realise, the remaining gel in the bottle prefers to remain where it
is rather than suddenly move with the bottle, so as the bottle shoots away, the contents exit
via the neck of the bottle, the gel now finds itself suspended in the air over the fire, and
gravity immediately gets involved and pulls this great dollop of fuel into the fire, resulting in
a secondary fire ball.

Well, fortunately there was no injury to equipment or person but Laurie’s pride and self
esteem were severely damaged, probably permanently, by the peals of hyena-like laughter
that consumed the camp for the next hour or so.

The fresh steaks, bread rolls and cold beers that had been brought by Heino and Ant were
very welcome, but it did not take long before everyone was rolling out sleeping bags in the
tent after this very strenuous day and seeking refuge from the horse flies. The fine bottle of
red wine that had been brought was hardly touched, a sure sign that things were not
normal. There was still plenty of rain about and by now all 8 of us had developed a good
dose of Gairezi Guts. The horse flies had obviously not been to horse fly school where all self
respecting horse flies would normally go. These guys had no idea that horse flies are
supposed to go to sleep at night. They kept on at us and were particularly attracted to
anyone wearing a switched on head light. The night was not the most comfortable with
constant wakings as one or other of us would have to go out to the loo and step all over the
bodies that had rolled down the slope. Al was particularly unlucky, he went out without his
lenses and barefoot. Being a polite type he went some distance to ablute and what with the
problem of only switching on the head light for brief intervals, and thengetting bitten to hell
or switching his head light off and then stubbing his toes on the jagged rocks plus not being
able to see properly anyway he stumbled along the wrong path back to camp. He was gone
about 20 minutes and became totally disoriented. When he finally had to call out to us to try
and get back he was surprised to find that he was just about 10 metres away from the tent,
lucky for him otherwise he would have had a very miserable night waiting for the sun or the
extremely unlikely event of the rest of us bothering to look for him.

But even this night came to an end eventually.


Section 4
Gairezi Expedition
December 2010
Day 4 (the last day on the water)
Take Out at DC’s Chalets

Start Day 3
We woke, (that is the few who actually got to
sleep), next morning to a grey sky. Bleary eyed
and not at all well rested we made a sorry
sight. Rob had tried to sleep under the
entrance fly sheet, right where everyone
needed to walk on the way to the toilet. He
was not in top humour.

Zia had suffered from being stood upon,


Watermeyers x2 snoring and the general
discomfort of all the horse fly bites.

Laurie was not much better, trying hard to imagine that his cold wheat-
free muesli and water
was just what he wanted
to eat. Note his scarred
legs from slipping and
bashing over submerged
rocks during the boat
ferrying, a fate we all
suffered.

Joe was not too bright


either, he had a veritable
Noah’s Ark of tummy
bugs incubating in him by now.

Patch put on a brave face


And of course Anita was not going to let a few horse flies ,
hardly any sleep and some tough exercise get her down.

Joe and Karin kindly volunteered to miss out the paddling on this day so Patch and Al happily rejoined the
water party. Heino felt it would be too offending to his family if he spent the day enjoying himself on the river
and he said he would go back up to Pine Tree Inn at Nyanga, as the others were arriving this day.

The river looked much less adventurous for the final 22 km to be covered on the last day. We had at one stage
planned to exit at this point at the mouth of the gorge but fortunately that plan had been abandoned after
one of our recce trips had found another friendly school headmaster whose school was near direct vehicle
access to the water. The choice between a 2,5 km carry-out up a steep hill or a fun paddle of 22 km on
relatively flat water and getting out at a point where the cars could drive right up to the river was a simple
decision.

The 5 porters for the day joined us at about 07:00 and they enjoyed eating all the meat and rolls we had not
been able to consume the night before. The bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon also went down well and rapidly
with them.

We had the three boats carried down to the river and we parted company. Joe, Karin, Ant and Heino walked
up to the school with the porters where Heino’s car had been left. They would drive back, collect Joe’s car
from the start and then see the rest of us back at Nyanga, enjoying a hot shower and clean clothes in the
meantime.

The rest of us, Al, Patch, Anita, Zia, Rob and Laurie took some basic kit (in case we had the misfortune of
staying another night on the river) and went down to the boats. A brief check showed us that we probably
should have placed the boats a little further downstream to launch because we were still amongst the very
broken part of the river, but we nevertheless set off. About 50 metres later Patch was our first swimmer,
rapidly followed by Al and Rob and then Laurie. The water was not big, just a bit awkward but the swim woke
us up and humour returned.
A few km later there was a tricky part which knocked some more of us out the boats. Patch had the interesting
experience of noticing that the boat was a bit more sluggish than usual, then looking over her shoulder after a
bouncy wave train and seeing no Laurie behind her. The remaining old red boat was now losing air rapidly and
once these inflatables get floppy it is very easy for the person at the back to be flipped out as the boat
caterpillars its way over standing waves at the bottom of a rapid. Most of us had a few swims but it was all
pretty safe , no kit was lost and we all had a good laugh about it. Occasionally we ferried around some places
that looked a bit dicy but this bottom stretch is a great place for a day’s fun paddling. We will no doubt be
back to enjoy it again.

Not many photos were taken unfortunately, Patch’s camera had by now been thoroughly soaked and was
suitable only as something to screw onto a plank and use as a spirit level.

The water was running fast and we covered the distance in a remarkably short time, such was the positive
effect of no hard portages.

After a while we came across the town on the Mozambique side that we had visited on the August Caldera
trip. This town is stuck right in the middle of the bush with no apparent economic reason to be there, no crops
around it, hardly
any cattle and all we
can think is that it is
a major trading post
for things coming
out of Zimbabwe
that should not go
through official
border posts. It can
be seen on the right
bank in this picture.
When we visited it
in August we found
just mud and thatch
buildings but there
was a pharmacy
selling prescription
drugs (without a
pharmacist of
course), cold beer
(modern
photovoltaic
technology) and
plenty clothing and
utensils for sale.
We stopped for lunch shortly
after passing the town.
Although there were some
attractive shady trees to stop
under, we were still in the
dreaded horse fly belt and
found that the flies were
scarcer next to the water.

Rob, as usual, wandered


about looking for interesting
things and found a very
attractive clear rock which he
was convinced was a gem
quality diamond. We shall
have to see how that turns
out……….

After lunch we just had a few km


to go. There was an interesting
little gorge that we passed
through. By now the leaks in the
red boat were so bad that Patch
was placed full-time on pumping
whilst Laurie paddled. She looked
after the pneumatics, Laurie
looked after the hydraulics.

And then, suddenly, we were at


the end. The rain started and so
cameras were kept sealed away
again, so no pictures of us
finishing, sorry.

Rob and Laurie walked the 2 km or so up to the school to fetch the two cars and the trailer (all intact and in
perfect order) we thanked and rewarded the headmaster and the school guard as well as the local headman.
We drove back down to the river, loaded the kit and had a drink. Our cool box had warmed up considerably
after staying in the car for a few days but we enjoyed some coke and cider. Then it was just a fairly long drive
through lots of mud back up to Nyanga. Sadly we all took plenty of abdominal parasites back with us, which
took many weeks to cure for most. It seems that the early flood waters washed lots of detritus with it, just as
we came along to drink it.

That was it, another adventure over, but if those really full 4 days on just 65 km of Gairezi are anything to
judge by, we are really going to have a pile of fun by the time we have done the whole river, source to sea.

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