River 8: Lower (Roadside) Ivondro

Despite spending 8 days exploring the Ivondro at the point we took off we had not completed all we had set out to do on the Ivondro. Originally we had planned to paddle another 20km downstream from the point we took out after 8 days, hence completing a full descent of the white water sections of the Ivondro in one epic multiday run. However exhaustion, hunger and a wrist injury Matt had sustained while portaging a rapid earlier in the river swayed us to leave this 20km roadside section for another day.

Having got Josh back in a boat on the 1 day section of the Maningory, after some planning in Toamasina we decided to head up and finish what we had started.  While we were planning in Toamasina Leslie received a message from the Wizards Eye expedition asking if he would be interested in joining them for a month sailing from Madagascar to South Africa.  It did not take much time for Leslie to decide that this was worth missing the last couple of rivers and once Leslie had got everything sorted and we had bought BBQ items we bid him farewell and headed back up the bumpy road to the Ivondro. We camped that night in a school near the river that would not have looked out of place in a post-apocalyptic movie scene and had a BBQ and some beers.

BBQ in a school yard

BBQ in a school yard

Giant Snail

Giant Snail

Post Apocalyptic School

Post Apocalyptic School

The next morning we drove the short distance to the river and after a breakfast of rice, honey, prunes and banana all but Matt whose wrist had still not healed sufficiently resumed the previous week’s adventure, putting on where we had taken off 5 days previously.

After a short section of flat water the rapids began to appear, slowly increasing in magnitude until we reached an exciting 4 auto boofed us over the hole.

Josh auto boofing

Josh auto boofing

Following this there was an exciting 4+ which cascaded through a number of small drops and slides. Various lines were taken but everyone made it to the bottom successfully.

Jacob on the fun 4+

Jacob on the fun 4+

Some more grade 3/3+ slides, drops and boulder gardens lead to the next rapid of note, a mess of boulders with a channel down the left which had a few undercut boulders and holes. Sam had a roll half way down but this was otherwise uneventful.

Campbell in the boulder garden

Campbell in the boulder garden

Next up was a 3m fall with ramps into holes on both the right and left which Josh and Jacob ran simultaneously and where Sam fell in and had a technical swim while getting back in his boat at the bottom after taking videos.

Calum and Campbell running it simultaneously

Calum and Campbell running it simultaneously

A short way below this we reached the dam we had seen on google earth which was more of a weir. While attempting to scout the line over the weir from his boat, Josh was swept backwards over the weir to much hilarity. Everyone else followed facing the correct way and after this we stopped for lunch.

Josh past the point of no return

Josh past the point of no return

During lunch Campbell scouted the rapid downstream and came back to give us a confusing message which went something along the lines of “Its chossy grade 3 but I can’t see a line on it then there is a slot into a 8ft drop followed by a 12ft drop which is a definite portage, but there is a line but it doesn’t go”

After lunch we portaged this rapid on the right. Further grade 3 lead to a horizon line. Calum dropped down first on the right and the sheep that form the rest of the team piled down behind much further left ignoring any signals indicating that they should be hard right. Most of the group just made it through the monster hole that spanned all but the hard right of the river, however Josh threw multiple ends in the hole before disappearing for a while and finally popping up downstream no longer attached to his boat.

Josh throwing ends

Josh throwing ends

None the worse for his swim Josh was reinstated in his boat and paddling could continue. The final largeish rapid of the day was a slot with a flare on the right of the left hand channel and a slide down the channel to the right of that. Most of the team opted for the slide as it was difficult to see into the slot without scouting and this went well for them. Calum having seen that the slot went, went for the flare which went well however he was tripped up by the next hole and beatered down the rest of the rapid.

Sam on the right hand channel

Sam on the right hand channel

From here it was around 5km of flat to the ferry where we took out and returned to Toamasina for a Chinese and some beer and rum.

Thus concludes the first descent of the white water heaven that is the Ivondro.

River 7: Maningory

Following our epic 8 day Ivondro mission we went to see josh at the beach for a rest day and some surfing before the next river.

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Josh surfing

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Sea Urchin

With most of us feeling well rested or at least not dead we drove for a few hours up a lightly potholed tarmac road past what, in the wet season would have been a good run, to the put in for a 1 day big volume section of the Maningory which had been recommended to us by various people and which looked good on Google earth. Campbell and Matt opted out of the river and the rest of us, including josh (who’s shoulder had recovered significantly following a week on the beach) got kitted up in the main market square by the river with Jacob as usual being indiscreet with his changing, drawing much laughter. After getting on a short stretch of fast moving flat lead us to our first big rapids a series of powerful grade 4/4+ boulder garden rapids. The first of these we ran on the right on a tongue beside a large pourover.

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Jacob on the first grade 4

Following this Sam and Calum scouted a long rapid with a large hole at the bottom with cameras rolling one by one the team ran the rapid. All was going well until Jacob got kicked into a recirculating eddy by the large hole that slowly and inevitably fed him into the maw of the river.

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Jacobs first beating

After throwing a few ends Jacob was ripped out of his boat by the force of the water losing his shoes and wetsuit socks in the process. Having spent the morning explaining that he wasn’t taking airbags as he “backed himself not to swim”, Josh now had the difficult job of towing his boat to the bank. With Jacob reunited with all but his wetsuit socks and waterbottle we headed on down to the next big rapid. This we scouted and found to be a long 4+. Calum ran it first followed successfully by everyone else.

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Long 4+

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Calum on the long 4+

It was a lot bigger than it looked from the bank and was a lot of fun. More similar style rapids followed and around 2pm we stopped for some lunch. After lunch Calum decided skins boating was the way to go however soon after decided to put his BA back on as Sam got out to scout a large’ish rapid. Sam said it was good to go down the right and so we all piled down it. What Sam could not see from the bank was a crazy fold which sucked most of the team fully under in their boats for several seconds snapping Jacobs paddles in the process and spitting us all out at the bottom with no idea what had just happened.

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Calum resurfacing

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Leslie subbed out and josh being spun

Josh got his splits out and we continued downstream. Some grade 2/3 lead us to the last big rapid of the day which had a large wave/hole which we punched through before racing round the corner.

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Sam punching the hole

Everyone other than Jacob was fine however Jacob had to ferry glide across some bouncy grade 3+ and got his 3rd and final beating for the day over some rocks on the river left. With Jacobs pride fully beaten down we paddled the 15km of flat to the take out where our drivers had only arrived 15mins previously (perfect timing). An incredibly fun run with good access.

River 1: The Mania

We finally did it…
After eight days of traveling and sorting out boats we finally got on our first river, the Mania. This 2 day run was recommended to us by Gilles (the local river beta guru) as a perfect intro to Madagascan multiday rivers.  We put on, on a tiny trib just northeast of Fandriana after packing our boats for the first time and completing a number of water quality tests for fresh water watch.

We were waved off with great excitement by a large crowd of locals many of whom followed us down stream for some distance.  The trib and the whole of the first day was fairly flat for the most part with a few small (grade 3) rapids and one portage around a dam and the short tree choked rapid just downstream.  The trib was joined at regular intervals by other rivers and streams and before long had grown from a narrow ditch to a large winding river which finally flowed into the Mania.  Around 15:30 we encountered a lengthy grade 3 rapid with a flat beach below it.  Having paddled around 32km we decided to camp on the beach, cook our dinner of rice and stock and enjoy a roaring fire.

Day two dawned misty and cold; not an inspiring start.  But the promise of more exciting rapids and the emergence of the sun at about 09:00 spurred everyone on. We didn’t have to wait long for our white water appetites to be satisfied. The first treat was a three-tiered rapid, ending in a constricting slide. Almost immediately after came a continuous section guarded by a foreboding but easily avoidable, hole. Thereafter, a short amount of grade 3 boogie led us round a corner, at which point the river disappeared off the face of the earth!  To call this next rapid monstrous would simply not do it justice, and whilst Josh continues to insist there is a line, it would take some serious bravery to tackle it.

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Following the challenging portage around the aforementioned beasty, we devoured a well-deserved lunch, before settling into an afternoon of fantastic white water.

Our second camp on the river came a few kilometres from the end as we were due to be picked up at the take out in the morning.  This camp was on an island with a knarly siphon canyon on one side which probably went but following a hilarious warning from a local, during which he jumped into a dry  pothole and waved to us through a hole 2m down the cliff face, to warn us of how manky the rapid was, we decided that the other side of the island looked more pleasant.

As we were setting up camp there was a some shouts from the bank and within a few minutes a number of the very friendly locals started throwing oranges across to us (at high speed) much to our amusement.

The next morning we ran the pleasant rapid on the left hand side of the island and continued downstream towards the take-out.  The rapids between our second camp and the take out though easy, were convoluted and full of nasty siphons.  Our intended takeout was at the main road bridge however our fantastic driver Andry, having realised that the last rapid before the bridge was just an un-runnable boulder choke, had parked where the road came close to the boulder choke and we were able to get out there rather than portaging that section.

In conclusion the Mania was a fantastic run with some chunky rapids and a few portages which made for a great introduction to Madagascan white water.

Due to the internet out here being awful please refer to our facebook for photos… we will post again when we next reach reasonable wifi.