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.

British Universities Creek Race

This weekend, some of the team braved a stormy Glen Coe and Glen Etive to rally for the annual British Universities Creek Race. The brief resentment of the horizontal downpour and frustration as kit was blown around was quickly replaced by excitement as conversation turned to the river levels. It was clear as soon as the first shuttle left to go from race registration, down Glen Etive, that the Middle (you know the one you chuck your freshers down) was not going to be race-able. The surging water turning “triple falls” into more of a continuous 100m stretch of gigantic boils and terrifying holes would mean half the field wouldn’t even step up to running the course, and the other half would be ranked accordingly, by who survived their beatings and managed to actually complete a descent.

The racers therefore continued on down the glen, Guzzling the free Redbull and Tunnocks caramel Logs (thanks to our generous sponsors for a true athletes breakfast) to race on “corner falls” or “twist & shout” below right angle at the normal take out.

 

Team member Campbell gasping on the first course, left of the "island"

Team member Campbell gasping on the first course, left of the “island”

 

The first heat went well, with the majority of the field picking clean lines down through the first rapid. A mandatory left around an island followed (this island is normally not an island, it is normally a rocky outcrop several meters above the level of the river) and the finish line was to slap a banner below the take out bridge. There were a few swims but the good times seemed to be around the 2 minute mark.

The next event was the alumni boater cross…

 

Mr IR Mulrain taking the lead on the Alumni Boater Cross

Mr IR Mulrain taking the lead on the Alumni Boater Cross

 

and some casual, unrelated to the race, carnage!

Newcastle's makeshift duo is 50% effective

Newcastle’s makeshift duo is 50% effective

The second heat was to take place on the Coupall, a tributary to the Etive flowing in the shaddow of Buchaille Etive Mhor, normally a rocky ditch, brought up to be a… raceable rocky ditch for the day!

Team member Jacob sussing his line on the second course

Team member Jacob sussing his line on the second course

The good lines continued and after everyone had posted their second heat time (a shorter, 1 minute course), the massive crew of racers and safety headed to the Coe for a few laps before the prize giving and party at Kinlochleven.

A massive congratulations to all the racers, especially Jiri from Bangor, taking first place and a big phat cash prize! And our very own team leader Josh who, also from Bangor, took 3rd.

Team member Josh flying down the racecourse to take his 3rd place finish

Team member Josh flying down the racecourse to take his 3rd place finish

Thanks everyone for turning up and making it such a sick weekend! Also a massive thanks to the race organisers…

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See you all next year!

 

Credits:
Photos Courtesy of Kirsten Rendle and Geoff Cooper

Training in Uganda

With winter well and truly in swing and a massive lack of rain in Scotland preventing us from doing our thing, Calum and myself headed off to the sunny pearl of Africa…Uganda! Where the White Nile flows from Lake Victoria you’ll find some of the finest big volume river running and play waves in the world, catering from your casual kayaker to the best big wave freestyle paddlers around! With little persuading needed our team of 5 booked flights back in August and before we knew it we were in the air heading for Entebbe, followed by a few hours in a Matatu (taxi) to our campsite at NRE (Nile River Explorers – raftafrica.com) and the home of Kayak The Nile. We arrived just in time to bring in the New Year, which involved the second annual Beer Olympics (we were straight up terrible) and introducing the Ugandans to Buckfast Tonic Wine (needless to say it went well). This was the best welcome to the Nile that we ever could have expected, and kudos to everyone at NRE for making it so epic…many a funnel was seen off that night…

NRE Bar - Calum, Leslie, Jack, Roddy

NRE Bar – Calum, Leslie, Jack, Roddy

Overlooking Bujugali Lake (once Bujugali Falls) this place defines paradise, and is where we lived for our three weeks away. Calum and myself used this trip as a good opportunity to find transport, haggle prices, and generally be dirtbag kayakers living on a shoestring in preparation for Mada, and it definitely paid off! It really is amazing just how little you can get by on if you’re prepared to search and ask, also getting fed by locals was always fun (eating great food and meeting amazing people!). The first week or so was spent exploring the different channels of the river, getting a feel for the paddling style (/being wedged in a playboat that’s too small), and spending whole days lounging and surfing at SuperHole. Now I’m not much of a playboater, but even after just three weeks it’s amazing how much your skills develop and I’m sure a lot of people will be testament to that. Want to get good at kayaking? Head to Uganda.

Leslie - Nile Special Wave Access

Leslie – Nile Special Wave Access

In week two we treated ourselves to a few days camping at the Hairy Lemon Island (hairylemonuganda.com), a self sustaining island paradise where you can spend all your time sessioning the infamous Nile Special surf wave (epic), along with Bells Hole (trashy beatdowns) below, and Club Wave last (for those 6am wake-up sessions). This is where you’ll truly learn a new style of paddling, and find that getting kicked a foot or two in the air by its power is all part of surfing…bring on the air screws! Waving goodbye to the Lemon myself and two others decided to public transport it the 6hr trip north-west to Masindi in order to see all the pretty animals and check out Murchison falls, an incredible rapid where the entire Nile funnels through a 6m wide gap! If this mini-holiday taught me anything it’s two thing: avoid crocs at all cost, they’re scary; and public transport is wild, sweaty, and highly uncomfortable in general, however it was worth it considering the cost was around £4/5 each way!

Calum - Blunts For Dayzzzz

Calum – Blunts For Dayzzzz

The rest of the trip was spent with more lazy super hole days, a lot of nights in the curry house (amazing), and tagging onto raft trips in order to paddle the entire section of river – from below Bujugali dam to the Hairy Lemon island, where lots of food and beer awaited us. Home time came around way too fast, and just in time for the famous Nile River Festival we had to jump on our plane (Uni term spoiling all our fun!). However the time we spent there has opened my eyes to new kayaking styles and a totally different way of life, I think I could live there extremely easily (and perhaps one day I will). I honestly urge anyone of any kayaking ability to head out for a holiday, get some fantastic lessons from the good people at Kayak The Nile (kayakthenile.com), and just experience Uganda in all its friendliness and hospitality.

Before it’s too late, the stretch of the Nile that has become so notorious is gradually disappearing due to damming projects. Already the Silverback rapids at Bujugali have been lost, of which I am sad enough that I never got to experience, and the rest of the rapids are under serious threat from the proposed Isimba dam. This is likely to happen in the next few years. Check out the film ‘A Dam Shame’ by Sam Ward (https://vimeo.com/37428996) for an insight into the Bujugali dam impact and celebrating the rapids before they disappeared.

Huge thanks to Scotty Robinson for making sure we didn’t drop into death rapids! Also along with big thanks to the guys at KTN – Dave, Sam, Emily – for sorting Jack with boats when Brussels Airline lost his (and just generally being good to us), Flo and the rest of the NRE guys for putting up with our mess, and anyone we met/fed us when we were floating about.

Until we meet again Africa!

UGANDA: 2015 from Jack Brickell on Vimeo.

Credits:
Film Produced by Jack Brickell
Photos Courtesy of Murray Gauld

Another weekend in Wales

With university (almost) over for the year, Josh, Matt and Sam got some excellent boating in over the weekend with friends.
Early Friday morning there was plenty of water around, and Josh had to finish an essay due in at midday. While Josh started writing we paddled the Mawddach.

Rhaeadr Mawddach

Rhaeadr Mawddach – we didn’t feel like running it!

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First fall on the Mawddach – Photo by Luke Davies

After a smooth run down and driving the relatively long shuttle (short compared to the length shuttles will be in Madagascar), we met Josh at Beaver Pool. The Fairy Glen had a bit more flow than we would like, so we got on the Lledr instead. The Lledr is an awesome river, the section starts with a small slide before entering a gorge. After a great run it was almost sunset, so we headed towards Josh’s house to eat some food.

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Josh running the walled in drop at the start of the gorge on the Lledr

Saturday morning we expected levels to be low. After finally getting my car to start, we headed towards the Fairy Glen, pleasantly surprised to find it at a good level. We had a few exciting laps!

The next day, with little rain overnight rivers were looking too low at about half 7 to get a run in before Josh headed to work. But with heavy rain forecast Matt was on his way from Nottingham. We met at the Wnion and put on as it was rising fast.

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Having fun on the Wnion

With only a few hours of daylight left we headed towards the Mawwdach. We split in to two groups running the Mawdach, and the Eden which is a tributary of the Mawddach with the same take-out at public toilet falls. The Mawddach was a bit higher than it was on Friday, and racing against daylight made it a slightly less relaxed run.

Josh also got some good paddling in on Monday on the Fairy Glen.

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Josh in the first gorge of the Fairy Glen – Photo by Barnaby Prees