Thursday, November 15, 2007
James Savage. A first descent of the Ragati slides, Kenya
The Ragati River is another primary artery to the Mt. Kenya drainage system that we were hoping was going to put out impressive results. On this side of the mountain the bedrock had somewhat changed from the pool drop nature so commonly found in the lava-like gorges nearby. Instead, the Ragati was known to have super slides one would hardly expect in this part of the world.
A weekend came about with the crew ready, and water levels ideal so we set out on a ground mission first to see what we could find on foot. Already the night before when the topo map was on the table, Simon had given us his word that there would be plenty more slides above the 1 and a half he had ran when he was here in 2004.
Within an hour from basecamp, we were walking easliy along the shore getting some interesting looks from local farmers, mothers and children who were least expecting 3 muzungus thrashing through their banana and coffee plantations while checking the river. From where the 1st descents of the slides left off in 2004, the original slide conqueror and myself headed further up the drainage to discover more of the goods that had been waiting patiently for our return.
The Ragati slides start of with a 200+ foot two-tiered monster slide that began with scouting discussions of ' yeah right' into 'ugly-hmmm' into 'interesting' as we neared top. Probably a good thing that we were walking from the bottom up. But in the end some of us were only willing to give the top part a go and this was going require more safety that we had. Beyond, the slides again pick up in size until Bamboocha hurls another 100+ feet of instant gravity loss your way.
Simon Coward drops in.
After Bamboocha, a few smaller ramps appear and a tight class V slot drop makes the Ragati feel like more than just a African supersized waterpark. Over a dozen slides later, including a grand finale on the original from 2004 that caused a near decapitating from the fierce shore vegitation, we were down on the flats with darkness fast approaching. The Ragati is currently one of Kenya's sweetest paddling discoveries. Until the next group appears, it is a fine symbol in the search for quality creeking in a region where whitewater has no face.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Simon Coward likes his boofs big. Muragua River - Kenya
After the past few weeks in Kenya it is hard to believe that I left Europe only a month ago feeling confident that I would not be missing nor needing my trusty Dagger Nomad that I had practically been living inside since June. Impressions of African big waves and endless blunt movies that have swamped the internet highway over the past few years had me mislead. But it was my friend Simon back home that had always been the secret source of the truth. Nearly 4 years prior, his adventure insights brought him and a kiwi crew to a paddling destination far from ordinary.
Lower Muragua Gorge.
Lying on the equator, Kenya is more than a country of grasslands and grazing zebras. Africa's second highest, Mt. Kenya and many other mountain ranges, contribute to a spectacular landscape and provide an enormous area of altitude and water that has to drain somewhere, somehow. No longer is it a fanciful thought. Kenya can convert you from vacation bluntboater to a creekboater in a matter of days.
A massive component to Kenyan river exploration has come from Marc and James Savage. Beginning as a bush pilot and mountaineer, Marc founded whitewater rafting and adventure tourism in Kenya. Marc and family are keeping things active with a river base paradise on the Tana river. However James is keen in the kayak and his goal of river exploration remains.
First descents are vast in this country, but the Muragua River was one of Simon and crew's original mission discoveries. Years later and none kayakers more it is still a short but swift gut punch of rad.
James Savage close to home.
The Muragua appears after miles of bumpy road at a bridge over a sweet slide to start things off. The friendly locals quickly gathered in conversation about today's unexpected entertainment. Eyes, hoots and smiles were to be the norm.
The Muragua is tight at the beginning, but soon opens up to what any adventure paddler seeks. Easy access, clean drops, and a highlight waterfall.
Further downstream beyond the KenGen dam, the Muragua plummets itself off an 80 foot waterfall shelf and into a gorge full of giant drops still waiting for a kayak to show up.
Here the access can be an issue as we found ourselves swatting through thorn bushes and sliding down drainage cracks to get down below the entry falls. There is so much action in this one drainage alone it is hard to imagine what could be lying just around the next corner or over the next hill. But already nearing 5:30 the sun is low and the scale of the whitewater ahead must be saved for another time and day. Wearing the red soil as the color of Kenya on our hands and clothes, we return to Sagana after a special day of whitewater in Africa.
View Maragua River (IV) in a larger map