Friday, February 01, 2008

Tsitsa River, Transkei - South Africa

Enjoying another face full on the Tsitsa River- South Africa

The Tsitsa River is a natural frontier between the once Transkei homeland and the Eastern Cape region. Still today in its entirety down to the Indian Ocean, the Tsitsa flows through a wild and remote region of South Africa.

Before joining together 3 major tributaries which form South Africa’s 3rd largest Mzimvubu River, the lower reaches of the Tsitsa run through an impressive gorge full of multi-day challenges. This section has seen few paddlers ever and requires a rope rappel into the gorge below the largest waterfall on the river.

Upper Tsitsa Falls

However quite a ways upstream, the homestead now belonging to Adriaan Badenhorst sits just above another Tsitsa waterfall and is the ultimate base in exploring Transkei whitewater. Above and below the falls is Adi’s homerun, where a perfect horseshoe in the river makes a 4km boulder garden feel like any true creek mission. Once out of the gorge, a short walk across the maize field will return you back to cold beers, kerosene lanterns, meat on the braai and billy the pet goat.

Beware of the no-good boat eating goat

Finding the Upper Tsitsa is simple. Head for the town of Maclear and follow the signs for Tsitsa Falls which are about 25km past town. Another 7km on the dirt puts you at Adi’s homestead which will be hard to leave if the rivers in the area are pumping.

The falls at high water

Chances are you will have a personal guide if you show up for the home run, but should you not, put in where the bridge below Adi's house crosses the road. From here a few rapids serve as a warmup before portaging the falls on river left. Once into the gorge, the first rapid below the falls is ran from the right. Take care of some siphon rocks at the lead-in.

Another difficult rapid containing a siphon on river right is not far below. However a sweet boof is waiting on the left.

Adriaan B. boofs in the second major rapid

The rest of the Tsitsa homerun remains technical but easy to boat scout out on your way down. After a low angle slide the river eases. At a right bend in the river take out where the climb out looks relatively easy. Unfortunately like all the rivers in the area, the car won't be near the shore.

Soon after, the Tsitsa joins the Pot River downstream and continues to be an excellent whitewater engagement. Be prepared for a longer day including map logistics and off road driving if you venture further down. Of course lapping the Tsitsa homerun while chilling at the farm is a fine example of what Transkei whitewater has to offer. The (other) Mooi, Pot, and Tina rivers are close by if you are keen for un-established creeking in this beautiful isolated region of South Africa.

View Tsitsa River (IV+) in a larger map