Monday, March 31, 2008

Injisuthi - South Africa

Chris Lee near the source of the Injisuthi - Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

South Africa's Central Drakensberg remains a fortress of cliff peaks backing up high against the mountain plateaus of Lesotho. Nightly thunderstorms in the summer are good news for paddlers when big drainages like the Umkomas, Bushmans and Buffalo rivers start pumping. Coming straight from the source as one big artery of the Tugela River are the quality drops found on the Injisuthi.

Grahame Henebry gets the goods at 7am

This highly rain dependent creek comes to life in January and February in a matter of hours when rainclouds creep over the peaks and position themselves low overhead. Getting on it early morning after a storm is optimal and nobody has this practice down better than Chris Lee and the crew from Four Rivers rafting nearby. As another day pushing rubber was in their midst, five of us bared a four am wake up call after listening to the rain rage for most of the night.

Sunrise and good views.

The drive begins with a windy road up the Injisuthi valley past numerous local villages. An easy reminder for the takeout is the washed out bridge which you cross just prior to the road climbing steeply. You can turn right across from the school and venture down a dirt track to park almost at the shore. Back on the main road continue until dirt changes to pavement again and stop when you can see the Injisuthi appearing quite steep at a "gorge pools" pullout sign.

Michelle Basso just below the put-in

It was still nearly dark when we launched out from the pools and straight into the first drop backed up by boulders on both sides. This first boof does not really represent the run as most sections turn into boulder mazes, short slides and narrow canyons. As sun broke over the hills we came to the biggest slide about a third of the way down. A big tree blocks most of the entry but the line works right to left.

A nice wake up hit at the bottom

After here keep an eye out for a steep boulder garden about halfway down the entire run. This rapid is backed up by two wide holes and a giant rock on the right with pin potential at the bottom. Our water level made this section a good place to scout. If the water is low you will become quite aware of more sieve/pin potentials in other places further on down. Also near the end are two easy portages around things looking no-so-nice. As the Injisuthi faded to the flats, the boys got to work late but still had the whole day ahead of them. If you are heading to the rivers of Natal keep the Injusuthi on the list when the rains are heavy. Thanks to Jackie Fourie and Chris Lee for the base camp in the beautiful Drakensberg.

View Injusithi Creek (IV) in a larger map