History

 A bit of background

For Graeme - just another day at the office!

I’ve been running rivers for years and have collected plenty of information about the many great routes, from easy wilderness waterways to wild, wild rapids in truly remote areas. I run trips and expeditions myself but can also advise you and book you with the most skilled and reliable operators. Ask my advice. And to know about great water conditions and special offers, join the whitewater watch list! A couple of decades ago, in remote corners of southern Africa, gaunt and ragged river-runners were seen to be experimenting with the concept of river touring by kayak and raft. We explored unknown rivers and learnt plenty of lessons. We developed rafts and other equipment for waterproofing and river camping.  The outfit was called RIVERMEN, and it is a legend today. For historic photos, go here. It wasn’t easy but it certainly was fun. At the start, people didn’t think you could paddle South African rivers for fun: the sport of canoeing was only for hardened Duzi competitors whose goal was to cram as much suffering into one day as they could. Rafting, kayaking and canoeing for fun became possible when we identified a number of great scenic trails on our rivers. As the years have gone by, many new rivers have been added so that today South Africa is a great paddling destination. Just take a look at the photo galleries and you’ll agree.

The River Tribe

Since the RIVERMEN, the industry has grown to cater for tens of thousands of thrill seekers and nature lovers every year. I wasn’t alone of course – many brave people helped to set up the trips. Among them were my sons, chiefly Corran Addison, who went on to become an Olympic paddler, took part in the Raid Gauloise, set the record for the highest waterfall that’s ever been run (Tignes in France, 100ft), and has twice been placed second in the world kayak freestyle championships. My girlfriend, then wife, Karen, also contributed imagination and wisdom to the Rivermen, and is a pretty good paddler too. Sons Brinyth and Emlyn both stuck with on the river in their formative years and have never quite recovered. Apart from these family heroes, there were canoeists like Deryck Armour, Wayne Nicol and Brian O’Regan, and a motley collection of wilderness guides, farmers, motor macs, soldiers of fortune and bywoners (hangers-on) who made it all happen. I’m telling the story in a book that’s being written now, so hang on yourself.

The rise of rafting

The river routes we pioneered then are incredibly popular today. The trips on this site reflects just a few. I’ve kept abreast of developments, continuing to run trips myself and working with other trip leaders and operators when appropriate. Equipment has developed too. Apart from setting up routes such as the Orange River Gorge and the Senqunyane in Lesotho, I realised the need for a small inflatable to negotiate our rivers and came up with the concept of the Croc (originally called the Krokodil) two-seater raft. This is the most widely used boat on our rivers today though unfortunately I was stupid enough never to get a patent. A whole local industry of boat-building and accessories such as wetbags, lifejackets and helmets, has come into being. The other thing we did was launch the Whitewater Training School which trained hundreds of river guides, as well as firemen and safety officers for canoe clubs. Today much of the training is handled by the APA (African Paddling Association) which I helped to found and run in the guise of SARA (South African Rivers Association).

Adventures in writing

As a result of what we learnt about equipment and techniques, I’ve written two books on rafting technique and the world’s rivers. Both are available through Amazon.com and both have been translated into other languages including Czech, German and French. I’m busy with other books right now – the memoirs of The Riverman and a work on River of the Crater (the Vaal River in the Vredefort Dome). The latter is a fascinating project because the Vaal is the only major river on Earth that cuts across a meteorite impact crater – and it’s the world’s oldest and largest crater at that. It is thought to have been caused by an asteroid impact way back 2000 million years ago. This area has been central to South African history and the crater blast was what buried and preserved the gold on which the country’s mineral wealth is built.

Far-fetched dreams

Are there rivers on other planets? I can’t wait to find out. Mars had some but it’s now dry. Sooner or later we’ll land on Europa or Callisto, moons of Jupiter which are thought to have water under their icy surfaces. Ice-tunnelling is one of the crazier varieties of river sport on the Earth today, so why not do it on strange and exotic worlds? I would hope to cover the story of the first under-ice whitewater expedition on Europa in my blog. Seriously, I am fascinated by planetary science, which is why I chose to live in the Vredefort Dome. Here I sometimes conduct downriver canoe tours, talking about the surrounding weird crater landscape as we float along.

Relax by the river

I live in the heart of the Dome at Otters’ Haunt, in Parys, a guest house and bush camp run by Karen. Across our front lawn is the picturesque and exciting Vaal. Our backyard is the open veld and mountains of the Dome Bergland. Daily we wake up to the calls of  vervet monkeys and the cry of fish eagles. And every day finds us paddling the river, hiking or mountain biking. If you need to chill out, or better enjoy the adventures on the river and off it, come and stay!

Professor Graeme

I was a Professor of Communication during the 1990s and continue to train journalists. This is the “other” Graeme; and some people will tell me there’s a river guide by the same name. Currently I specialise in science and technology journalism and book publishing, with eight books to my name chiefly on innovations that have changed the business landscape. My first love remains adventure and the outdoors, and I’ll be happy to introduce you to all the things we love to do out there on the winding water highway.

Ask my advice

Breeze through the site then contact me. I’ll tell you what’s best, give you a run-down on the latest river conditions and levels, and advise you on picking the right trip for your level of fitness or passion for white-knuckle stuff. You don’t have to scare yourself shirtless (though you can if you like!). There are great canoeing trails on mild waters, and there are many rafting trips that are exciting without being death-defying. So get hold of me! You can also sign on to my Whitewater Watch List for emails and Tweets on where the good water is and the expeditions and courses we’re running.  
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