After getting more than we bargained for on our hike through the Vredefort dome, we set our sights on our final day in Parys. The sun was out again and we were ready for some whitewater fun rafting down the Vaal River.
Of the many tour companies operating out of Parys, we chose Earth Adventures for our river rafting because, well, they had a Groupon! We checked out of the Parys River Cottages at 8:30 in the morning among a group of rowdy bachelor party revelers who were already hitting the bottle hard. KIP’S STAG WEEKEND PARYS 2016! We finished checking out and we hopped in the Jeep for a short drive down Kopjeskraal Road to the Earth Adventures offices, where dozens of families were parking and gearing up for a day on the river. We collected our life jackets and helmets (safety first!) and about 40 of us piled in to an open trailer pulled by a pick-up truck (safety first?) to head up the road to the starting point. It turns out the river entry point was back at River Cottages where we had stayed the night. About 40 inflatable two-person rafts were now arranged in the grass flanking the Vaal River.
After claiming our rafts, everyone waited around for further instructions before realizing we were still waiting on more rafters to join us. It turns out not everyone could fit into the pick-up trailer. Alas, the final group arrived, complete with KIP’S STAG WEEKEND PARYS 2016! The rafting leader lead us through a safety briefing, shaking off the drunken interruptions from the bachelors with witty comebacks of his own. Once all the instructions were delivered, the now enormous group of about 80 people all walked to the shoreline with rafts and paddles in hand to push off.
Interestingly enough, Earth Adventures doesn’t mess around with boat ramps to enter the river. A six foot ledge works just fine, as long as you get a good enough push (see the 15-second mark in the video below). Cici and I hopped in the boat and enjoyed our first thrill of the day as we were scooted into the river at a 45-degree angle, promptly drenching us and dispelling any pipe dream we had of staying relatively dry during the trip. The small armada of rafts were all floating now, and the group set off down the Vaal River like the most disorganized and unimpressive Naval fleet one could imagine.
The rafting was a fun mix of idyllic floating and some reasonably intense but not-too-dangerous rapids. We definitely weren’t navigating any Class 5’s here. Still, they were challenging enough to launch us into a bank of reeds (1:00 in the video), setting us up for a beautiful 360 recovery maneuver. The rockier, faster sections also proved especially difficult for KIP’S STAG WEEKEND PARYS 2016!, who struggled down the river after capsizing, a few falls, and even a deflated raft. Please don’t drink and raft, people.
We stopped halfway down the river on a small sandbar and ate lunch before finishing back near the Earth Adventures office. The only small complaint of the trip was the size of the group. In many of the rapid sections, we waited in a long line of rafts, and it felt a bit like being at Disneyland waiting for what seems like an eternity in line for 90 seconds of thrill. Despite the large group, we thoroughly enjoyed the sunny day rafting on the Vaal River. All that was left now was to enjoy some local brews at the Dog and Fig Brewery.