FROM the minute we slipped into the cool waters of the Kaaimans River, I knew this was going to be the best fun ever. The day had started early at the headquarters of Eden Adventures, the Wilderness outdoor tour company where my three boys and I joined Steven Seiler, our guide, and the five others (two young American couples and a woman from England) who were coming kloofing with us.
According to the minimalist preinstructions, we had our cozzies on, and shoes suitable for rocks and water – and that was it. I had a pair of old surfing booties and the boys were wearing the strap-on sandals they got for Christmas.
Steve kitted us out further in wet-suits and life-jackets. And then we were off in the Eden Adventures kombi, first to pick up company boss Chris Legatt in the village and then up and up and up Hoogte Road into the heights area above Wilderness.
For a while it’s gentle smallholdings and then at a certain point you turn off and suddenly dense indigenous forest surrounds. After about 20 minutes and another steep incline we pulled up at Strawberry Farm. From there, Chris headed back down the mountain in the kombi in order to meet us at the end, and our kloofing party set off on foot first along the ridge and then down a precipitous path into the gorge.
Our focus was on the adventure ahead but the forest was stunning. Giant tree trunks pressed in on all sides and roots as thick as pythons snaked across the path. It wasn’t long before we were down and standing on the rocks on the Kaaimans. In the sweltering heat, Steve delivered his last briefing (stay together and take it slowly), photographs were taken and cameras were stowed in his waterproof box.
With no habitation or industries upriver, the water in the upper Kaaimans is pristine. We drank directly from the river as we kloofed down until the end where it starts to get brackish with the inflow of the sea. As in all the Tsitsikamma waterways it’s the colour of cola because of the tannin which leaches in from the surrounding vegetation. This seems to soften the texture of the water and make it even more inviting to swim in.
As we slid in, it was a kaleidoscope of colour. The sun shone down through the water column and turned the pebbles on the riverbed to gold ingots.
For the next four and a half hours, with a break in the middle for coffee, hot chocolate and biscuits, we swam, jumped, waded and floated down the river.
The life-jackets make the swimming a pleasure and if you get tired you just relax and bob along.
The jumps are not obligatory but they’re awesome if you want a bit of a challenge. Unwilling to be out-cowboyed by our two American friends and with my boys having already shown their mettle on the 8m jump, I tackled the 10m which involved leaping far enough out so as not to get snagged on the cliff, before plummeting down.
We were having such a good time it was hard to understand how more people were not in that gorge with us.
We contemplated their lemming-like mall-scurrying, and drifted on: elemental, supremely privileged, at peace.
At one point I looked back and saw my nine-year-old floating across a pool.
In the shadow of the cliffs he was glowing in his neoprene life-jacket like a little orange firefly.
Chris was there at the end with towels and dry clothes, cooldrinks for the kids and beers for the adults.
The Eden Adventures kloofing tour is an experience of a lifetime.