So the Perihala festival promised us rain..and the rain came...

And it poured. All night long. On us. After being told the night before there was a serial killer "The greasy murderer" on the loose, we squeezed into a failed excuse of a tent to have the worst nights sleep of our lives. But we didn't die so we decided we couldn't complain all day and headed to the Goorook Oya, a promising bedrock run we had scouted the day before. From the road it looked amazing and we were really excited especially as it seemed not to have been run before. We had a get in and get out scouted, but decided to make the most of the rain and headed even further upstream so as not to miss anything while the river was high. 


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Will drops into the gorge
This upper section is a hard one to catch due to a mini hydro scheme in construction removing water at the top. Clean drops and slides were the order of the day, but also a few siphons to avoid. This section also contained a fairly major portage round a beast of a double drop, which would be sweet to run if it wasn't for an unwelcome protruding rock slab at the top. Such a shame! That disappointment was short-lived as the river cleaned up from this point on.

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Happy Birthday Tom!! Celebrating in style
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The middle section got better and better as we descended. One big flair move was so clean that we thought we must have hit the best rapid on the run. 100 metres further down and unbelievably we were standing on top of a 7-8 metre fall with a clean lead in and pool, happy birthday Tom!! A tricky move to make went well for everyone, clean lines all round.

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Will hits the line on "Birthday Falls"
This includes Tilak, a raft guide and safety kayaker at Borderlands who joined us for some “training.” We were extremely happy to have a Sri Lankan with us on a probable first descent (let us know if you’ve been there already!) Tilak styled all the big moves on this his third river, amazing stuff, the boy is brave. 

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Tilac brings out the old school moves.
We met Mahesh with the truck at a bridge as the river gradient flattened and the valley began to open up, the end of a classic run in stunning surroundings. World class creeking.

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Niamh lines up another big slide
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Sean in the slot
There was enough time left in the day to run the last 5 kilometres of the river down to the confluence with the Mahawelli Oya, Sri Lanka’s longest river. This grade 3/4 section was totally worthwhile for its stunning village life surroundings, vibrant bird life and the open mouthed, wide eyed expressions on the faces of local bathers as the aliens paddled by, good times. We celebrate with a night on the town of Gompola for Tom’s birthday, drinks and food at the Cricket club, a throw back to colonial times. What a day! 

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Because da jungleistmassif
With only a couple of days left in this unexplored area, we decided to move on and see what else we could find. With time getting on we choose to get on a river, a tributary to the Sithawaka, and meet Mahesh downstream at the local tea factory. This didn’t quite go to plan....

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A fairly bouldery start and quick portage saw us arrive at the first clean drop. After throwing some rocks into the plunge pool and hearing the satisfying sound of stone on water, it was game on. It was a difficult move to style, but gave us hope of what was to come downstream.  

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Dave & Nick throwing some shapes off the drop
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The river continued with a series of fun moves interspersed with the occasional obligatory portage.  However as we progressed the river got steeper and steeper, becoming choked with boulders, before long it seemed we were portaging more than we could paddle. 

After spending an hour portaging through thick jungle around a heinous drop into an unpaddleable chasm we were running short of time and energy, thoughts of spending the night in the jungle in wet thermals in our head. The river changed from green to bright orange and back to green as intermittent downpours flowed into the river.

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With half an hour of day light left we finally spotted the beginning of a tea plantation river left, the first sign of civilisation all day. Rounding the corner, we had never been so relieved to see a stretch of flat water ahead of us.  We paddled across as the sun set and, clambering over the next boulder found to our surprise a narrow path heading up the valley.  After stashing the boats in a clearing we fired up the sat phone and headed up the path.  Before long we came across a house, and carrying on up a path met some helpful locals who lead us up the winding path to the road. Reaching the road and having had no luck with the sat phone we wondered how we would meet up with our truck.  However it wasn’t long before we saw Roshan our fantastic local guide and Mahesh following in the truck, they had been concerned that we might not make it to the get out and had spent the afternoon walking up the river hoping to find us, we couldn’t ask for a better support team.

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To complete the mission we started early the next day with a long hike in to get our boats. Mahesh had walked up the river bed in search of us and said he'd seen some nice rapids later on, so we powered on with aching muscles this time being led luxuriously by path, by some locals. He was right. We managed to finish the section with a couple hundred meters of smooth, clean slides. All in all, a pretty amazing adventure!

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We managed to finish our day and exploration of the Sitahwaka valley with a tour of the tea factory in our favourite child filled village. Once we'd shaken the children of our boats we had a lovely, chilled few kilometers of clean bedrock fun. 
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We have arrived in Sri Lanka! Travelling with the boats went suprisingly smoothly and bar the person throwing up on himself next to Will so did the flight. When we arrived in the airport we were met by Mahesh who is one of the raft guides working for Borderlands. We then went to the Borderlands office in Colombo which boasts the capitals only outdoors sports shop. Here we met with Wade and discussed our plan of action.
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Chunky sharing some of his knowledge on the rivers of Sri Lanka.
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A meeting with the Secretary General of the Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO (try sayingthat after a fe Arracks,) and president of the National Association of Canoeing and Kayaking Sri Lanka, Mr Prahara. His blessing and covering letter will hopefully go some way to easing any access issues as we begin to explore the country. This was also a pretty fun and strangely officious beginnings to the trip. That evening we headed for Borderlands and the Kelani river.

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Dave getting involved with some serious fruit shopping,
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First get on, Kelani raft run!
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Warming up on the Kelani river
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Day 2, Upper section of the Kelani
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Day 2, best rapid on the upper Kelani.
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Thilak, one of Borderlands safety kayakers, and chief raft guide on his first run of the upper section!
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'Raptors' at rest, this is a wee shot of the Borderlands raft camp, our main base camp from which to explore for the next month. Were starting off on the rivers located within a day trip of this camp and will head off deeper into the hills to paddle over the next few days.
 
 
Having spent part of my past three summers in Norway i noticed that the Sjoa, Otta and Valldal areas have many world class grade 3/4 runs and was therefore suprised at how few club trips had been to Norway. The trips that had been had focused largely on the Hedmark area. I therefore, slightly nervously, planned a club trip to Norway with Imperial College London canoe club. The trip went amazingly well with everyone paddling everyday and with some imppressive paddling from some of those less experienced. We also managed to sneak off and run a few more exciting sections.

The stats:
12 people
2 Broken boats
3 sets of blades lost (on and off river)
1 hospital visit (me). Muppet 
5 stitches
40 Swims
100+ Weiner melanges consumed
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Put in for Middle Valdolla
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Tom on the Upper Valdolla
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The Amot section of the Sjoa
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The local wildlife
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Upper Valdolla
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We made good use of a fishing lean to and turned it into a sauna with the help of a tarp and some hot rocks
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Hi Five!
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All photos by Ralph Evins and Rik Williams
 
 
A wet weekend in Wales gave the perfect opportunity to take the brand new Zet Veloc out and put its through its paces.  I headed down to South Wales with Rob Moffat and Stu Martindale.
We decided to warm up with a run down the middle Tawe at a medium level.  First impressions of the Veloc were that it is very responsive and easy to manouver whilst maintaining the ability to ride over holes without losing any speed.  I also had a lot of fun surfing some small waves, made easier by the inclusion of small edges at the front of the boat.
We then hit the rapidly rising Mellte, my first time down this Welsh classic and a chance to test out the Veloc on some waterfalls and more challenging rapids.  It more than delivered and felt very easy to paddle even on challenging lines.
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Dropping off the main waterfall, Sgwd y Pannwr    All Photos: Stuart Martindale
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A meaty hole in the midst of the Sri Lankan rainforest.
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The Veloc is fast! Paddling back up for another go.