When you go on a trip to find new rivers you have to accept that a very large part of that time will be spent in the car, bushwhacking and getting skunked. Along with scraping over rocks, making sketchy portages and occasionally buying a drink for a thirsty policeman. Though I enjoy all the different sides to kayaking, the process of finding new rivers is a tough one. I have been on a few trips where all the hopes and optimism for new whitewater to be found was extinguished by unfavourable water levels, inaccessible jungle and security issues, to name but a few reasons that kept us off the river. On my last trip to Kenya it felt like finally, for once, everything went in our favour.

photo David Sadomka

There were countless moments on this trip that left me and the crew stoked but the first descent of the upper section of the Niamindi river was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip.

We drove up to the edge of the forest that extends all the way to Mount Kenya and found our way down to the river. Putting onto the water we were delighted to see deep pools of water and find the river bed was made from smooth Volcanic rock. This type of rock is easily shaped by the water and many of the best rivers and waterfalls in the world can be found in close relation to volcanic regions.

The river wound its way through the canyon with a thick jungle canopy extending over the top of us, the rapids slowly picking up pace until we found ourselves at the first horizon line. Boat scouting from the slow water at the lip and deciding it was good to go we dropped over the edge and hit a beautiful boof of a ten-footer.

Dropping further into the gorge we came to another horizon line that we couldn’t boat scout. From a distance, we could see the spray being kicked up aggressively, a sure sign of water landing onto rocks.

Please be good, please be good to go – I thought to myself as we got out of our kayaks to scout.

Apprehensively moving closer to the edge I felt the corner of my mouth twitch and then break into a smile, it was good to go! The water fell onto rocks on the left and kicked up a big spray but on right-hand side, with a nice entry rapid was a ten-foot boof line right for the taking. The whole crew hit the line perfectly, avoided the rocks on the left, took the spray from them on the landing and we continued down the river.

The mysteries of blind horizon line after blind horizon line revealed themselves to us as perfect drop after perfect drop, interlaced with boulder garden rapids. Riding one of the last rapids out of the canyon I was ahead of the group, the river made a big turn to the left and I spotted an eddy to grab on river right that would allow me to look around the corner. Bloody hell, I thought to myself as I looked down the river, there was something big down there for sure but I couldn’t see how big.

Oftentimes only one person will scout and give beta or lead the others down, which saves valuable time on the river. I have sent the boys down some fair-sized rapids and have personally been blasted many a time down some serious sized rapids with no idea of what the rapid looks like other than to ‘start left and move right’. It works pretty well. Though occasionally there are times where the person scouting will tell the whole group they need to scout. The lip of whatever was down there was a good walk away with a lead in rapid right to the edge. As the boys rounded the corner, I pointed to my eyes to tell them we all needed to scout. Dane and I ran down the bank reiterating the old first descent, horizon line mantra in my head the whole way.

Please be good, please be good to go … nice entry rapid, please be good, please … bit of a hole to get over, please be good, beautiful rolling lip, c’mon! … Please be gooooo-Yessss it’s really f*cking good!

We whooped and cheered so loudly after finding out the waterfall was good to go that several locals came running to us to make sure we were okay.

We were stood at the bottom of a thirty-five foot waterfall with a rapid that lead into a small double drop then into a beautiful rolling lip and down the waterfall into a pool with a big soft boil (and no cave at the back of the waterfall). It is so rare to find a piece of river like this that has no gnarly parts to it. Even some of the best waterfalls in the world have some sort of cave or undercut in the landing. This waterfall on the Niamindi was just a perfect, beautiful piece of water.

The boys let me go first, which is a special privilege in our crew. Everyone is confident and capable and nobody minds where they go in the group but everyone would prefer to go first.

The skip from the double drop above the waterfall was insane and my kayak was fully out of the water on the second boof. I landed and my brain was trying to catch up as I came into that beautiful rolling lip of the waterfall, I forty-fived it (which means landing in between flat and fully vertical). The pool below was soft and loud as cheers from my crew and the locals that had gathered to watch sounded off into the jungle.

photo David Sadomka

All of the boys hit perfect lines down this absolute treat of a waterfall and we continued down the river.

Lots more good but chilled rapids brought us into another horizon line. At the water levels we had on the first descent it was a hideous (to me) crack into a thirty footer. Dane saw the line and went for it and while it was okay the line didn’t entirely sell it to me, so I decided to wait for it to have more water. We did a throw-and-go next to it and continued down to our takeout bridge, just above a fifty-foot waterfall we had done on the second day of the trip.

Getting to the takeout we celebrated once more at finding this section of river. We named it ‘Rags to Riches’ and we bombed lap after lap down it in between exploring other parts of Mount Kenya’s river system. It is one of my favourite sections of river in the world and I think it will quickly become a classic. We left the details of the put-in and take-out with James, Mike, Sammy and Glen of the Savage Wilderness crew that operates out of there and hope to have it added to the whitewater guide app for others to enjoy soon.

See you out there, Bren.