The Vaal's banks burst with beauty, adventure and colourful characters
Shaun Smillie follows the Vaal River as it winds its lazy way through industrial landscapes and idyllic rural scenes, and meets some interesting folk along the way
Grey, fat and lazy. That's the Vaal River that eases its way through the petrochemical companies and steel mills of Sasolburg. Kilometres later, the same sluggish river slips under the N1 highway, where it leaves Gauteng and continues its journey straddling the North West and Free State provincial borders.
Then, not far from the N1, the Vaal reaches the Barrage Reservoir. Here South Africa's third-longest river squeezes through a set of sluice gates. What emerges on the other side of those gates is a new river - skinnier and faster, with lots of white water...