Paddling into the new year
What better way to start the new year than to hurtle down a few rapids, catch your breath at a stretch of still water, and then be off to face some more rapids?
That was my start to 2013, with some white-water rafting at Earth Adventures, an adventure company that operates near the Vaal River, just over an hour’s drive from Johannesburg.
Our big family group of 5 adults, 2 teenagers and 4 smaller children aged 11, 5, 6, and 7 donned our helmets, listened carefully to our safety briefing and then drove off in a big truck to the banks of the mighty Vaal.
Our experienced guides, many veterans of the most exciting rafting in the world at the Victoria Falls gorge in Zimbabwe, allocated us to our 2-person inflatable dinghies (2-person + small child in some cases), and pushed us off the edge of the bank on to the water.
It was a wonderful, exhilarating, exciting day. Put on your sunscreen, closed shoes, clothes you don’t mind getting wet in and take yourself off to the Vaal.
At first, a fair amount of confusion reigned. Some of the rafters were experienced, most were novices. But once people grasped the notion that you had to paddle in unison, and that the front person continued paddling while the ‘captain’ at the back steered and issued instructions, then the game was on.
At the first rapid – 'Big Daddy' – one raft capsized with both crew getting an unexpected swim. A long 4km stretch of quiet river followed, where we spotted some lovely waterbirds, including a Goliath heron, blacksmith lapwings, kingfishers and cormorants.
And after a much-needed break at a picnic spot (this paddling is hard work!) we continued our journey.
At the next 3 rapids, a handful more people fell out, all safely rescued and restored to their crafts by the watchful and very careful guides (no children fell out because they were very well looked after and their safety was paramount).
The last rapid involved dodging some rocks – most of us made it, but one unfortunate tipped over on the last rock of the last rapid. We’d paddled 10km and felt very proud of ourselves.
It was a wonderful, exhilarating, exciting day. Put on your sunscreen, closed shoes, clothes you don’t mind getting wet in (plus a change of dry clothes), and take yourself off to the Vaal.
And if you’re not a water baby, then try your hand at paintball, abseiling, quad bikes, fly-fishing, horse riding, clay-pigeon shooting or even bungee jumping.