I am adventurous. I travel to discover and to learn. However, I cannot call myself an adrenaline junkie. I do extreme sports not because I like them, but because I want to learn how they’re done. Adrenaline junkies get pumped up before doing an activity, and then get really excited in the process of it. In my case, I get scared when doing it and excited once am done. See the difference? The good thing is, I have managed to get some experience doing several adrenaline sports even though I got completely terrified by some. The day I will get pumped up to sky dive will be my turning point.
White water rafting was a sport I had always wanted to do. I had listened to people who have done it before, talk about it, and I couldn’t help but want to try it out. Interested in, the activity but not too excited about it, I made plans and confirmed the date.
Ladies and gentlemen, behold, the Savage Wilderness Camp, Sagana.
This camp is located at the shores of Sagana River. The camp is owned by Mark Savage & Co’s and some of the guides have over 15 years of experience. Knowing this built my confidence and I was ready for the adventure. I arrived at Savage Wilderness camp at around 2pm.
The ideas were to check in, freshen up then join the others at the reception for a briefing. At the briefing we were told that we couldn't go rafting on that day because time wasn't on our side. It was only 3pm, but White water rafting at Sagana takes between 4 to 6 hours, so we couldn’t risk being in the water at dusk.
Now that rafting was out of the question, the camp offered some alternative activities for free. Archery, mountain biking, wall climbing and zip lining to be precise. My adventure got even more exciting. The experiences were amazing. However, I will not digress and go into detail because I would be stealing the white water rafting’s thunder. Let’s let it have its 15 minutes of fame, shall we?
The next morning I was up early. By 7.30am, I had taken breakfast and by 8.00am the briefing had started. We were provided with a safety gear comprising of a jacket and a helmet. The guide told us what to expect, how to react in different circumstances and the secrets of survival. By the time he was done, everyone was more scared than they were when they arrived. The guides had zero chills. According to them, it was important to prepare the participants psychologically, and prepare us they did. Before the briefing ended, he asked if there was anyone who did not know how to swim. I almost lifted my hand up. I thought that if you said you didn't know how to swim, the guides would be quick to save you in case you fell in or the boat capsized. Well, we will find out. Those who lifted their hands were given white helmets while the rest of us had yellow ones. The van got loaded with boats; we got in and were driven to the starting point. Let the adventure begin!
There were four boats. Each boat has a carrying capacity of six people seated in three rows. When we were deciding where to seat, the guide told those with white helmets to sit next to him. The guide’s spot is at the back. In our boat, only one lady had a white helmet. I volunteered to sit with her at the back. This was in the hope that that the guide would save the both of us in case of an emergency.
In the beginning the water was calm. This gave us the opportunity to compose a motivational chorus, get more briefing about what to expect and to receive instructions. The guide used terms such as 'get down'. That was the cue to shift from the edges and sit inside the boat at the center. ‘Jump left!’ ‘Jump right!’ ‘Forward peddle!’ ‘Backward peddle!’ etc.. Every time he said these phrases, he was shouting. For a moment, it felt like I was in the military. The calm water provided ample time to practice our response to the phrases.
He asked if anyone was ready but no one responded. Everyone was worried. This seemed like a death warrant. Suddenly, the guide grabbed the lady with the white helmet and dropped her into the river. Everyone was shocked! "She doesn't know how to swim!" We shouted. The guide pretended not to hear us. The lady struggled, fought with water until she was exhausted and finally gave in. She then started to float nicely and calmly. At this point, the guide asked me to help pull her back into the boat.
She was used to illustrate to us that we shouldn't fight with the water. If anyone should fall in by any chance, we were instructed to remain calm, lay on the water facing up and the life jacket would help us float. It was that simple. I kept telling myself to get ready because I would be the next one to get thrown into the water. Who told me to sit next to the guide?
The river started getting shallow and hence the water speed increased. We would often be told to paddle forward and backward. We were warned of the possibility of crocodiles being in the river, and snakes and spiders falling inside the boat. The guide was kind enough to demonstrate how to handle such situations. “Who wished for all this, really?” I questioned myself. The guide gave us a chance to quit while it was still early. Listening to him, you would think no one had ever survived water rafting before. He was very good at creating a thrilling scenario. Adrenaline is already up and high. No one is saying to another, probably saying silent prayers.
We started to come across some gentle slopes on the river and the guide would ask us to paddle backwards.
“This is fun!” I thought to myself. Mark Savage (our guide and founder of Savage Wilderness camp in 1987) has over 30 years’ experience doing this. He would tell us what was coming next, whether a gentle slope or a rapid, he knew the river like the back of his hand. We experienced the first rapid that was so intense that water entered our boat. Everyone got wet and this marked the beginning of the thrill. From here on the rapids came one after the other but we knew how to manoeuvre through.
The point that was completely breathtaking was when we got to the drop. This is where the boat went down on a free fall. Everyone was screaming, holding tightly to the boat. Luckily, it landed with everyone still inside it.
It was now time for a break. The guide asked us to jump into the water then mimic saving each other. This was a bit scary because water was flowing at a high speed. He spent almost 30 minutes narrating the history of the river and explaining more about his career. Little did we know that this point was the climax of the adventure. To everyone’s surprise, he started to paddle the boat towards the fall. We tried to figure out what he was up to, but couldn’t figure it out. It seemed like he was trying to fight the laws of physics and get the boat to go back up the waterfall. The water was unrelenting. The guide still continued to what seemed like trying to make the boat go back up the waterfall. Suddenly, the boat capsized, turning it completely upside down. All of us got immersed in the river.
While the guide was busy trying to turn the boat back, we all got swept up by the current. We were meters away from the boat trying to swim towards the river bank. The thrill, tension, fear, excitement and other mixed feelings characterized the escapade. Indeed this was the climax.
After that the water became calm and we got back into the boat and paddled gently with everyone talking about the experience. Savage Wilderness Camp was meters away from this point. This marked the end of an adventure we would live to remember.
If you are reading this, gather your crowd and go experience this adventure. It is totally worth it.