On Saturday, 22nd December we joined the African Water Wanderers for a fun-filled morning on the Breede River. We arrived at around 8h30 and met our guide, Devin, the owner, Marius, and two other groups joining for the rafting adventure. We walked to the river and had coffee and rusks before being given a safety brief and getting into our life jackets. It was evident from this point that we were in the hands a capable, knowledgeable and very humorous river guide.
Damian was not keen to get in the boat. As with all new adventures, I knew he would be scared until he figured out what it was all about. His Bumbo, fit perfectly into the ‘crocodile’ and provided a perfect and snug seat for the trip. We shared a boat with Mike so we were three up. Within a few minutes Damian was comfortable and loving the experience. One thing he was adamant about though was that I was not allowed to stop paddling. For some reason it worried him if we were just floating. He would erupt into giggles though when we crashed into the trees on the side of the river. We told everyone we did it on purpose just to make Damian laugh. Devin had a great sense of humour, sometimes he had us confused as to whether he was serious or joking – like not remembering which route to take, or that he was on his last warning.
When we made our first stop, everyone was given an opportunity to climb out and swim. We passed at this point as we were still ‘finding our feet’ on the river. Devin told us that whoever was left in the boat needed to help the other back in. How we should do this was to grab the other person by the life jacket, push them under water, which would bounce them back up like a cork, helping to pull them back into the boat. Again, we were not quite sure of his level of seriousness at that point.
The route was so peaceful. We had a multitude of dragonflies flitting about us. A big royal blue one hovered around us, sitting on my hand occasionally. It really was something to see. A little way ahead there was movement in the water and our guide tried to point out a snake but it was gone by the time we were close enough.
At about the half way mark we all stopped and were briefed about the swift moving channel ahead. It was only wide enough for one raft at a time and had a lot of overhanging trees. We needed to go down one at a time, allowing about half a minute after the person ahead was out of sight before heading down. Devin went first and waited to ‘catch’ us at the other end to help direct us to the small island where we would have our snacks. Also on this island was a surprise for us. Devin first walked the paths checking for tracks and making sure there was no wildlife around. When I asked what sort of wildlife he was checking for I was horrified to hear that on his last three visits there had been Cape Cobras. I had to ask! He came back, assuring us the paths were clear, and then told us to put our life jackets on ‘nappy style.’ We were going swimming! The life jackets were to protect our bums from stones on the bottom of the river. One of the other ladies asked is the cobras swim, to which Devin replied: “All snakes swim, except one. But don’t worry – you don’t find that one in South Africa.” THAT made me feel better about getting into the water!
We walked through a path and reached a step down into the water among the trees. Damian and I went first with Devin as he was going to help us. He went in front of me and I lay back with my feet hooked under his arms and Damian on my chest. The current carried us around the island at a slow, refreshing pace. Half way down Devin said: “When we get to the bottom I am going to need to stand and turn to grab onto you and the rope. It’s going to be tricky but we’ll figure it out when we get there.” Not great to hear at that point when we were already in the water and both hands were used to hold Damian. Anyway he figured it out and Damian and I weren’t swept away with the swift moving current at that point. Next, he strapped himself to a tree and waited to grab the others on their way down and pull them out of the current. It was great fun and Damian asked to go again, which we did. I was very surprised at his courage after being adamant in the beginning that he didn’t want to get in the boat.
We got back in our boats and set off for the last 3.5km of the trip. We stopped in some open water and Devin asked if Damian and I wanted to swim. I was still hesitating in a reply when Damian insisted we get out of the boat and swim – a second surprise. I got out first and then Devin helped Damian out into my arms. We floated for a bit with river plants wrapping around our legs, but the water temperature was refreshing – we heard afterwards that the temperature outside was 38 degrees while we were rafting. We put Damian back in the boat and then Mike said he was going to have to dunk me under water so I could bob back up into the boat, and our guide was still bus saying I could stand on his hand or leg (or whatever, I was busy avoiding being dunked at that point) to lever myself up, when I easily hauled myself up and into the raft. “Or you could just jump in like that,” he finished his suggestion..
The last stretch had one more swift moving channel and then we ended at a low bridge where Marius was waiting to load the boats, and us, to transport us back to the camp where we all enjoyed lunch together and more swimming in the river.
This really was an extraordinary activity for us and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute. We will definitely be joining the African Water Wanderers again – hopefully with more friends joining us next time.