Mini Adventure Day


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Mini Adventure Day with ESSA

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By Stuart Martin

The Exploration Society of Southern Africa (ESSA)

The Pelindaba Mini Adventure Day was held at Pelindaba Nature Reserve on 8 October 2011. The event included hiking, climbing, abseiling and river rafting and was attended by 41 ESSA members and guests. The event took on the form of a circular route which started out with a briefing session at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa picnic site at Pelindaba.

The group started with a ± 6 km hike down to the Hennops River, which saw us crossing the nature reserve and enjoying some typical Magaliesburg scenery. After a bit of confusion with respect to the actual location of the start of the river rafting, which resulted in us reverting back to mobile phones to locate the staging point, the ice was broken, new friendships were made and we all got to know each other a bit better.

After locating the correct point on the river and carrying our rafts (crocs) and kayaks down to the Hennops River, we were given a demonstration and safety briefing. There were quite a few first timers and tensions were high as we prepared for our venture into the river. For me, it was a first time; however I had confidence in my partner who would be navigating us through the river and its rapids. I quickly realised that the one way to stay dry was to work as a team and not fight each other on the croc. This included paddling in unison and agreeing on the route and direction and sticking to it. Soon we found ourselves joining up with the Crocodile River and after a couple of rapids, my heart seems to slow down and I found myself enjoying the trip. The trip was interspersed with portages where we needed to exit the river and carry the kayaks/crocs past obstacles and here the newly made friendships and the sense of camaraderie had us all helping each other onto the river banks. As it was getting hotter, we found an ingenious way of staying cool by all wearing “croc” hats, a communal hat created by carrying the croc on your head.

Along the route we got to see some of the lodges and private homes which have been developed along the river and it made me wonder if there really added any value to the local area. The recent rainfall event had caused a big flood surge and seeing litter spread across the banks and high up into the trees made one realise that we were not that far from civilization and the effects of people and development on our fragile ecosystems, etc.

The river rafting took us ± 10 km back towards the picnic site and included some more interesting rapids, weirs and passages under a bridge before it ended far too quickly. Just as we had all got to terms with this new venture we needed to haul the crocs back to the picnic site and friendships made earlier in the day were reinforced as we walked up the hill all laughing and recalling the day’s activities.

The next event included the rock climbing and abseiling and once again I decided to conquer a personal fear of heights and not being 100 percent in control of my destiny and attempted the abseiling. The terms there is “nothing to fear, but fear itself” was proven to be true as the 10 minutes waiting to go was worse than the 25 m abseil itself. One small lesson learnt was that one should wear gloves and about 3 m above the ground, my hand and the ever growing blister was occupying most of my attention and I found myself forgetting about the rest of the “trip” down. That just proved a point; I was relaxing and coming to terms with the event at hand. After touching terrafirma again, I was exhilarated and was happy that I had taken the proverbial “jump” and tackled my fears heads-on.

I did not attempt the rock climbing as that would just have been pushing my luck. I had achieved two new exploits and could walk away with my head held high, knowing I had spent some time outside of my comfort zone in the presence of some special individuals and out in nature. This was humbling and left me tired and content.

I would like to thank ESSA for arranging this amazing event and would definitely recommend it to everyone. There is nothing more exhilarating than challenging oneself out in nature and this humbling experience will stay with me for a long time.

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