Friday, March 25, 2011

Sabie & Graskop - Part 1 - Water Tubing

This is the first of a series of blogs I want to write about our recent adventure trip. It is mostly in first person narrative as I have experienced it.

For this trip, I did not do anything initially apart from giving the money to Alagiri. Hats off to Gnana and Alagiri for their entire trip organization. If not for them, it would not have been this great!

9 of us went to Graskop during the last long weekend and we hired 2 cars for our drive. Our stay was to be at Sabie, about 30 to 40 Kms before Graskop as we were to do some adventures in Sabie before heading to Graskop.

We planned for a early morning start at 4 AM on Saturday, but as usual managed to start by 5 AM only. The first seeming setback was when our car boot door got jammed. Luckily from the last Durban experience, we knew the boot space could also be accessed from within the car which did prove handy overall.

Alagiri and I were the only drivers for the two cars and we took our first break after 250 Kms of a scenic drive. The breakfast was a bit disappointing but everyone had a nice time watching the trout in the lake behind our restaurant. The other car had a GPS device whereas we were using Shajahan's AGPS from his mobile. Once we started from the Caltex break point, we took a left turn to Sabie through Lydenburg and Alagiri had sped off towards Nelspruit. So, two different routes for two cars but we knew both routes anyway converge near Sabie and just proceeded in our own ways.

Just after Lydenburg, it got so misty around 10:30 AM in the morning through the sinuous route that visibility was less than even 20 feet! It was absolutely tiring to focus so hard and drive only 40 kms in the next 1 hour. But strangely, everyone enjoyed this drive and we finally managed to reach Sabie at noon time.

I have to tell about Billy bongo Backpackers here where we stayed. It is so overwhelmingly better than the previous backpackers we have seen in our Durban trip - 1000 times better than the one from Durban! A very comfortable stay and I would recommend it on any day to everyone. We settled into our dorm rooms comfortably but still did not have our lunch yet. Kestelle, our adventure trip guide, arrived shortly and we had to start for our first venture (i.e.) water tubing, at 1 PM.

We had no idea what it was about until we underwent the whole thing! Basically, one gets to raft using water tubes (very good ones at that) on a flowing river. Kestelle did give us instructions on how to guide the raft, how to avoid rocks, how to use the trees & rocks in the flow, etc. But am not sure how many of us got the hang of it because it was too much information to digest frankly.

The funny thing was there were at least 5 of us who did not know swimming. Only Prabhu, Nanthu & Gnana knew swimming. Nanda could also manage, but barely. The rest of us were so noobish when it comes to swimming that the very notion of us tubing is laughable. But the brave (and naive) souls we were, we happily posed for some pictures and got onto it! Luckily for us, the river was flowing much faster than usual with more water apparently.

After the first fall into water, I was completely breathless and was probably even shouting for help :) Somehow, got onto the raft again and managed to fall again. This whole falling, rolling in water, bumping into rocks, getting tangled into thorny bushes continued for the next 2 hours. We were progressively getting better and I am sure many of us would probably like the tubing venture next time. But at that moment, I was so scared that I just wanted it to end at some point of time.

During the whole time, we could not help wonder how Kestelle was managing it so effortlessly and in fact, sometimes he was just coolly going upstream to save some of our friends who lagged behind or got tangled between bushes. Thankfully there were no crocodiles in the flowing water and I managed always to be either in the beginning of group tumbling & rolling in water (sometimes under my raft as well) or to be helped by others in our group.

Shaju and Karthik were our tubing heroes because they were mostly only rolling in water and into bushes :) In fact, Karthik was so hurt physically bumping against the rocks and shaken up with the whole thing that he had to drop off at about 3/4th distance. Once Kestelle talked about the final three rapids, even shaju and I wanted to quit - but Kestelle wouldn't let us drop! "Oh heck, I have to undergo this" was the only thing going on in my mind and suddenly there was Bhairavi with an unknown courage flowing in me!

The first rapid was the toughest of all. 3 people went through the first rapid successfully and then I decide to take the plunge. But my first step into the water itself was a setback as the raft toppled. Thankfully, Gnana was there to help me out immediately and I set upon it again. The first 2 twists of the rapid went on OK and on the third twist my raft toppled again flinging me into the water. I watched many others also follow my route - Alagiri lost one of his shoes in that rapid.

The other 2 rapids were relatively smoothly crossed and we reached the final frontier after over 3 hours, dropping anchor near a house on the shore. Karthik was already drying himself when we got our rafts to the shore and we took some snaps with Kestelle near our trailer.

Everyone in the group was drenched to the core and had several cuts on hands / legs. But most of us were extremely happy too that even we could do something like this!! I still remember my desperate attempts to stay afloat & alive, grapple with clutching at bushes and clawing at the river bed to stop rolling in the flowing water :-)

At the end of it all, I can claim to have lost a lot of my fear about drowning in water and am really thankful to Kestelle for forcing me through this. There started our admiration for this extremely fit person not only effortlessly did it all, but also helped us go through it.

More about rest of the trip in subsequent blogs ...


Krutika said...

I was searching for graskop trip as v r planning to this place,read ur experience..seems u guys have enjoyed.
I really enjoyed reading this ..;).could you help us whether u pre booked water tubing?if so where n how?

Rajasekhar said...

Might be too late now since I just saw the comment - but you might want to check for our guide Kestelle. He is just awesome!

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