I thought it important to research some of the things there are to do for our volunteer rugby coaches when they are in Swaziland and I am sure the white water rafting will appeal for anyone looking for excitement and adventure.
We were told to arrive at 8.30am at the Swazi Trails office not far from The Gables Shopping Centre and, after checking in, had a look at the craft shops next door. By 9am, the other “rafters” had arrived – a family consisting of Mum, Dad, and two little boys 8 and 10, and, of course, they knew Michael Collinson, the founder of Skrum, and Naomi their chief coach (like everyone else we seemed to meet!).
The journey South East to the Usutu River took about 1 hour and 30 minutes and the last 45 minutes was on unmade roads (which wasn’t good for my sciatica)but it gave us an opportunity to see more of this beautiful unspoilt country.
Once the boats were inflated, and we were kitted out with our life-jackets and helmets, we had a lesson on how to manage the paddles and get back in the “croc crafts” if we fall out. We launched ourselves onto the wide river in a calm part and had a practice. It was hilarious! I was in front as “navigator” and Sharon was behind as “steerer”. We kept getting our rights and lefts mixed up! I would shout “right”, meaning “turn right” and Sharon would use her right paddle which would turn us left! One of the two guides, suggested we swap positions and I have the say the person at the back has a lot of responsibility in turning the boat to avoid the many rocks and hazards in the water. We got stuck on rocks….sand banks…got very wet…but managed to stay in the boat. It was SO exhilarating! Finally, after a good hour, we stopped and got out of the craft and went to have a look at the final challenge, the famous “initiator”, a narrow gorge with twists and turns and very troubled water, and quite a drop and were given the choice to try it or walk round it. I decided that I wanted to finish on a good note and would leave that one until next time. And just as well. The first boat, with the Dad and one of sons, ended up capsizing! I was meant to be videoing it and was so distressed that forgot to push to button. But they managed to hold onto the boat and were fine. The second boat, with the Mum and other son, also got into trouble and ended up stuck next to some rocks and one of the guides had to climb down the rocks, get into the craft and help them paddle out. Sharon did it with the guide and they sailed through. She had a big smile on her face and so did I despite being such a chicken.
After paddling a little more, we had a lovely packed lunch under a tree (watched by 4 little boys who enjoyed eating our uneaten sandwiches and chocolate bar) and climbed over the rocks to see a treacherous waterfall (which the guides have never been down) and were told the story of a chinaman who ended up going down it by mistake and survived, just breaking his leg! It is now known as the Chinese Waterfall!!!
The rocks can get very hot so it is worth wearing some strap-on sandles, not flip flops like me. Also the mud both in the river and on the banks is very thick and sucks the flip flops off. Plenty of suncream is a must – despite one coating of Factor 30 I got quite burnt. And a waterproof camera would be a good idea too.
The guides said that they could collect our volunteers from Sondzela on the way to the River which would be easier for the volunteers. My only concern is that at 750 Rand (about £60+) it is an expensive day out but well worth it and something they would always remember! Guaranteed for any adrenalin junkie!
Volunteer Vacations have placements for volunteer rugby coaching in Swaziland. Price for 28 days £1,600, additional weeks £200. Price includes airport transfers, accommodation at Sondzela within the Milwane National Park, all food, transport to placements, Level 1 rugby coaching certificate. See www.volunteervacations.co.uk for more details or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone: 01483 331551/07833 208 158.