I still remember my body and bones’ feeling when I jumped off the cliff and into the ferocious river. I’m not sure if this was madness or an act of courage, or just a need to get my adrenaline pumped. Either way, it was a worthy way to start this year – hello and welcome to 2021.😊
New Year’s Eve
My small sister keeps telling me that when the government said people quarantine and remain indoors…I pretty much heard “stay outside.” And yeah…while people were trying to come up with new ways to spice up their days at home…I was always out in nature, looking for new paths, pristine forests, new rivers, fresh waterfalls, new experiences, and bracing the mountains and hills with my sweat.
Let’s just say 2020 was a good year for the outdoors. To end the year in the same spirit, I would either do a hike or make a camping trip. The plan to hike Rurimueria and Table seemed more pleasant, but as the end neared, there was much uncertainty as to whether the hike would happen or not.
Not willing to take any chances, on the morning of New Year’s Eve, I decided I would camp. I had been scouting the internet the previous night trying to find campsites near my town, and luckily, Rapids Camp Sagana had holiday deals, and one particularly caught my eye. The Adrenaline Junkie Deal. For Ksh 6000, the package offered camping for two days one night, meals full board, kayaking, plunge, and waterfall challenge.
The camping – of course, I didn’t mind. That I welcome very much…there was no better way to end the year. It was the water activities that freaked me out. I’ve had hydrophobia ever since I was a kid after a botched drowning episode that left me utterly and horrifically afraid of water that surpasses that coming from my taps. I don’t know how to swim for that reason alone. But if 2021 was going to be about conquering my fears, I needed to start somewhere.
Rapids Camp, Sagana
I got to Rapids Sagana Camp a few minutes after 1400hours. I had been traveling from the morning, and so I wasn’t intending to do any activities upon getting there. All I wanted was lunch and a rare opportunity to just sit Infront of this humongous river and just unwind. This would allow me to see others do the activities and have an idea of what I was to brace myself for the next day.
Getting into this camp requires crossing the river using a boat. This restricts you to the camp for as long as you’re there because the leverage of having to use a boat every time you need to get something from town is not very plausible in this camp. I actually loved this about the place because then you have no choice but to be there and soak in everything surrounding you. A quick intro at the reception and a basic quick pro quo about what the package entails plus a chance to pay for photography and you’re free to explore the camp.
After alighting the boat, the best entrance to the camp is plunged on rocks. The place looks like a fountain of big round stones that have been nested on those grounds for years. The tents are arranged to suit the nature of the site. My tent was mainly pitched between three very huge rocks. Nothing scary about that, hehe. A plate of Ugali, Chicken, and Kienyeji Mboga and a girl was slowly appreciating that the year was coming to a beautiful end.
After a hefty lunch, all I needed was to chill and take in my surroundings as I prep myself mentally for the activities. I wasn’t ready. In fact, I’m never prepared for anything that requires me to be near water, let alone being in the water. But I was determined to prove to myself that fears are to be conquered. That may be just a little nudge into that which scares me to prove that it’s not all that scary.
The rain had graced us that day, and it pretty much rained all day and night. By 8 pm, dinner was served – Ugali, mutton, and Kienyeji greens. Have to say that their food is pretty hefty. The whole time I was there, I never actually finished a full plate of food. And not only is the food portioned heftily, but it’s delicious too. A few minutes before 9 pm…the rain showers started to grace these lands again. Since I wasn’t planning to stay up till midnight into the new year… I sneaked into my tent and slept. Sleep is always better when it’s raining, and even better when those calming rain sounds are also graced by the beautiful melody of the waterfall and rapids. It was a lovely New Year’s Eve night. There is something about sleeping in on New Year’s Eve – you wake up into a whole new year. Well, even though the concept of time has been lost to us, the thought is still there.
Let The Activities Begin!
The morning of 2021 was here. Yes! I was excited, and yes, I was pretty nervous. Because it had rained…the river was fuller, and the currents were stronger. “Couldn’t I have done something else? It has to be this?” I asked myself this every time the thought of what was awaiting me crossed my mind. This was madness. Sheer madness…but since I got myself here the least, I could do is achieve that goal.
Breakfast was delicious and satisfying. An hour after breakfast, it was time! Helmet on, lifejacket on, now what was left was where to find five pockets of courage. Luckily, everyone who had camped there that night was doing almost all the activities I was.
You begin by getting into a part of the river they call “the pool,” where water is more still and doesn’t have rapids. It’s apparently the safest part, and seemingly nothing will happen to you as long as you’re wearing your life jacket. But that wasn’t what my brain recorded…my brain only loads of water that I was stupidly considering to get into. My brain didn’t even understand where I am getting the nerve from. Was that your heart?
But I was gonna do these activities, and I was gonna prove to myself that it’s doable. So slowly and steadily, I stepped into the freezing water, and as I got more in-depth, I was freaking out like nonsense. Damn! My heart was racing, and I was so scared. Even though the lifeguard kept insisting I was safe and okay…my mind, body, and soul were only registering all the things that could go wrong. I remember I got somewhere where I noticed another camper was standing, and I decided to try it, forgetting I was short. Hehe, so of course, my feet couldn’t touch the stones, and the water just turned me and carried me. I remember swallowing a lot of water, trying to lay on my back again.
Relax!! He kept saying. You need to relax. Relax?? The heck is this person talking about – I thought to myself, I just wanted out of the water. But a few minutes in, and I was starting to breathe and letting the water carry me. I just needed to make sure I don’t panic because apparently, that’s the last thing you should. But, it’s not as if I instantly became a water animal…I still felt like I had spent enough time in that water and wanted out.
This one was still as scary but relatively easier. At least I wasn’t the one in the water…I was in a tiny boat. It took me some time to know how to work the paddle, but I was beginning to enjoy it when I started to get the hang of it. I still panicked when I neared strong currents or when my boat decided just to be a free spirit and just go anywhere. More and more campers had joined the activities, and so lots of us were in there kayaking and swimming. I got into a small boat with a team member, and it was great until the boat capsized.
Being underwater..ain’t no way I can remain calm. How? I don’t even know how to swim! I remember struggling so much not to swallow the water that a small Indian more, with more guts than me, was the one trying to pull me out of the water before the lifeguard came. And, of course, everyone laughed at that. I mean everyone – including his parents.
The Waterfall Challenge!
After maybe one hour of everyone kayaking, it was time to do – the waterfall challenge. This one, in my opinion….was the activity I enjoyed the most. You know why? Well, I wasn’t rowing the boat alone, and we were like six people in one boat and two lifeguards. This one was actually fun. You have to work as a team to get the boat rowing correctly. You needed to work as a time to work the rapids and strong currents. And to try and get near the waterfall, you needed more team power and strength.
By this time, I was already hungry. All my breakfast energy had been used in the water. I Must say, rowing is pretty much gym work. The waterfall challenge’s idea is to try and move past the force of the waterfall and behind the waterfall. But on this day, because it had rained much the previous night, the waterfall was too strong to get past. I had good times and laughter on the boat with my team. After a couple of tries at it….it was time for the moment most of us were all dreading. The Plunge!
God damnit!! Why again I’m I even considering this? What is wrong with me? I wondered. I mean, who willingly jumps off a cliff and into the water next to a freaking waterfall? Who the hell does that! Well, apparently most of the people who had paid for the package. This was the moment of truth. All others were all fun and games, but this was the moment of truth.
I waited out for most of the teams to jump off first, thinking that maybe seeing them would give me a bit more confidence – It didn’t! In my book, this was the point I was most scared of. My breathing was heavy, my whole body was shaking, and I was graciously trying so hard not to talk myself out of what was now starting to seem like a death wish. The plunge’s idea is that there are a boat and lifeguards beneath the fall waiting to get you out of the water safely.
One after the other, they jumped. When it finally my time…I couldn’t do it at first. It didn’t matter what that lifeguard was saying. My knees were shaking, and my stomach knotted so severely I was sure I was gonna cave. Once the courageous and daring lot were done jumping into the body of the abyss… it’s was now the cowering group that needed more convincing. Seeing how the group left behind was pretty scared; their fear jumpstarted something in me. Now I wanted to jump. I was going to jump.
Just breathe and hold your breath once you jump. I can do it! I can do it. The lifeguard was counting me down and at 4I took that stupid leap of faith. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO SCARED IN MY LIFE. NEVER!
Once I jumped, and I realized I was up in the air…that was it for me! The next thing I recollect is dropping to shattered into the water and for a minute there underwater struggling to breathe. The lifeguards were swift in helping me, and I could hear my team cheer me on. There was water in all my holes. I was still struggling to compose myself, and blood had rushed all the way to my head.
There was water in my ears, and all I could hear was the muffled sounds of everything. I had this instant headache that made me afraid for my life at the moment. But they got me out, and I remember running into the arms of one of my teammates before life came flashing back in my bones and flesh. I needed a couple of minutes to recollect before I could engage in any conversations. It was over! And when my body and nerves started to get back to normal…I could feel the thrill of it all. The adrenaline. It was glorious. It was beautiful. And fears had been conquered.
We were then rowed to a resting stone as we waited to do the last activity – Water gliding. This one was a complementary activity by the camp. And it was the best way to finish what had been quite the experience. Again in teams, in our boat, with our rowing spades, and instructions of our very captivating guide…we glide between rocks and in the rapids to the get off point. This beat was so much fun.
When we got off the water…I felt a sense of new achievement, and I had never been so proud of myself like I was at that moment.
Now, all I needed was that plate of Tilapia, Ugali, and Greens. The plan was to leave after lunch. I took a shower, sat at my table, and eat my food. With the last bite, I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave that day. My head still hurt so bad, and my thighs had also joined forces to torment me. So, I decided to stay one more night. And it was worth it!
I went to sleep in my tent that night, ready for whatever the universe was willing to plunge at me this year. And for the first time that day, I felt like 2021 was going to be just fine. And yes, maybe I’ll have more responsibilities and less time to hike or be outdoors, but I intend to enjoy my days as they come. I intend to keep my head afloat for as long as the universe will have. And I intend not to let fear cripple my intentions this year.
And so, 2021 for me will be the year of conquering fears and enjoying every bit of the journey. And yes- Rapids Camp, Sagana was the perfect place to start!
Happy New Year, Folks!