We deal in adventure. It’s our business. It runs in our blood. So please don’t ask us to dumb down what we’re doing to the point where it becomes meaningless. If you don’t know what adventure means… then google it please.
So what sparked this little rant? Well, I got a lecture from a young foreign lass recently who bailed from an Adventure Caving trip midway through the 40min access hike because they got caught in a thundershower. The gist of the complaint was “how could we even consider starting a trip if there was a chance that there would be thunder and lightning?” and she backed this up with all sorts of facts like: “where I come from field sports get cancelled even if there is the slightest chance of a thunderstorm”, and “on summer camps that I have been involved in we wouldn’t dream of taking kids into the woods during a storm.”
I explained that we have a lot of thunderstorms here in Swaziland, and if we dropped everything and ran for cover every time there was a forecast of a storm, one third of the year would go by hiding inside. We know lightning comes with a risk of death, but we constantly monitor this risk. We won’t go and stand on a mountain top, walk across an open field or shelter under a lone tree, thats plain stupid. But we’ve seldom, if ever, heard of a person walking in a thick forest or at the base of a valley getting struck: the chances are negligible. So we constantly assess the risks and no – there isn’t a one size fits all rule for lightning. We avoid doing “stupid” and for the rest of the time appreciate the power of nature for its contribution towards turning a little adventure into a big adventure.
Our unhappy guest’s counter-argument was: “you need to understand that you can’t set your standards to what is acceptable locally, you have to set your standards to what we expect!” In terms of this “we” I think she was talking for the Western world as a whole here… but no offence intended if you don’t share this view.
She spoke so eloquently and with such commitment. In fact, if she isn’t a business consultant with an MBA yet, then I am damn sure it’s just a matter of time. She had the template ready. “If you didn’t know”, she informed me – “this is how the world works”. And as a matter of fact: “just a few days before she’d explained this to another operator… and he got it totally!” I was almost sucked in.
But whoa… I jammed the brakes on! This was fast becoming an attack on the very essence of who we are. It was an attack on our belief in adventure. I felt the jihadi in me starting to stir…
My team and I, we don’t belong in that sterile world… and not just because we probably wouldn’t get a visa, but we enjoy living in the REAL real world where we take responsibility for understanding and facing up to risks.
Listen, we never make fun of anyone who backs down from a challenge, be it: abandoning a hike or climb, deciding to portage a rapid, stepping back from a cliff-jump, or freezing on an abseil. Never. On many occasions we provide individuals an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones, and quite often that occasion is too big for them. We don’t laugh, we don’t sneer, pass sarcastic comments or make jokes behind their backs. We were out there, they were out there… that is all that counts. Being able to make rational decisions about your own abilities, skills and capacity to manage fear and risk is an essential part of being an adventurer. In our book, an honest and cautious adventurer is a whole lot better than a gung-ho one, who puts his life at risk and often the lives of others too.
But please, for the sake of adventure, when you step back from a challenge and say: “this is too much for me”, just do it gracefully. Don’t try to find someone to blame: don’t attack the company that provided you with that unique opportunity to feel that raw adrenaline, nor the guides who you’ve failed to trust. They’re already feeling bad that they hadn’t found the right words of encouragement to get you through the fear and out the other side. You didn’t fail. Just chill, reflect on your inner strength to make tough decisions and appreciate that others have different appetites for risk than you do. Just be proud that you were out there… adventuring. Take a bow.
For the average person the western world (or read 1st World) has tried dumbing down the concept of adventure to the point where it is nigh impossible to face real risk. Its probably why citizens there rebel and take drugs. Since the end of WW2 there has been a slow progression towards nanny states that legislate, litigate and bog down any freedom to take risks with red tape. Wars are now fought with drones and vehicles will soon reach the zenith of “hands-free” driving.
But where does that leave us as humans, did we climb out of the trees to escape risk or to take risks? Did humans migrate out of Africa to the icy northern climes for less risk or more risk. Am I a monkey’s uncle or has human evolution been one mother of an adventure?
This is probably a philosophical question that could be argued any which way… so we’ll leave that one on ice.
So if you’re considering doing an adventure with us here’s our belief structure, which we aim to defend with helmets on and paddle blades drawn.
- We are not going to promise you that you’re 100% safe when adventuring, ‘cos you’re not. Adventure contains an element of risk, take that out, and its not adventure, it’s just marketing fraud.
- We know you’re not 100% safe, so we don’t relax in our responsibility to mitigate that risk. We’re on our toes, we can feel the adrenaline, your risk is our risk too!
- We don’t really mind hype, because hype extentuates the perception of risk… which adds to the overall feeling of accomplishment in adventuring. Hype is actually a nice little buffer, so that we don’t have to sail too close to the wind.
- We however evaluate risk and operate based on reality, and not on hype, so there may be times when you buy into the hype and think we’re irresponsible, when really we are not.
- This is Africa. This is where we operate. We raft African rivers, we cave in African caves and we climb African peaks. We don’t have all the bells and whistles of a first-world economy yet, and to be honest, we’re not sure if we want them at all. So if you adventure in Africa, you’re probably more at risk than doing the exact same thing back home in the USA, Europe or Japan. And if this very fact doesn’t excite you in some way… then just climb back in your tree.
Please help us to keep the spirit of adventure alive… let’s have fun! Let’s take some risks. Let’s live! #swazilandrocks
Keen to cave? See our Adventure Caving FAQ for more detail of dubious informational value.
Darron Raw – Managing Director – Swazi Trails
Editors note: the “wow” Extreme Picnicking picture above is actually a composite. The picnickers shown here were already tearing down the other side of the mountain on their MTB’s long before the first strike hit nearby. That the bicycle descent was an adrenaline-filled wet and muddy slip-slide is another story… an adventure of its own!