Every year in the middle of winter, an event is held in the Champagne Valley: The Polar Bear Challenge. Anyone can enter to swim either 25 meters or 100 meters across the Dragon Peaks Dam at the resort by the same name. The water is normally icy cold. This year it was the coldest ever: 7 °C/44.6 °F !
Last month, Grant put his name down to swim the 25 meters. Although he's a strong swimmer, he'd heard about the stringent conditions of the water and thought he'd rather do the shorter swim than have to opt out of the long race because of cramps or other cold-related problems.
Ironically, last week we were at our motorcycle AGM in Bloemfontein and the name of the weekend was Ysbeertjie which translates into English as Polar Bear.
Champagne Valley Polar Bear Challenge is held in aid of animal welfare and the proceeds of the entry fees, donations and lots of pet food goes to the local township animals and an animal shelter in a neighboring town.
Grant's shirt had "Ysbeertjie" / Polar Bear on the back
The setting of this dam at the resort is particularly idyllic
There is a great festive air at this event
People brought their dogs, small...
... and large
One young lady even brought a kitten
Volunteers registered the participants
One jolly young crowd wore glittering party hats - even while they swam!
I loved the colorful reflection in the water
The resort restaurant did a roaring trade in meals, drinks and snacks
Grant looking wild and woolly as he moves across to the opposite side of the dam
These swimmers wait for the start of the 100m swim
Two boats were in the water to assist or load any swimmer in trouble
The first swimmer in is Papa Bear who swims the 100m after which swimmers are set off one-by-one to do the challenge
This lady did the 100m and then swam up to the bank below the 25m participants
A swimmer experiencing cramps was loaded onto the boat and taken to the end
Craig (my hiking friend) and Grant wait their turn
When we arrived at the spot where the 25 m swimmers set off from, the other two adults said they were pleased to see they weren't the only grown-ups taking part in the kiddies challenge!
Note the warm dress of the spectators!
Craig was first off the mark with Grant hot (er, cold!) on his heels
Two grey-headed and brave men reach the end!
Back on the other side of the dam, Grant dried and got dressed and rejoined me, Steve, Estelle and Muthi on the restaurant veranda.
Steve, Estelle and Muthi - this canine was the oldest spectator at Saturday's event!
When questioned about his experience in the water afterwards, Grant said he has never been in such cold water. He says that he intended to swim free-style which is his strong point; however when he came up after diving into the water, he was so cold he couldn't lift his arms out of the water. So he swam breast stroke all the way. He says he'll do it again next year; the 100m meter challenge!
WELL DONE, GRANT!
I'm linking my post to Our World Tuesday here