Cape Town - Two battered but triumphant extreme athletes ended a 10-day, 200km swim down the Free State’s polluted Wilge River on Wednesday, completing the first stage of a campaign to highlight South Africa’s deteriorating waterways.
Andrew Chin, 45, and Toks Viviers, 52, began swimming down the Wilge River at Harrismith on January 5, and completed 200km on Wednesday morning, a short distance from Frankfort.
The two said they had suffered from upset stomachs, nausea and vomiting due to contaminated water and had cuts and bruises from rapids and rocks. Viviers was forced to withdraw temporarily for three days after receiving 10 stitches on his face when he swam into a submerged tree.
They were also separated from their support team after stopping short of their destination as night fell one evening. A frantic search ended when they were found several hours later, cold and hungry, having taken refuge in an abandoned farmhouse wearing only their Speedo costumes.
Chin is planning an extreme swim in a major river in each province over the next few years as part of the Rivers for Life campaign, which raises awareness of, and urges action to address SA’s water crisis. The public can contribute by donating R15 to the cause by SMS’ing the word “River” to 39116.
“We’re battered, bruised and exhausted, but we’re happy that our first swim has drawn some attention to the water crisis facing South Africa. We’re hoping this campaign will lead to action to address contaminated waterways and the impending shortage of clean water,” said Chin.
The two expressed gratitude to locals and farmers who opened their homes to them along the route.
The swim’s main sponsor, Aqua for Life, which develops safe drinking water solutions, has donated 10 filtered water systems to disadvantaged communities along the swim route which will each provide safe drinking water for up to 200 children for three to four years, said the company’s MD, Nico Germishuizen.
Toks Viviers and Andrew Chin swimming in the Wilge River (Supplied)
To find out more about Chin and Viviers’ story see the Rivers for Life Facebook page.