Some years ago, I wrote a blog, “What’s In It For Me?”, citing the reasons for volunteering and actively participating in community organisations and that there shouldn’t be anything in it for you because you’re supposed be giving back to your community. However, further contemplation on the topic has lead me to realise that sometimes there are some things in it for you and that it’s all driven by the karma bus (because everyone forgets that karma carries both positive and negative energies).
On Sunday, I had managed to be roped in to volunteering for the Katherine Ultra Challenge. I was nervous about saying yes as the task was to be a paddler in a canoe on the swimming leg of the Challenge first thing in the morning. I had not been in a canoe or kayak since 1996 when we had the annual “Aquatic Days” at school.
“Aquatic Days” contained a choice of kayaking, sailing or snorkelling from memory. I chose kayaking and would have chosen sailing if the group hadn’t already been full for that activity. It was the first time I had ever been kayaking and the instructor was a bitch. It ruined my mood for the rest of the day and had me believing that I was no good at kayaking and that I shouldn’t ever bother again.
So, swing round to 20 odd years later and here I was thinking “the swimmers will yell at me, the Gorge boats will yell at me, I will get in everyone’s way, I will clumsily flip my canoe and end up in the drink”. Many thoughts. The organiser, after being on the receiving end of twenty questions from me, assured me I would be fine so I accepted. I’m glad I did.
The 430am wake up was nasty but by 530am I was at the Gorge and ready to go with my squished bananas, camera and excess amounts of potted water. We headed up the first gorge in a small tinny which reminded me of my childhood on the River Murray, fishing with Poppa. We all then geared up and all paddled out around the bends in the second gorge and sat and waited in mostly silence. I had a quick conversation with a lovely lady called Neve after accidently crashing my canoe into hers but soon it was time to get into place.
Soon the gorge was filled with the sound of waves clashing, rapids smashing and waterfalls crashing as the competitors hit the river. Our calm waters were suddenly choppy with the movements of 60 odd swimmers. They headed around the bends and back again and their arms flapping into the water echoed off the walls of the gorge making it sound as though they were actually behind me. Those on the tail were struggling and I later discovered they dropped out. The woman in the lead put more and more distance between her and the next swimmer every time I saw her. By the time the swimmers were getting out of the water, having finished their swim, there were two noble stragglers left. Bigglesworth paddled beside one, I paddled by the other trying to shout the odd bit of encouragement. Then, with the finish line in sight, I accidently cut the poor sod off (massive apologies to Contestant No. 4). After alighting my canoe, I discovered that he was doing the whole Ultra Challenge by himself. Most people compete in teams and tag each other for different legs of the course. There are only a small handful that do the entire thing alone. In the cross-country run, last I had seen Contestant No. 4, he had gained 2 places. I didn’t keep track of him after that.
I followed a bit of the Katherine Ultra Challenge progress for the rest of the morning for the sake of photos and seeing at what stages most people were at.
This is not an isolated occasion to have gained something out of volunteering. Each year that it is held I volunteer for the Women of the World Festival and on one of those years I got to meet one of my legal idols, The Honourable Sally Thomas AC. Other occasions that I have volunteered I’ve simply had a good time and met new people. So, if you volunteer without expectation, there may actually be something in it for you.
|Competitors and their support crews waiting for the day to start|
|The swimmers progressing along the gorge|
|M. Desailly, one of the few entrants competing alone|
|The cross-country run to mountain bike switchover point|
|Kayakers heading to Low Level|