We made it to Boquete, Panama in time to kayak the next day with Boquete Outdoor Adventures–. Having emailed every rafting company we could find in Central America as we moved south, it was a relief to find one that actually offered whitewater kayaking trips. Even better that the rafting group we were supposed to go down the river with canceled so we had the trip all to ourselves.
Driving to the put in my stomach was in knots. If you remember the last time we went kayaking, I got thrashed so I was more than a bit nervous about hitting the river again. In fact, I was petrified. Karma though had a different plan for me. Navigating the entrance rapids without the hint of a flip, I turned around at the bottom only to see the wrong side of Danny’s boat. Rolling up Danny’s hand looked like it had been in a bar fight, only with a rock on the bottom of the river instead of a man named Bubba.
Hearts racing, we continued downstream through a series of long class III rapids. Danny’s boat, a magnet it seems for rocks, flipped again, and this time after several roll attempts he was pulled up by our guide. Bruised now from shoulder to hand after scraping along the bottom he was more disappointed than injured. Sometimes you just have one of those days on the river and when it starts its hard to shake it.
After portaging around a dam we came to the biggest rapids of the day. Everything always looks bigger when you are in the middle of it, but as we came over a rock I stared into a huge wave trough that seemed to swallow my boat. Somehow I kept myself right side up and turned around in time to see Danny clip the rock and flip. Spun around in the wave he took a decent beating before it spit him out. At this point Danny had seen more than he wanted of the river’s bottom having combat (in the rapid) rolled at least three or four times already. His shoulder and elbow were pretty battered and he had two small gashes on his hands. No pain, no glory right?
It was a bad day on the river for Danny but a great day on the river for me. And yet, making it through each rapid, instead of building my confidence, gripped me in fear for the next one. All afternoon I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting to scrape along the bottom of the river. After the Rio Pescados it seems that I have developed a very real fear of whitewater kayaking, so much so that when I flip I am unable to roll back up, my mind won’t let my body remember what to do. Thankfully it didn’t happen this time, but I am still fearful of getting in a kayak again. It’s frustrating to say the least given how much I’ve enjoyed whitewater kayaking in the past. I only hope its a short term phobia that a few more times on the river can cure.