After our fun run down the river I was compeletly demoralized, not sure if I´d ever get in a kayak again since my skills had so completely failed me. Our raft-kayak guide Harry had been clear in telling me (thankfully, after the fact) that the boat I was in was simply horrible and that I should give it a try in different boat.
The next day Jill and I rented a boat, took a taxi (that´s how things work around here) to the river and jumped in to practice. I rolled upside down and came right back up. Easy as pie. Of course doing it in still water is easier than doing it in a rapid but I couldn´t even do that the day before. Clearly an improvement. We made plans to hit the river again the next morning…with other kayakers and no rafts.
The next day came around (so this is two days after the inital run down the river) and since Jill was up all night with a stomach bug she wasn´t able to join me. This left myself, Harry the guide, and another kayaker. The morning was a bit chilly made worse by the falling rain. The taxi took us to the river and once there, standing on the overlook, in the cold rain, I said that I thought the river looked much higher than it had before. Harry responded by telling me he´d never seen it this high in all the times he´d been on it.
I nearly shit my pants.
Somehow I mustered the intestinal fortitude to not turn back, to not get back in the taxi and just go back to the hotel and continue onto our next destination. Down to the river I went. Into the boat I went. Into the rapid I went. Recall that last time down the river I rolled twice in this first rapid – the first time I rolled back up (the only all day I did that the last time) and the second time was my first of 7 swims. This time I went in the rapid, and came out the other side without rolling and without swimming.
Made it though the second rapid just as easily as the first doing way better than I had two days prior. Almost having fun now I thought, almost. The third rapid was where things started to get hairy. A big big rock at the bottom of the rapid and I needed to get to the left of it. I tried but I didn´t get far enough left. I got caught in the wild water around the rock and went over. Tried a roll. Failed. Swam. Back on shore looking at the rock that had ruined my perfect beginning I felt stupid. The rock was at the end of the rapid. One more second and I would have been in smooth water. I could have rolled up but I panicked. Hopefully the day wouldn´t get any worse.
We floated past where we took our lunch break and where Jill nearly was killed by a poison dart frog. I thought of the kids playing by the river but was thankful we didn´t have to stop. The next rapid was my worst swim of the day the last time through and I didn´t want to dwell on it at all.
I entered the rapid. Darting around rocks and holes and going over big waves. Starting to have fun again. Made it through and floated over that long shallow space where I was dragged the last time. Haha, look whose floating today! Next up was the rock garden, the rapid that I swam through top to bottom last time. We started in and and I made it over the first few waves before getting clipped by something and going over. I knew I could do it and with all my strenght I forced a roll and came up…nice and easy. Woah, that felt good….and then it happened again, just as quickly…and just as quickly I was up again and through the rapid. Two combat rolls in the rock garden and I was 2 for 3 on the day. Things were looking up.
As it would go I would roll and come back up several more times throughout the day. Having fun and even starting to take a few chances. The rain continued to fall. The water stayed cold. Through it all though I warmed up and had fun. I realize now that my biggest mistake that first day was not checking out the boat first and there is no way I´ll do that again. I feel ready for the next river we find and am looking forward to stepping to the next level.