Africa: Rafting Day 1

I know it’s been a while since my last email, but that is because I followed up Africa with a Cruise around the South Pacific – and the internet on the ship was so expensive I couldn’t afford to use it!
However, I digress.

The last email finished as we began our river trip, at the first rapid.  We managed to negotiate #1 (as all the rapids are called, until you get to the big ones which have names) without flipping the raft, which made Cam happy as it was the first time he’d not come out in #1.  I was especially pleased because we had an audience on the bank of the river, and I did not particularly want to provide them with their daily entertainment!

We had a bit more of a rafting lesson after this, before the river began to get more serious, and Dave and I kind of found our rafting rhythm.  I had to keep calling his name to look at me (no, not because I’m vain or like the sound of my own voice!) so we could keep in time.  I didn’t want to make Cam call out ‘together, together’ all week, so I figured we had better get it sorted as soon as possible.  By the end of the day we were sweet and I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  As I’ve already said, Dave and I got along really well, we had the same sense of humour, and we nearly died on the same rock together, so we had a few things in common.

Now when I say we nearly died, I may be exaggerating slightly, but it makes for a good story, hey?  We did flip the raft during one of the rapids on the first day, I cant remember which one, but Cam tells me it was #8 – fairly common to flip there, but it was a bit of a shock as it was the first one for the trip.  I clearly remember being grabbed by Ian and almost drowning from the wild flailing of his arms and panicky gasps for breath.  It is hard enough looking after yourself when you’re out of the boat, getting your orientation of what is up and down, back and front, and grabbing breaths of air in between the water gushing over your head, let alone having to deal with a 34 year old skinny bloke who is freaking out so much that he tries to climb on you to get out of the water.  Doesn’t work mate, it only makes me angry and even more inclined to feed you to the crocs when I find them!

Anyway, after we flipped and the raft was right side up again, I remember holding onto the rope on the left side and Dave was ahead of me, having grabbed the rope near me.  The raft was still travelling quite fast (well I’ll admit everything seems to be happening quite fast when you’re not sure when or where your next breath of air is coming), and I looked up and saw Cam’s face staring down at me – he had this look of horror on his face, and I think I heard him say ‘watch your head’.  Bearing down on us was a massive rock, jutting out from the left side of the river, directly towards the raft.  Dave and I were about to become a rock-raft or raft-rock sandwich, and neither of us wanted either of those.  I think we both kicked off the rock, because I ended up with another bruise on my leg, this time a corky on my left thigh.  However, a corked leg (hit so hard it goes dead for a while) was much preferable to the sandwhich option.

Day one on the river ended after 10 rapids, and we camped at our first site.  When I say camped, I mean parked our sleeping bags on a little thermarest (a thin self inflating mattress) and slept.  Or passed out, which ever came first.  I was still feeling pretty crook so I slept quite well that night.  Maybe the fresh air helped, maybe I was just exhausted from all the physical activity of the day.  I would say I’m pretty fit, but its a totally different kind of fitness that these guys have – not only do they raft all day (and to be honest, they do the majority of the work, we simply add a small amount of paddle power every now and again), they also steer the boat through the rapids and hope we do as instructed so we dont fall out.  Because when we do fall out they have even more work to do – Cam has to keep track of everyone (making sure we’re all still with the raft and haven’t been swept off down the river), flip the raft the right way up (not an easy feat when you have people panicking and not wanting to let go of the raft for a second or two) and haul us all back on board by our life jackets, while keeping the raft off the rocks and out of the rapids until we are all sorted out again!

And when I say flip the raft the right way up, that is an achievement in itself.  When I’m floating in the water, I can just reach up and grab hold of the rope on the side of the raft.  I have no hope of getting myself back into the raft.  Yet Cam has to do that (he tried showing us some kind of dolphin kick to propel yourself out of the water while your arms pull you out – but NONE of us could do it) then he helps those closest to the raft to get up as well (you need some weight to help flip it), then he grabs a flat rope thing (anyone know the name of what I’m talking about?) that is attached to the raft and basically pulls the raft back on top of himself.  Once it’s the right way up again he jumps in again, then pulls each of us up into the raft by our life jackets.  Phew. I’m exhausted thinking about it.

Mind you, while I’m still on the subject of rafting fitness, when we’re finished rafting for the day and have found our campsites and parked ourselves on the sand because we’re too exhausted to do more than organise ourselves a beer or gin and tonic, Cam and Trevor would set up the ‘kitchen’ and proceed to cook dinner and dessert for all of us, before cleaning up and preparing our food for the next day.  And the food was pretty good.  I was expecting to eat not much, or food that was boring and repetitive, but was I wrong.  It was something new every day, and I ate so much that some nights I could only fit in a mouthful of dessert.  Boy oh boy.  Yummmmy!

So for the first night I needed to find a sleeping spot with the following requirements –
1. It had to be as far away from Ian as possible;
2. It had to be relatively flat, without any downhill slopes.  I didn’t want to end up prematurely in the water;
3. It was preferable that there were no scorpians sharing my bed space – I didn’t want to have to deal with a scorpian sting along with feeling sick.

I found a spot and as I was setting up I watched Cam cleaning up.  Suddenly he jerked one foot up in the air and hopped backwards, before brushing the sand around his feet and looking angry.  The scorpian I had banned from my bed had found Cam instead.  OUCH!  I asked Cam if he was ok, to which he replied he was, however I could see he was in a fair amount of pain, I just didn’t know exactly how much.  We had been warned about the scorpians, and told there was nothing you could do about the sting except put up with it – just as well Ian didn’t get stung, we’d have heard about it all night – after he medicated himself from the medicine cabinet he bought with him I’m sure!

Hopefully my annoyance at Ian would die down overnight, or I was in for a long week…

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