When I woke up the next morning after my coughing episode of the night before I began apologising for keeping everyone awake. The boys all looked at me and said they hadn’t heard a thing! I couldn’t believe it, they’d not heard ANYTHING? I’d coughed so much (and so loud) I thought the trees were going to fall off the side of the river banks. Wow. I don’t know why I worried, damn it, I wasted what little energy I had left by thinking I was keeping them awake, when they didn’t hear me at all! Lesson learnt: boys sleep much heavier (in general) than girls. Amazing.
We set off rafting again, and the weather that day was really hazy. There had been fires in the hills surrounding the river, and the smoke/haze was still evident in the morning. Strangely it didn’t feel like “African” weather as I’d imagined it. I’d expected searingly hot suffocating heat, where you struggle to breathe, but it was quite pleasant. Mind you, I wasn’t too keen on the lack of sun, however it wasn’t cold, so that was a bonus. I think I might be addicted to the sun. It’d be my only addiction mind you, but like all true addictions, it has potentially harmful side effects – the worst being death! But that aside, I love that my skin goes brown so quickly, and stays brown. By the end of the week Cam made a comment that it had taken him six months to build up his colour, and in a week of being out in the sun I’d surpassed his tan already. Ahh, I love it!
We had another large rapid to attack on day three, and again we stopped to get out and look at it. The discussions continued as per usual, with all of us standing around nervously waiting the verdict. It was decided that the Irish guys in the kayaks, and Trevor, would get a go “surfing” a particular wave, to let them have a bit of fun. We stood around and watched, and it was quite funny. These guys would paddle out into the middle of the current, line themselves up with the wave they were going to “surf” on, and let the current carry them backwards into the wave. If they got everything just right, they would end up “surfing” the wave – kinda like body boarding when you were a kid (similar principles), but in the one spot. It was great to watch, and they seemed to have fun with it. Eventually the nose of the kayak would dig into the water, or they’d lose the angle and they’d be whipped off the wave and often flipped upside down before resurfacing on the other side of the white water. They all had a go, and it was an obvious competition to see who could stay on it the longest – in fact we were all so entertained by it there was a collective groan when someone came off too early – or missed it altogether!
Meanwhile, in my head, a dilemma had emerged. This was a rapid we were likely to flip the raft on. That was fine, I had no issues ending up in the water, in fact it was quite fun. However, I started to panic about Ian grabbing hold of me again. I can look after myself in the water, but I don’t want the added weight of another person dragging me down. What was I going to do? I couldn’t wimp out and walk along the bank of the river, that’d be a disgrace. I couldn’t change positions in the raft this late in the game, especially without explaining my panic to someone. I didn’t want to worry anyone, each person had enough to worry about without me compounding their issues. Oh man. It was awful. It actually felt like I was going to have a panic attack, my heart rate had increased and my breathing got shallower. Not a good sign when I was about to end up in the water. Crap! I was still taken with these thoughts as we headed back to the raft. I was also annoyed, because this was something I thoroughly enjoyed, yet because I had to cope with Ian’s panic in the water and my subsequent stress, I wasn’t enjoying it. Damn it.
Cam suddenly yelled at us to get in the raft and hurry up. One of the Irish guys, Brian, had knocked himself out! He’d hit his face with his paddle when he came off the wave, and he was with Trevor on a rock in the middle of the river, bleeding badly from his nose. We flew into the raft to get the first aid kit to him as soon as possible. My panic abated a little as I concentrated on something else. I liked Brian, he was my favourite of the Irish, and I was worried for him. Also, he’d been the first onto the wave, after Trevor, and none of us had noticed a thing. He rolled up out of the water looking fine, and I didn’t notice what had gone on while the others were surfing. I felt awful. Our plans had changed. We were no longer going down the big rapid, we were going to take the right hand side of the rock so we could get to Trevor and Brian faster and deliver the first aid kit. We got clear instructions from Cam, this was an easier way down, but we all had to lean towards one side of the raft as we went down or it may flip. Easy. That was it.
We all paddled like maniacs to hit the right spot, and were all thinking about Brian, so we may not have done exactly as we should. Something went wrong anyway, because we flipped the raft! Talk about an inappropriate time to come out! Well, Brian’s nose was going to have to wait while we got ourselves righted. Everyone was shocked, it wasn’t meant to happen, and to make matters worse, John had been caught in a bit of a patch of water where he’d surface for a second, then get sucked down again. Mind you, during all this I was oddly happy – not for the situation, but because we hadn’t been expecting to come out, and I’d managed to keep away from Ian so I hadn’t felt like I was drowning!! Yeah! I actually remember the raft going over onto the side and thinking “wow, we’re going to fall out” and then I had time to jump out and away. Plus there wasn’t too much white water so we weren’t gasping for air too much. Cam was up on top of the raft, counting he still had everyone. I heard him yell that he was missing someone, and after a quick glance around we all knew it was John. Rhys was on my right, at the front of the raft, and couldn’t see his dad who was on my left, at the back of the raft. He started to panic, which was understandable, but we didn’t need that then. I yelled to Rhys that I could see his dad and he was fine, to calm Rhys down. In actual fact I could see John every few seconds, when he’d surface then disappear again. It wasn’t long before the water spat him out and he came floating over to us. He was fine, just a little short of air and glad to see the sunlight! Cam then righted the raft and got us back in, before we could un-hook the first aid kit and pass it over to Trevor. Phew. Talk about dramas. We were all a bit subdued after that and sat in the raft, collecting our thoughts. I had a mix of things going on. I was concerned for Brian, happy that my panic had disappeared, impressed with the bond between Rhys and John, and disappointed we hadn’t been able to go down the left side of the rock and through the big rapid.
Brian had come around whilst waiting for the first aid delivery, but he had blood all over his face. It covered his nose and mouth area and looked pretty bad. But when he washed it off it was just a small cut on the bridge of his nose. He was groggy and not up to paddling, so he sat in the raft with us for the rest of the day. It was fun, having someone else rafting with us, and especially because Brian had no idea how to raft. Talk about feeling like an expert! He was funny, and he admitted it was so different to kayaking, that we all had a few more “get it together” lessons from Cam. Cam is a really good instructor, and I wonder sometimes how he doesn’t get annoyed having to repeat himself all the time. Amazing patience. Brian was funny too, and when we had all stopped worrying about him we had quite a few laughs on the way to the next campsite.
This campsite was cool, little alcoves everywhere, and you actually had to hike over a small ridge of rocks to get to the toilet, so you felt semi secure when you were squatting on that three legged plastic horror!!
Rhys cooked spaghetti for dinner, with the help of Dave and John. Cam and Trevor had a night off cooking, which we all thought was well deserved. I on the other hand, ran around taking necessary pictures and documenting our stay! The boys were doing a wonderful job in the kitchen, I didn’t want to interrupt them! We were all pretty tired and had had a bit of an emotional day, but we were all still around the fire until pretty late before crashing out for another night under the stars. Literally. I was still awed by the fact that I WAS IN AFRICA!!!!!
The next day we had to complete two portages, so we had to get a good sleep. I’ll explain the portages in the next edition…