Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Not for people with upper body strength of a 10 year old girl

I cannot swim, have a fear of deep waters and I decided to sign up for an activity that involves me being alone in a narrow canoe in a river for half a day. Why? Because my best friend Soumitra Goswami convinced me to.
"It is not very deep at all" he said, "You can stand in the water and it only comes up to your waist."
"That doesn't sound too bad."
"Yeah, its fun. I can't swim either."
*blank stare*

So once I was assured that I wouldn't have to do a barrel roll underwater or something crazy like this, I went and put down my $25 bucks for a Friday I would be looking forward to more than any other day! (It was a day after my birthday and I am not a fan of my birthdays)

The build up:
All the prep that was required was to make sure I was dressed for the heat and to get wet. Put on my beach shorts and the new sleeveless t shirt I had just bought. No camera, no cellphone, no ipod no headphones. Just some cash, and the keys to my bike and apartment. I skipped breakfast as I thought I was running late. Big mistake! We were going to have lunch provided by the ISSO but that wasn't going to be until later in the day. Thankfully, Justin in the car had some cherries, strawberries and blackberries. The ride wasn't too long. Soon we were outside the car and stretching while Joshua was getting the kayaks ready.

Between conversations(I am really not much of a talker) with all the new people around me, I took some time off to wander around. Looking out to the calm river that I will be traveling down, all the trees, the critters...(I walked up to the little bridge where I saw a tiny grey/almost white frog sitting extremely still on the post... Gah I wished I had my camera! As you can see, it is hard for me to be away from technology. I moved on, fascinated at having seen what I saw and thinking nobody else will ever be able to experience the moment they way I did.

Boats away:
I wasn't sure if I wanted to be the first one in the water or the last one. I was in some mystery land between excited and apprehensive. After Matthew was in the water, (big guy who used to be a life guard) I figured it was safe to go in. I grabbed a paddle, put on the bright orange life jacket and sat down on the cushion. Joshua pushed me into the water, and with minimal rocking back and forth, I was moving forward gently. Time to put my paddle in the water and practice what we'd been instructed.
"Make sure both your hands are equidistant from the center. Make sure the paddle is not slanted or you're not getting the most out of your stroke. When you want to turn left, put your oar in the left side and paddle backwards. Likewise for the other direction. Quickly paddle backwards to stop."

Once everyone was in the water and the newbies had had enough practice, we decided to head out the first bend. Joshua took the front, Matthew was in the middle. I knew that's where I wanted to be! And Jeff was in the long canoe at the very end. An advantage of being in the middle is people up ahead could warn us of trees or shallow spots coming up. You can learn from their mistakes and be prepared. I got really hot under the life jacket so I decided I wanted to take off my t-shirt. I told Matt I wanted to do this and he guided me to a shallow stop, and stayed close while I very carefully removed my t shirt and put the life jacket back on. However, as people had started paddling faster, I fell behind.Which meant no overexcited people speeding towards me from the behind, and the the sound of collective human blabbering will only be coming from one direction.

All I wanted to hear was the sound of my own breathing, the water from my paddle, the rustling of the trees and the birds that flew about the woods. No cars, no machines, no appliances, no computers, no cellphones or headphones. Just the insects the, the heat...wait, I thought this was supposed to be fun.

Second Leg:
I had already admitted to Jeff that I was tired. That didn't mean I'd given up. However, I was relieved when he said, "we'll have a swim break soon enough." I saw that people had started collecting around a sandbar. I relaxed and got there at my own pace, parked my kayak and reached for another Gatorade. I watched the others get into the water while I stood under a shady tree. Weirdly, I was talking to people about Professor DaCosta's stories from Animation History class. Once people who swam were done cooling off, we took a quick group shot and were on our way again.

This time I decided to start early. Big mistake. As I bumped into one tree, then another. As the river sped up around the corner, I got stuck in a beaver dam. Joshua and Matt both had to come to my rescue. They held the tree branch so I had some room to duck and get out and didn't get scraped. While also pushing me since I couldn't paddle fast enough. I was freed, but Matthew was now stuck. And his kayak flipped in the process of trying to get himself out. Think he lost his t-shirt then.

Well, paddling more carefully and slowly, I kept going till it was time to take the lunch break. We approached a sandy shore and parked our canoos. I couldn't wait to get into the cool water and cool off. I also needed food. There was some delicious cold rice, the recipe for which I'd be getting from Jeff for sure. And some sandwiches and chips. I sat in the shallow water with my plate of food, and a cold bottle of coke. It was amazing.

Last Leg
After we were all stuffed up with food, we began the last and longest and for me the most painful part of the trip. It was like an endurance test. But I think after one point my brain completely shut down the pain. I just knew I was going to feel it tomorrow. I did not let it interfere with my enjoyment of the serene location. I was one of the last couple of people to get to our pick up point. There we emptied the kayaks, helped load those up in the carrier and had some watermelon. Then we were on our way to return to good old Savannah and relax after our amazing day kayaking at the Ogeechee river

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