I have little imagination when it comes to danger so it is relatively easy for me to contemplate doing things that could lead to injury. When it comes to discomfort, however, I am right up there with the brightest. Comes the time to think of motion sickness I am so far ahead of the crowd that creative geniuses cannot even see my dust!
Consider the fact that the original idea of motion sickness was closely allied to water – sea-sickness! Consider the fact that river-rafting was not expected to be done in tranquil waters and that motion sickness is more violent when the journey is not smooth! Consider the fact that it was just a day and a half since I had closely resembled a water faucet from both ends of the alimentary canal! Consider further that there was a half-an-hour trip by road to Shivpuri before we could even start on the river! Now you can understand why I felt little apprehension about trifles like falling off the boat. If one of my bouts of sickness struck me I would probably consider drowning as a welcome surcease. Thus, it was with trepidation that I approached the afternoon’s river-rafting expedition.
My idea of river-rafting was that I would be securely fastened to the seat with the organizers paddling down the stream while I tried to keep the contents of my stomach in. Imagine my surprise when I was told that all customers were expected to paddle to the orders of the lone expert accompanying us. He buzzed through a series of commands that seemed like so much Greek and Latin to me. The only saving grace was that he talked of right, left, front and back instead of obscure nautical terms like port, starboard, fore and aft. Not that it made the litany comprehensible but that it sort of made the impression that you could understand what he was saying if you had a day or two to mull over it.
A day or two! Within five minutes we were in the rubber dinghy when the second surprise was sprung on us. We were to sit on the sides of the dinghy with our feet insecurely tucked under the crosspieces that lay athwart the dinghy. Clad in life-vests and helmets we must have looked quite a bunch of jokers and, probably, the organizers thought that we had enough around the belly to provide whatever additional buoyancy was required.
A couple of dinghies of paying customers was accompanied by a chap in a kayak, who was ostensibly there to come to the rescue of anyone who fell off the dinghy and got too far away from it to be rescued by the people in the dinghy. I had a sneaking suspicion that he was probably there to rescue any paddles dropped in the water by the customers, who were playing at being boatmen!
We were off and there was mayhem. I was busily engaged in a duel with Sriram who was seated ahead of me. The clash of paddles by the side of the dinghy was entertaining. I would have won the duel but for the fact that Hari sneakily engaged my paddle from behind whenever I disengaged from Sriram for a tactical advantage. Meanwhile, Shekhar on the other side was patting the water with all the care of someone spreading butter over a crumbly slice of bread. Badri and Dinesh were the lead-rowers and only they know exactly what they were doing with the paddles though I am sure they managed their own version of entertaining paddling. Chandru had begged off paddling due to his injured hand and was giving us the count while Bala was busy trying to get people to paddle to his count. Great idea, but the problem was that each one was on a different rhythm and, thus, a microsecond after Chandru called out ‘One’ Sriram’s paddle would hit Dinesh’s up front while mine would still be in the air!
Our expert called a halt and started on some impromptu training exercises. Knowing that we were from the south, he exhorted us to emulate the Onam boat-race. Huh! Here we were, barely able to dig a paddle into the water, leave alone doing it in any sort of rhythm and he was likening us to those superb athletes who send boats skimming across the waters like torpedoes. The very idea of the pithy expressions those boatmen would come up with - if they ever heard such a comparison – doubled me up in laughter.
After some more paddle duels, we were off again onto the first of the rapids – the roller-coaster. The dinghy started see-sawing and the one moment etched in my mind is the sight of looking sideways at a wave framed in the sky. Our expert was exhorting us to paddle, though what use swishing the paddle in air would be in propelling the boat shall ever be a nautical mystery to me. Before we knew it we were past the rollercoaster and, to my surprise, I found myself regretting the briefness of the experience.
Next up was the tee-off. There was one violent motion that slapped us all into the boat. Onwards to the golf-course where our expert told us to try jumping into the water! Bala and I were in first. Not knowing swimming had never been a deterrent to me in indulging in water-sports even without a life-vest and with one around my frame I was feeling invincible. The problem, however, was when it came to getting back into the boat. Our expert hauled me in with such vigour that the vest covered my face and, for a while, I was wailing like the yesteryear heroine coming out of a swoon - “Where am I?”
River-rafting was great fun but it ended all too soon. The entire group was so thrilled that Bala’s suggestion of doing the longer version the next time was greeted with universal enthusiasm.
All good things come to an end, as did my trek/trip. All tedious things come to an end too – and, so, does this post!