The male owner Rod with long wirey hair and referred to by South American locals as “Jesus” because of his lookalike features presented the safety briefing with colourful adjectives.
“Be mindful of the rapid walls protruding from either side of the river embankment, aim for the water-flow ‘V’ pointing in the direction you are going; and not the other one pointing toward you.”
“Should you find your canoe hitting a hazard, adopt the behaviour like a tree greenie and hug the rock so as the canoe will turn out of the rapid under the force of the flow.”
“However, rapid hazards are like Mother in-laws. Best to avoid them but hug them if you only really have to!”
There were instructions on steering and submersion and baling. And then our barrel full of food and gear were escorted down to the water’s edge, loaded on so as weight distribution was balanced and then tied down so as in the case of a roll over, everything arrived at our end destination together and not beat us.
The recent deluge of rain raised the water level higher than normal. Whether a good or bad thing, it didn’t matter. With Claire at the front and me at the back, we were launched into the current.
The first rapid saw another canoe capsize and right itself. The two male occupants manoeuvred their fully submerged waka to a stony beach where they began the process of baling water. We couldn’t but help laugh at them because the pace at which it happened was like a slow-motion movie. It was hilarious. It also eased the nervous tension having seen how to recover from such an ordeal.
Just as well, Nick from our group was riding solo on a ride on canoe skiff and he tumbled as well. Whites of his eyes terror evaporated to whites of his teeth laughing at himself. Cripes, we hadn’t even gone a kilometre down the river!
Dare I add, no more than two or so rapids further down, we too were dunked out and into the flow! Safety instructions go right out the window in the face of panic. Why is that? After we emptied the boat of the liquid stuff, the elation of having gone through the experience gave us greater confidence for the potential future opportunities of capsizing. Experience pays smarter dividends in the real world.
The outcome, no one from our group took a swim again the remainder of the first day. A stop at a Lavender farm café allowed for a short bask in the sunshine and consumption of carrot cake. Food always takes the edge off things.
We eventually arrived at Ohinepane where we set up camp. The barrels did their job of keeping everything dry from moisture. Even the beers were cold. Retiring to the horizontal positions eventuated. A lone Morepork could be heard echoing it’s call.
That and the backdrop sound from the rumble of the river rapid just around the corner.