Saturday, November 20, 2010

Water Rafting (Sri Lanka, 2010)

There is a long stretch of winding road all the way up the mountains. Somewhere the road splits and one part slopes down a few hundred meters and stops at an open area. A small shack stands in a corner surrounded by massive trees and few watercrafts. The place is famous for water sports. As I approached the shack, a man walked out. He was the owner. After some bargaining we arrived at a price for water rafting. I changed into a swim-wear and put on a life jacket. To reach the river I had to climb down the valley for about fifty feet. A stone path wading through the jungle. Slippery. Two guys were assigned to me. As we were climbing down I saw the raft being slid down on a rope-way. We reached the river and got into the raft. I was given an oar and shown how to use it. The raft was quite comfortable. We began moving with the current. Soon it picked up speed and so did my pulse. I did a couple of haphazard strokes with the oar. Just ahead I could see a small rapid. Two guys who had come along instructed me on how to tackle the rapid. They told me to lean inside the raft if I went off-balance. Suddenly the water splashed all over me. My first blind date with a rapid. My adrenaline was pumping hard. This was terrific stuff. Excitement at it's peak. I gripped the raft and managed to maintain my balance, but soon we were approaching a bigger rapid. It came too fast and before I could react I had fallen, fortunately inside the raft. The two guys were laughing now and I found myself laughing with them. They said three more to come; larger ones. I stopped laughing. But, much to my surprise, I handled the bigger ones quite well. They were amazed and congratulated me.The last rapid was the biggest and the most challenging one. They warned me that I might fall into the river and if I did, I was to do nothing. The life jacket would keep me afloat and the current would take care of the swimming part. Wow, I thought; they make it sound so easy. I braced myself for the encounter. This time the rapid came on to us like a big wave. I gritted my teeth in determination and vowed that I will not fall into the river. The rapid attacked us as if taking up the challenge. Our battle lasted for ten long seconds and I triumphed. I was jubilant. I was a pro. I raised my hands in the air and almost knocked one guy over with the oar. Now we were all laughing and the sensation was rejuvenating. Last mile of the river and there were no more rapids. They told me I could jump into the river and swim if I wanted to. The current had reduced to a gentle flow. I jumped and started floating. I lied down on my back with the life jacket on. Up, far away, I could see the mountains. The sun was breaking through the dark night. I could see the whole river, up from where I had traveled, to all the way down here. The scene was breathtaking. But something else had just taken my breath away.

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