Apr 18, 2008

Rafting: Literary Snapshots of A Perfect Day

The Official Rafting Photo taken by the staff of the river rafting company. That's me in the front looking very intense!

I apologize for the recent absence of blogs. My computer was laid low by some viruses and I had to send it in to the computer shop this past week. But I'm back in business and I can finally post the next entry in our Australian Saga.

We left the cameras locked in the bottom of the tour bus so the only photos we had of our day of rafting on the Tully River on Wednesday, March 26, were the expensive professional photos sold to us for $15 bucks apiece by the Raging Thunder Company merchants and a few hurried snaps Mai managed to grab at the end of the trip when the bus met us down stream. So in addition to those few photos, some literary snapshots:

The River Guides
“Are you people ready for some RAHFTING?” the burly river guide bellows into the mic at the front of the bus. He looks like a cross between Russell Crowe & Mel Gibson. As we begin our journey he is bursting with swagger and barking instructions, off-color jokes, and promises, come the end of the day, of lots of BEER! He is one of the river guides and Marty is his name. When we arrive at the Raging Thunder Café (where we are welcome to have a “RAHFTER’s breakfast of a MEAT pie and a Red BULL”) we will meet more of these guides. They are a rakish lot of international adventurers who cleverly disguise their consummate professionalism with lots of jocularity and devil-may-care spirit. They are fun and funny and they keep us safe without us even knowing it.

The Rafters
A very different crowd from the retirees that typified our tour the day before to Tjapukai, the rainforest and Kuranda village. These are college kids, twenty-somethings, backpackers traipsing around the world. There are American, Canadian, and various European accents in addition to the standard Australian brogue. There are tattoos and piercings; lithe bodies in barely-there bikinis and buff bodies rippling with muscles. In some strange way our kids appear even younger around them than they did around the senior citizens the day before.

The Water
It’s fresh which is a real novelty to us island kids. You get in and get out and you actually feel kind of clean rather than encrusted with salt or stinking of chlorine, which are the options we have at home. It’s bracingly cold but it feels good in a way I can’t describe—it’s refreshing, invigorating, crisply clean. It’s easy to dive into this cold bath for some reason and once I’m in, the water is cold, but I am not. And when I clamber back on to the raft, I warm up quickly with the sun’s rays mellow on my back. Throughout a full day of rafting I’m never chilled.

The Riverbanks
Towering, jungle-covered rock walls rise on either side of us, occasional traced by magical waterfalls. The rainforest around us is majestically silent and at peace with itself, and that peace seems to rub off on me. There is something dreamy about these crags, these massive old trees, and hidden jungles teeming with silent and invisible creatures. The waters edge is flanked by smooth boulders and rounded freshwater stones.

The Rapids
Deceptively tame-looking, they are thrilling when we go through. In all the pictures the professionals took, my mouth is gaping in goofy surprise at the wildness and wonder of those breathtaking waves.

The Ride
Clarky, our English guide, is a master. He does more than just steer us down the river, he provides us with fun and memorable experiences from the rush of “surfing” the rapids, plowing headfirst into a wash of on coming whitewater; to the prankster fun of the “Guides Revenge” to the almost scary experience of floating directly underneath a pounding waterfall. The kids are a little apprehensive at first, especially the boys, but soon relax and enjoy the exhilarating adventure. Even falling out of the raft in the midst of the rapids becomes “fun” for them, and “Ko” actually starts trying to fall out on purpose. We put a stop to that, knowing that the fun is only fun because they aren’t getting hurt. We raft for about two hours in the morning, then stopped for a delicious barbeque lunch at a rough riverside kitchen, and then continue on the river for another couple hours in the afternoon.

At the end of the day after ice cream at the Raging Thunder Café, there was the long bus ride back to the Bohemia Resort, a hearty barbeque and a birthday cake for one of our students celebrating her 14th birthday. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

At the end of our adventure we pose for a photo with our river guide, Clarky.

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