Saturday 30 November 2013

Hollering Damsel in and out of a Kayak

Sometimes the people who claim to love you the most are the worst. Oh sure, their intentions for you might be ever so wonderful but how would you feel if you were say, a chihuahua, and you were accidentally thrown head-first into a fast-cycle in the washing machine?

Would you think, "Oh, this is a wonderful experience!" ?

No? Then read on and I hope I succeed in pressing your compassion button.

In the weeks prior to our little Sunday afternoon adventure, Robyn, whom I shall refer to non-affectionately from now on as Sister-Blister, kept saying, "No, Bern, I will NOT sell your ticket to someone else. How often do I get the opportunity to kayak down a river with my lovely sister?".

That traitor made it sound like she and I would be paddling together side by side down the Tongariro river, smiling at ducks and reflected trees and each other. Yes, pure sibling-love would have our oars and hearts synchronised with the very heart-beat of a perfect universe.

Cossack, the second traitor, gazed at me with genuine admiration for agreeing to go on this trip. Little did he know I only went because he promised we could stop on the way south at my favourite cafe in Taupo.  I didn't give the kayaking thing one second of my valuable brain-space.

The last but not least traitor was a man called Pete, a friend of Sister-Blister. He was a traitor simply by being the fourth person on this kayak trip.

The afternoon in Turangi started out in an acceptable manner, even when we were stuffed into wet-suits so tight my appendix, rib-cage and heart were crushed and squashed into the size of a hamburger-patty.

Cossack looked mighty sexy if he says so himself.

I felt reassured by the life-jacket and the helmet and our young muscular guide, Shannon, who grinned at my middle-aged trepidation but looked a decent sort who would save me if necessary.

Shannon then told us a few handy survival strategies to deal with falling out of our kayak.

I glared at Shannon, "What do you mean, falling out of our kayak?"

That possibility had not occurred to me.  Naive, maybe. Oh, how stupidly I had trusted these three kayaking companions and now this guide was in my bad-looks too. Nobody had thought to tell me that I may not always be in an upright position in my kayak.

"I hate you all", I said stabbing fingers at each wet-suited chest.

Shannon seemed to be summing me up. "Oh, Lord, this one is going to be a handful", is what I think the verdict was.

After some instruction in a serene pool I felt in control and the world was sweet - I was about to paddle right out of my comfort-zone but now wish I had remained well within it.

At the first rapid I nearly tipped out. Sheer terror gripped me and I forgot all my instructions.

In the second rapid, I tipped out, floundered, screamed, yelled and hollered. All the colourful episodes of my 55 years swirled and bubbled around my gasping body, and I promised God I would be a good girl if only I survived.

Oh, why didn't I study that 'Tongariro Kayak Blast'  brochure a bit better? I thought the word 'blast' meant fun but it actually was trying to warn me that I would be blasted beneath the water on three separate occasions with only one frantic hand above water clutching desperately, wildly, blindly for my kayak and paddle-thing, both of which would abandon me.

Whenever my furious face bobbed up now and then, by sheer luck rather than good management,  it seemed to yell a lot and must have looked so ugly. Ugly like a crazed gargoyle spouting forth geysers of Tongariro water and then spluttering like a dying porpoise.

So much for Shannon, our self-appointed Papa Duck, telling us baby ducklings to try staying in a straight line behind him. As we all dispersed in different directions, quite involuntarily I might add, and I was mysteriously turning in circles as well, I couldn't even see Papa Duck let alone follow him.

COSSA....", I called out but it looked like he needed saving too. "Oh no!", I was sobbing underwater, "I don't want to be a widow, Cossie....", but then he bobbed up again so I carried on being mad at him in my head.

The last rapid had me lose the plot, the boat, the paddle and my mind. A horrifying bend in the river had me fly out yet again and I was catapaulted along the boulder-bank crashing, bashing and splashing.

"HELL....!", I hollered to whoever cared but obviously noone did and I submerged mid-word.

"HELLLLLP!" This time I managed to complete the word but then I went under again, bobbed up, went down, bobbed up, went down...and all I saw was swirling white water, bubbles, boulders and the occasional glimpse of our guide's yellow kayak.

"MY BUTTOCKS HURT, SHANNON!", I hollered when I had the chance. They had been bombarded by boulders for turbulent metres of cruel terrain where of course I wasn't even meant to be.

Right cheek. Bash! Left cheek. Smash! Left cheek again. Bruise!

"I'll check your buttocks out tonight"", Cossack, the smart-ass, called out from somewhere.

"SAVE ME, SHAN...!", I hollered, disappeared, bobbed up and then he did.  He saved me!

"Grab on!", he calmly  insisted.

Frantically I fought to do so and when I grasped his inflatable rubber kayak I  blew kisses of sheer joy at my Papa Duck.

I heard Sister-Blister cry out, "Bern, Bern, are you ok?", in what sounded like a genuinely concerned voice.

"DO I LOOK OK?!" I retorted. "I happen to be half- dead AND traumatised!".

But I then couldn't stop laughing which made water spout from my nostrils.

I was alive.

As all five of us group-hugged later, I thanked Shannon, my Hero with a capital "H", for not making me feel ridiculous for my dramatics on an 8- kilometre Grade 2-3 kayak expedition.

And do you know what that adorable young man said?

"Bernadette", he said, "You have some of the most interesting facial expressions I've seen out there. See you next year when you come back for Grade 5"

I told Papa Duck to go get stuffed.

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