Thursday, 4 February 2010

3rd November – A rapid phobia...

I woke at first light a little groggy from the beer last night and went downstream to fish in the chilly morning mist. I clambered over some massive boulders and fished a nice looking series of eddies that formed at the side of a rapid. I was fishing with a small copper spoon and caught two Boca from one pool, the larger of which I killed to take back to camp. Arun joined me later and also took a smallish Boca on a spinner which he killed too.
I returned to camp for a late breakfast and saw Chris looking in a terrible state. He was licking his wounds from the various falls last night and cursing our taunts and lack of sympathy. The rafters took forever to pack up camp again. Chris, Billy and Alka decided they would walk round the next two sets of rapids as the rafters had said they would be tricky. I said I would walk down too but take pictures of the rafts shooting the rapids to capture the action. A chorus of chicken noises erupted from those that were going to shoot the rapids towards those that were not. We clambered downstream and waited on the rocks for the rafts to appear. It took an eternity for the rafts to get loaded during which time, Chris became more and more convinced that the rapid we were looking at was unraftable. True, it looked violent and water was churning down it. True, it looked technical and there was no simple clear path through it. However, the raft captains had checked it and seemed happy that they could negotiate it. Chris’ paranoia was rubbing off on Billy and Alka now and they all agreed that the rafts must be stopped and carried around the rapid instead. We continued debating and then the rafts came into view and shot the first rapid. I ran to a high rock and whistled and waved at them to go to the side and not shoot the next rapid. All three rafts found back eddies to moor up in and we had a chat.
Nino was confident that they could have negotiated the rapids but now that would not be possible. Because I had called them over to the side, they would not be able to get the rafts onto the right entry point in order to safely shoot the next rapid. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t possible to haul the rafts back upstream in the eddy pools to get a better trajectory but Nino insisted that this was not possible. So, the only course of action was to offload the three rafts and walk our entire camp belongings and rafts around the rapid. This took the rest of the day to complete and many, many trips from the rafts across car-sized boulders to a small patch of sand 200m downstream. It was sweltering work and hazardous. A few people slipped on the rocks but fortunately there were no injuries. As the light was fading, one of the rafts was dragged by eight people over the rocks and lowered back into the river. The other two rafts would have to wait until tomorrow. Everyone sat exhausted and drank water. A few of us fished halfheartedly but mostly people just relaxed and discussed how we could avoid doing anything like that again. It was agreed that tomorrow would not be a rafting day to allow everything to get reloaded and sorted out. We had only managed to raft a few hundred metres today so a longer raft trip would be necessary the day after tomorrow to make up for the distance lost. The raft captains were given the all clear to take decisions about which rapids could be rafted and which couldn’t. A series of signals was agreed that could be used to abort a raft shooting a rapid if an emergency arose.
We had missed lunch due moving all the camp and raft gear so a big supper was made. Chris got utterly wasted on beer and rum again and disappeared into his tent early. Tazir made ‘bug’ chutney which was basically garlic, ginger, bamboo shoots and crushed bugs mixed together. It actually tasted rather good as long as you didn’t think too hard about it and ignored the bugs’ legs that got stuck between your teeth.
Everyone got to bed relatively early after supper due to the afternoon’s efforts taking their toll.

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