Rapid improvement required

Day 35 - El Naranjo

So, the odds defied, we were back on the mainland and having clearly discovered a penchant for activities not covered by our insurance policy we meant to try our hand next at White Water Rafting. In hindsight I felt a little mis-sold by the accumulated images in my head. Lots of people grinning with excitement as they coast tearing class 5 rapids and rather fewer images of upturned inflatables and rafters swept downstream bobbing in the froth. You may be able to guess by this point which of the aforementioned scenarios more closely matches my experience. Michael had ostensibly (sensibly?) bowed out due to the fact it was raining. That left me and Tony in the raft with our Canadian instructor whose irritation with our poor technique at times bested his laid back demeanor. Alan the Irishman was our safety net in a kayak on point. The brown river surged like some Wonka-esque creation, swelled by precipitation and testing the banks. The rain pummeled down as we rehearsed rhythmic paddle strokes in a calm pool next to the Rio Cangregal (River of Crabs). Once we had gone through a range of called instructions which basically boiled down to either 'row!' or 'throw yourself into the raft!' we paddled out into the insistent flow. I was the first to go. A slightly angled entry into a series of rapids bounced the inflatable up and me out. The consequences of not paddling together were soddenly obvious. Pulled in an instant 10 metres downstream I swam against a tidal treadmill whose pace increased as my limbs quickly tired. All in a day's work for Alan and Canadian guy though. Hauled back I was instantly set to work while my lungs still burned, the river waited for no man. The next set of rapids was negotiated with luck and silent prayers. Getting to the other side still perched precariously on the unforgiving craft we were shot through with adrenalin....and relief. Our fortune was not to last however. The final stretch of furious river approached and with hearts in mouths and paddles in hand we fought the white waters and our own sorry synchronisation. The raft bounced, yawed, pitched and....flipped. Its three occupants were unceremoniously deposited into muddy mayhem. Encumbered by paddle and a now familiar resignation I swam again for the boat. Scuba diving was mere child's play compared to this fearsome task. Reflecting afterwards on our miserable performance that ensured it was more white water swimming than white water rafting the adrenalin still coursing through my veins was no less intoxicating. Would I do it again?
Yes, in a chest-splitting, lung-bursting second.

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