Monday, 21 June 2010

Wet and Wild Weekend

Oh dear, it's happened. I've resorted to alliteration, the twelfth deadly sin.

I haven't posted for a few days, but with good reason. On Saturday, I was doing some of this:
And, more significantly, this:
These pictures were taken by our guides at Happy Raft Japan, a group that offers rafting and canyoning trips on the Yoshino river, the big river that passes through our island of Shikoku. The rafting took place way out in the far west of Tokushima prefecture, actually over the border a little into Kochi. This meant getting up before 5, to get a train to Ishii to get a ride with a friend the rest of the way. Unfortunately, we missed the train so had to take a taxi to the next town. Expensive, but we got there on time. It was a two hour drive to the Oboke/Koboke Gorge area, where we donned wetsuits, fleeces, helmets and lifejackets, and took a bus upstream.

We were given the usual sort of safety speech which told us what we'd be doing in the raft, what we'd be doing if we ended up outside the raft, and what to do if the raft flipped upside down. There was a lot of talk of going to one's happy place. We were shown how to bring someone back onboard if they couldn't help themselves, and what to do if we couldn't make it back to a boat and ended up downstream ahead of the rafts. We were also told that half the fun of rafting is spent outside of the raft.

This turned out to be true; in addition to punching through rapids, we jumped out of the raft and floated downstream in human trains and we got tricked into landing in the water by the guide a couple of times. We also did this:
I'm pretty sure this is me, but it's hard to be sure as there were about thirty of us and we were all wearing similar things. We stopped at some high rocks that divided the river in two, and climbed up to jump off. It was about six or so metres high. There are a couple of reasons why I think this picture is me. First, I was wearing a red helmet, red striped wetsuit and white shoes. Second, I was losing my balance as I was being counted down 3-2-1, so I ended up jumping just before 1, rather than after. You can see the guy behind me still has one finger held up. It was a little scary, but it was over in a flash.

Before lunch, one of the other rafts flipped on some big rapids. Suddenly paddles and peeps were racing downstream. I was able to pull in one of the victims with my paddle and then myself and a lady in my raft pulled her into ours. It was a great moment of camaraderie.

We stopped for lunch back at the rafting place then headed out for another 10km. During one of the bigger rapids, Emily's raft flipped. My raft had already passed this point, but the guide decided to take us back into the rapid so that the other raft didn't get all the fun. We didn't know what he was trying to do when he made us paddle into the rapid as fast as we could, then get down in the centre of the raft, and in fact nothing happened the first time. The second time, however, he got what he wanted. We flipped. I was vaguely aware of it happening at the time. The front end of the rafted loomed upwards and the next thing I knew I was underwater. I got off relatively easy, however. I had my eyes closed, and as I surfaced and felt the raft above me, I thought I might have ended up under the raft. Fortunately I was outside. I had been sitting in the back seat when we flipped, and I was just behind the raft when I surfaced. Others weren't so lucky. Wet and Wild Andre, our team mascot, got dragged downstream by the currents and took a while to get back to the raft, which the guide flipped back over.

Nearing the end of the trip, we stopped for another cliff jump. This one was more like 8 metres. I stupidly ended up as presumptive third to go. I was unable to go on my 3-2-1 countdown because it looked so much higher than the last jump. I steeled myself and went a little after the count. Just the thought of doing it makes me shudder. Whereas with the 6 metre jump it all seemed over really quickly, this time I was really aware of falling through the air. I'm glad I did it, however.

All in all it was an awesome, but exhausting day. I got home around 10.30pm, had a bath to get rid of the river water smell, and eventually went to bed. However, this was not the end of the weekend's adventures, as I will explain in the next exciting instalment later today.

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