This is Scott. This is my first Adventuriety blog.
Our Peruvian experience has been full of exploration and wonder. It has been part of my travel joy to just show up to a place without having a whole lot of knowledge. Grant and Ashley’s 5th grade teacher Laurie Johnson, is a master educator. She taught the kids to “First wonder, then ask google.” I think this is generally the rule I have followed this year. Aside, from knowing where we might sleep or when the bus is supposed to arrive, wonder is a fine lens through which to view new places. Daisy and I have spent many hours at the computer seeking answers to questions that were only available after exposure to wonder. For example, I have learned a great deal about Spain’s Francisco Franco and his tumultuous reign as president, his tenuous relationship with Hitler, his oppressive policies resulting in, among other things, the near extinction of the Basque language. I never gave a care before about such things, but wonder has driven my curiosity to learn. Had I made attempts to front load load my trip to Spain with political facts, I would not have achieved the depth of knowledge or, in my case, retained much of it.
So, now to the day’s adventure.
We were very fortunate to procure the services of some very good guides in Peru. Their passion about indigenous culture, history and the great outdoors we were exploring made for the fullest experience. I returned home many of the previous nights exhausted and enthralled having experienced a bounty of both physical exhaustion and mental stimulation. Was the constant stream of sweat from my bald head from the physical activity or from my synapses working overtime, cycling through new knowledge and new wonder? Daisy had to step in more than once after the conversation Luis and I shared digressed to some uncountable level of depth. A simple question about a plant, for instance, had become a thirty minute dialogue ending in the position of certain stars in the sky.
Okay, really. Now to the day’s adventure.
We were picked up around 7:00 am by a van full of gear and river rats (river rat is a good thing to be called if you are a river rat, I’m pretty sure). These gentlemen happen to be the type that have a great passion about the river, their craft at captaining a boat, and what the conditions might be for the day. Their thoughts and conversation float between, “do we have all the gear,” “remember that time when,” and “it looks like we could get some rain.” I describe this to you to set in your mind the fact that today would NOT be intellectually challenging and digression in conversation could not occur. It was going to be a day of just plain fun.
In short the day would proceed as follows. We would first perform a fashion show for each other in our aging, assigned wet-suits, go through the ritual of the “safety” and “how-to” talks, get in the water, do some stuff, get out, wish we were river rats and then go back home. The “how-to” talk emphasized the need to listen to your captain and row as a team, and then occasionally play some form of Twister in the raft for safety’s sake.
Our boat was comprised of one river rat captain with an authoritative, yet positive voice and six complete rafting newbies with varying ability to perform rhythmic task. There were two folks from England who always spoke through questions, along with Grant, Ashley, myself and the van driver’s Peruvian lady, Livia. Livia would be filling in for Daisy today and played the role quite well. She was intimidated, but was the best sport. She was challenged by the fact that the commands were first given in English then occasionally translated in Spanish when it was critically important. Imagine square dancing by observation only to understand what steps you were actually SUPPOSED to take after the fact.
Daisy is rightfully protective of her surgically repaired eye and would not have enjoyed things like oars flying in and out of her face bubble by boating ignoramuses, submersion of face in brown river water, or our ugly costumes not matching her beautiful face. In addition, Daisy would not like the lack of concern our captain expressed when the kids could jump over board to practice being rescued or riding cowboy style on the nose of the raft through rapids. Oh yeah, paddle driven water fights were a bit over enthusiastic too. Livia was a superb game day replacement.
The boat was released from the security of the shore into the snaking river and the six of us with paddles were given our first command.
At this point the only reason the raft moved forward was because it was pointing down rapid. In fact, had we been in a flat lake our first effort at propelling the raft would likely have resulted in donuts accompanied by the unwelcome applause of clacking oars. We, the rhythmically challenged, failed propulsion and a glance back at the captain’s face foreshadowed an ensuing talking-to about teamwork. The reason backseat drivers can offer advice is because the driver and all that lie ahead are in view. Such is the case for a 6-person raft. Those in the front cannot benefit from seeing those behind, and therefore, in our case, if rhythm and teamwork were to succeed it would depend on how our front seated oarsmen could lead. Who were our front seated oarsmen? Grant and Ashley, of course. They worked well together and without saying too much the rest of us caught on that we should follow their rhythm.
Paddling with a consistent rhythm is not too difficult but there are some obstacles that can alter one’s cadence however. First you have the waves. When the raft lurches upward over a wave your body, which is held in the raft by a leg grip, tends to stiffen and the normal stroke gets interrupted. Second, holes can occur in the river where the raft noses into the water and gives the feeling that you are on the high end of a very wet and unstable seesaw. This too can alter what is supposed to be a metronome of paddle. Our two leaders tried very hard to maintain a matched rhythm, but the frequently occurring waves, holes and other distractions made it difficult.
The class of a rapid goes up in number as the challenges increase and our day would consist of class 1, 2, 3 and 4. As the rapids increased in size I found myself enjoying a new wonder. To my amazement our boat had a strong leader in Grant who was tied to every command of our captain. “More Power!” ”Forward!” Every decibel increase in command was matched by an ever growing intensity in my son Grant. This kid was an absolute animal in the front. His strength and power met every wave without hesitation or any perceivable break in pattern. He was leaning in and eating the waves. He was stabbing them with his oar as if to rip out their hearts. As our raft was tossed down the class 3’s and 4’s it was our captain’s commands and Grant’s tenacious execution that we were able to follow. Very early in our trip we became a team and very soon Grant began belting out the words “In . . . In . . . In . . .” We charged along and finally unison was achieved. He was so alive, having so much fun, that it left me in a proud state of wonder.