newest   |   oldest

index   |   guestbook

profile   |   contact   |   diaryland

previous - next


May 12, 2004

i imagine that falling out of a raft is scary under any circumstance. but i can't tell you about any circumstance, i can only tell you about falling out of a raft that is heading nearly vertically up the hugest wave you've ever been that close to, in the middle of a class IV rapids called lower huacas. 'huacas' being a word in the language of the cabecar, the native people of the pacuare river, meaning 'cemetery'.

i can tell you how there is this moment when you know. you feel it. up until then you think you can hold on and stay in, just need to rebalance and hold tighter to the rope and maybe dig your foot deeper in its little pocket. but in this moment you realize that it isn't going to work, you are leaving the raft and going into the river oh god ohgod ohmygod.

and you don't really have time to take a breath because the water foams up all around you and it is fucking pissed off. throws you everywhere and your instinct is to kick hard to get your head above it to breathe breathe breathe and then you remember what they said. they said don't try to swim. they said just relax, just relax and point your feet downstream and lie on your back and relax. do not panic. so you try but suddenly you are under the raft, there are paddles and boats and rocks everywhere and you never did get that breath, not really. and you're not sure right then that you will ever be able to get out from under the raft. you think all inaflash that maybe the current will carry you and the raft with equal strength down the river and you will die now, you will die here in this river so far away from home and with your friends right. up. there. on top of the water where you should be. you push against the bottom of the raft with your hands, you claw and climb and try to get to the edge.

and you try to remember how long people can survive without breathing...

and all of this doesn't take very long, maybe 30 seconds but it feels a hell of a lot longer. i can tell you it does.

and then you're out and you fight to turn your face upwards and you wait for a break in the waves and you gasp for a breath which is maybe half water but air air you have some air now and that's good because now the current catches you again and it rolls you and your head is under and now you will yourself to clamp your mouth and eyes shut because all you want to do is breathe in but there is water everywhere.

and you feel a mile or ten miles away from the raft. you learn later that you were never more than ten feet away but you have no idea of this at the time. and everything in you panics and wants to swim hard and you keep telling yourself no.

then you feel it, someone grabs the back of your life jacket and lifts you a bit. someone says 'i have you, you're all right.' that same someone asks if you can grab his kayak and you realize it's the safety kayaker, it's mario, you are being saved! but even when you roll over and throw your arm across whatever piece of the kayak he put next to you (you don't know, your eyes are still closed and you just want air air air) the water is still everywhere. and you think it should be easier to breathe than this when one is being saved, shouldn't it?

but then mario tells you that you're at the raft, you're going to go back into the raft and you just reach and grab and hold whatever it is, the rope, a hand, an oar. you can't remember these details later. but you remember hands on the shoulders of your life vest pulling you up and in as you kick and kick and then you're in lying on the floor not knowing not caring not seeing just coughing and telling yourself it's done now. it's done.

and then you remember you're still rafting and you are part of this team so you sit up and say 'i'm okay i'm okay' and you get into position. you put your foot back in its little pocket. you find a paddle and your hand finds the rope and you cough and you hang on. soon it's calm and a guide comes behind you and unsnaps your life jacket so you can breathe a little deeper and he so sweetly says 'i know. it's okay.'

and you are okay. your fingers and arms and legs are still shaking but you're okay and you somehow know that now is the time when you have to decide not to give into the fear. now is the time when you dig in and paddle and you keep going and you don't pull back because if you do even a little then you might not ever want to do this again. and you love this, you love everything about it and somehow tasting the realness of the danger, tasting the river as it pushes into every opening in your body, it just makes it all better.

later you try to tell your friends how that was the most terrified you ever felt. and they listen and they were scared and they are sorry and sweet. but they don't really know. nobody really knows and that is okay. this experience is just yours. it was an important moment in your life, it was the first time that you really thought you might die.

for the rest of the day you can feel the river in your lungs when you breathe in deep, you can taste it way down in your throat, and it reminds you of something there are no words for.