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Tim's Global Adventures

Let The Current Take You

USA | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [106] | Scholarship Entry

‘Okay, this next rapid is a tricky one. In fact, it’s the gnarliest we’re gonna go over all day. So listen up!’
The New River writhed. Currents contorted its surface, liquid cords twisting and smoothing beneath the murky skin like muscles in a labourer’s back. There was no breeze here, deep in the gut of the gorge. Sweat runnelled down my sun-seared neck and I realized that I was scared.
‘Hands tight around your paddles,’ Karin ordered. Her clear voice carried to all ten of us perched on the sides of the inflatable purple raft. ‘If you fall out, you’re gonna want to keep in the middle of the river. Do not try to swim to shore! There are rocks with huge undercuts on either side.’
I squinted downstream: our guide wasn’t lying. Up ahead a strip of whitewater churned, flanked by two tan boulders that looked even more ancient than the surrounding West Virginian hills. The gap between them was worryingly thin. I tried not to imagine the crunch of bone slamming onto damp granite.
I felt a stab of regret towards the spontaneous impulse that had led me here. A day earlier I had grown bored with driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway and flicked through my road-worn guidebook. My hovering finger descended on a short entry for Fayetteville, a town I’d never heard of that promised hiking, mountain biking, and rafting. Three hours later I had arrived.
Approaching the rapid, however, I wanted to be anywhere but Fayetteville, travelling anywhere but along the river’s inevitable flow. Wavelets slapped against the raft’s taut sides as the current pulled our tiny craft forwards. ‘Get ready,’ Karin murmured, almost to herself, then raised her voice in a whooping shout to her amateur crew. ‘Here we go!’
The raft’s bow dipped sharply over the crest of the first rapid. Our paddles plunged into the froth, muscles straining beneath ill-fitting lifejackets. Breath raced into our lungs, our eyes bulged, stinging spray splashed our terrified white knuckles.
And I fell backwards out of the raft.
Musty-smelling river water embraced my body. Fully immersed in the teeming cauldron my limbs grew limp, dragged in every direction. My lifejacket straps hefted my body surfacewards and when my head broke through, greedily gulping air through a grinning mouth, I was no longer afraid. It was all part of the adventure. In that moment, trying desperately to avoid the surrounding rocks, I stopped caring how I got there and just accepted that I would rather be there than anywhere else.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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