It's an hour or two after lunch, it's been a long hard week at work, but you're cheered by the knowledge that it's Friday and the start of the weekend is in sight. You rub your eyes, tired by staring at the computer screen all day, turn your head to the left, and admire the view from the window. The height of your office block lets you see the countryside beyond the limits of the town, in the far distance light is reflecting off the surface of a lake. Your eyelids droop slightly and, resting your head in cupped hands, the scene shifts ...
It's an hour or two after lunch, you're back on the water almost regretfully having found an idyllic spot to relax and picnic. Almost regretfully but not quite, hearing the gentle slap of small ripples on the boat reminds you of why you're alive, reaching forward to take another long, slow stroke in time with your companion the canoe moves steadily forward.
This part of the day is always your favourite, the morning had been good, you'd paddled in the front of the boat, conversation had been lively, catching up on life since you'd last been out paddling together, then searching out a likely spot to stop for lunch.
Fed, watered and rested you'd swapped places in the boat and paddled on. This time there was no conversation; neither of you felt it necessary, and both delighting in the feeling of communication with nature.
The river runs through patchy woodland in an isolated valley, at times you're paddling through fields enjoying the warmth of the sun on the back of your neck and the sight and smell of a myriad of wild flowers. As you entered a patch of trees the light quality changed, only patches of sunlight permeated through the canopy of trees, the sound of birds in the trees, slight movement of branches in light winds, occasional sightings of varied wildlife, undisturbed by the almost silent progress of the canoe.
Moments like these are to be remembered and treasured for many days hence.
An increase in volume, is the wind strengthening, glancing up you think not, but still you hear in the distance a roaring sound, the boat gradually starts to pick up speed, and the roaring sounds get louder. For the second time that day, the scene shifts ...
This time alone in a boat, you look ahead to see your companions up ahead on the bank, they're holding throwlines ready to execute a rescue should you capsize. Sitting comfortably in an eddy, you swiftly check over your equipment - spraydeck on, buoyancy aid on, helmet tightly fastened, you take one last look downriver checking the line you intend to take, and push off from the bank.
As the nose of your boat leaves the calm water of the eddy and enters the fast flowing water of the main river it quickly spins to face downstream, pulling the rest of the boat round with it. You angle your craft to river left and paddle strongly, lining up with the first big drop the water starts to race, you must paddle hard to maintain water speed, the sound becomes almost deafening, your heart is racing to match the speed of the water. Over the drop, the smooth glassy water running over the lip is transformed into a churning maelstrom of bubbling white water at the bottom, your canoe buries itself, you feel the force of water hit your chest and face and the boat is slowed by the stopper, reaching past the wave with your paddle you paddle on and pull free.
No time to think, paddle right now to avoid that big rock, imprinted in your memory from your earlier inspection of the rapid, you enter the next section. Only a small drop this time followed by a series of stoppers, standing waves, holes and bubbling water. Whooping with exhilaration you bounce on down river, aiming for a tiny eddy just behind a large rock. Pausing for breath you line up the best and last wave, a wide drop with a powerful stopper just below.
It's been a good day so far, you're feeling confident and want to play. You drop down towards the wave backwards, letting the water carry you, as you near the drop you start to paddle back up stream, the waters too fast, but you manage to slow your progress. You drop over the edge.
This time going too slowly to break through the stopper, it holds you in it grasp. You lean right, lift your left knee, and the boat lies sideways across the river held in place by the wave, but still leaping and bouncing about so that it feels like riding a bucking bronco. This is where it really starts to get fun. You practise cartwheels, pirouettes, flat spins until, trying too hard, you lean back dip the stern of the boat into the powerful stream of water flowing over the drop, the back is submerged, the front leaping out the water and over your head, no longer surfing the wave you emerge downstream, but upside-down. The sudden cold attempts to take your breath away, grasping your paddle firmly you reach for the surface, grip the water with the paddle blade and smoothly roll upright. Your friends on the bank laughing and cheering, you too have a huge smile on your face. The scene shifts...
Your computer comes back into focus; you enjoy the memories of past glorious days, and look forward to another weekend on the water.
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