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White-Water Sledging Near Queenstown – Day 51
Tuesday 17th May 2005
Today was a day of much excitement, as it was a chance to try my hand at white water sledging. It was cool in the air, and I just imagined how cold the water would be. Hopefully it would be a fun day.
The tour operators picked me up from my hostel (Purple Cow) and drove me to the location in a minibus. Along the way we picked up two other people who were staying in Queenstown. They seemed friendly, and I got the impression they were together.
After 45 minutes we arrived at the river, and it was a river I had seen previously from driving past. The water looked fierce, and bloody freezing, and I wondered what I had let myself in for. There is no way I would back out though, even when given the option. The other two also agreed to go for it, so we began kitting up.
The wetsuits were a little troublesome to get on, especially as none of us had any idea how to do it, but the guide – who by now was laughing at us – showed us a quick and easy way into the suits. We were out in the open as well which made it all the more difficult. After this we grabbed our boards (sledges), then posed for a quick picture or two. We did look silly, but it was all good fun. By now it was getting quite cold.
We trudged down to the water with our flippers in our hands, then sat in the shallow as we each attached our flippers and began getting use to the water. It was actually fairly warm in the suits, or at least, not freezing cold as I had dreaded, but it was hard keeping upright with our flippers on our feet as we moved out into the river. We had been given a run through of all the instructions before entering the water, and it was now that we began to understand what the guide was talking about.
Out in the river were rapids – obviously – that we needed to be careful of, as we could easily been taken off course if not paying attention properly. This would lead us into the outer sides of the river where we could get caught in the Eddies, thus not being able to get out without hard work. Whirlpools were also on the menu, and we had to be aware of these. We realised that Eddies are small whirlpools around the edges that keep you pinned against the rocks, and this can wear you out as you try to swim out. Being tired can cause you to slip in the water and be dragged downwards. I didn’t much like the sound of this. So basically, keep away from anything but the rapids.
We took a leisurely run down the river over many rapids, just to get use to the board, and how to react in all situations. It was hard work, and concentration levels were very high, but it was fun. The guide was never too far away to help us out. Once down the bottom, we made our way to the side where the minibus was waiting to take us back up again. Only this time, from much higher up the river.
The second run down was much more fun as we had mastered the boards, and it was a chance to really let go and enjoy it. We were riding the rapids, being thrown about by the water, all the while content with the fact that the board would keep you afloat. We tried some somersaults on the boards, spinning around on our backs, and if pulled off correctly, were extremely satisfying. I had lots of fun.
At the end of this final run, we floated for a while along a long stretch of calm water, and reflected on the two runs down the river, swapping stories of how we were dragged here, there and everywhere. The guide – who was a little crazy and lots of fun – looked happy that we had enjoyed ourselves. I was conscious of the fact that I couldn’t feel my feet, but I didn’t care at this moment as I was buzzing!
As we changed on the bank of grass again, I was aware of how numb my feet really were, the cold sapping all life from them. I hurriedly threw my clothes on, trying to keep as much body heat as I could, as it was now freezing cold. It wasn’t until about 30 minutes later that I began to regain feeling in my feet. I grabbed a CD of the pictures taken of us, then we hopped back in the minibus to be taken back home again.
Once I had got back to the hostel, I made my dinner then crashed onto the sofa. My body ached and I was so tired. Stu was there, and we talked a bit in the evening about what we were doing next, but it appears that he is trying to change my mind about what I want to do, and to change it to his way of thinking. This way I get to take him to wherever he wants to go, regardless of whether I want it or not. On the other hand, it seems he will do whatever I want to do, as long as he can come as well and get a free ride. This is frustrating me now, and I think I may need to loose some baggage before setting off again. I like the guy, he is friendly, but I think I travel best when I travel alone, or at least with someone I know well, and this is what I needed to do from now on.
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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