We drove out to our starting point up river from Tena and were greeted by many local children who saw the burns on my legs and kept calling me the burnt white girl. We loaded our equipment into the river and practiced skim rolls which were much harder than they look. I couldn’t quite master it, so Santiago gave our guide, Alejandro a concerned look and said that if I flipped, just to pull my skirt and swim away. This didn’t exactly comfort me, but I figured it couldn’t be that hard.
|Kayaking along the river. The tall tree in the background is called a Sable and is over 100 years old- it is the only tree that was saved from the destruction of the oil companies in this region.|
We started out on the river and you could hear the first rapid before you saw it. The roaring water made my stomach flip and I realized how inexperienced I was. I could barely control the kayak in a current, even worse in raging rapids. Nevertheless (not that I had a choice) I gripped my paddle tight and tried avoiding the whirlpools. At the end of the rapid, I was crying. I was shaking so badly because I had had no control over my kayak the entire rapid. Luckily, my kayak was very large for me so that I basically floated above the water.
I was mad at my friend Santiago for telling me I could handle it and I was mad at our guide, Alejandro, for not paddling right next to me. The second rapid was even worse- huge waves with big boulders added to the mix. My whole body was shaking at this point but I decided to keep going. The next few rapids came and I got better with controlling my movements. I learned how to snap my hips to steer the boat and how to better avoid the trickier waves. One of the biggest rapids came and I was on the right side of the river. Alejandro yelled at me to get on the left to avoid a whirlpool, but I couldn’t get over in time. I tried paddling straight through the giant wave, but the current was too strong and flipped my kayak around. I rode the wave backwards and somehow survived. After the rapid, a professional kayaker paddled up to me and told me how awesome my trick had been back there. I nodded weakly and checked to make sure my head was still attached to my body.
The rest of the trip was easy. I could handle the rapids and they became weaker than at the beginning. We stopped at a beach to swim for a while and I talked to Alejandro about the petroleum companies around the area (blog post to come). Alejandro spoke Kichwa so we practiced a bit to his amazement that I spoke and was knowledgeable about the Kichwa culture. We finished the river and rode back to Tena where we met up with my friends, ate ceviche and ice cream, and crashed in our hot, humid hostel.