*After university I didn’t know what to do with myself.  So I wandered round SEAsia for a few years.  You know: one way ticket, wander till I ‘find myself,’ blah, blah, blah… 

Sometimes I get sentimental about those days, in hindsight it all seemed so effortless.  But I kept journals.  And I wrote (and kept) emails.  So despite what my stupid mind today might think, my stupid mind from yesterday is there to remind me.  It’s interesting to look back though, so though I have already posted some old writings (like here and here), in the next little while I think I will post a few more. 

So if you’d care to join me, here are some words from young me, just as stupid as current me, just in a slightly different way…

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This photo was taken as we pushed off, still at a very calm and peaceful part of the river. After it started to get a little choppy (not yet white water), the guy in front asked to switch places with me. I agreed.  And then this happened…

- Java, Indonesia. 2002 -

<”LEGS FORWARD!!! LEGS FORWARD!!!”> roared the rafting guides in Indonesian.

Despite the raging torrents of water rushing around me I could hear the panic in their voices.  In the fleeting moments of visibility granted by the rushing river I had fallen into I could see the yellow raft and the desperate gaze of my fellow white-water rafters.

It dawned on me as I was uncontrollably dragged down river, or perhaps it was when I struck a boulder violently with my right shoulder, that perhaps falling into rapids at the top of rocky, fast moving, white water might not be in the best interest of my health.

Fortunately, my demeanour is naturally calm, stoically controlled.  ;-)

Snorting water out of my lungs during an intermittent surfacing I swivelled my body forward, so that I was on my back with my legs facing downriver.

It was then that the rocky labyrinth was laid out before me.  Only moments had passed since I had been thrown off the craft.  It had lurched forward after slamming into a jutting boulder at the top of the rapids. The rock absorbed the momentum of the raft.  But it didn’t absorb mine. Taking a deep, moist breath I assessed the situation.  [Then I violently coughed up water.]

Directional control was wishful thinking.  I tried to take hold of a rock so as to wait for the craft to pick me up… that, unfortunately, was more difficult than I first assumed.  Rushing water makes a surprisingly persuasive argument.

There was only one recourse—

Relax.  ;-)

The view was spectacular.  The river itself was about six to eight metres wide and wonderfully smattered with large mineral debris that dotted this downstream portion resulting in scenic white water.  The banks of this frothy artery were still natural, lush forest, vibrantly green with tropical trees.  Colourful birds, like the two blue kingfishers on a branch arching over the right bank of the river, were completely ignorant of my passage and sat resting in the mid-afternoon sun.

—But, of course, I was also thinking about how I did not want to crack my nuts slamming unawares, legs parted, into rocks (above OR below water).  Or break my skull open.  Or get a leg caught, or twisted, or broken, or otherwise be made less than comfortable between a couple fair sized stones.

So I kept my legs together and pointed forward.

In this way I bounced from rock to rock, deflecting my trajectory somewhat towards the side of the river, a rough vertical rock face which forced the river to bend to the left.  [Some would call this manoeuvre brilliant and cunning, an excellent example of calm rational thought in a difficult situation.  Others might call it spinning wildly out of control I, am of the former group.]

Despite, or perhaps because of, my no-doubt enviable efforts, my calm was again to be challenged.

The raft had caught up with me and my two—misguided—”rescuers” (the so-called rafting experts) roughly grabbed hold of the back of my lifejacket.

To this day I still don’t understand why, as things were quite clearly under control.

A new dilemma was posed:  We were still only halfway down the white-water, and with my back grabbed, my legs could not be held forward and were sucked under the greater mass and momentum of the raft.  Now my head was just barely above water and rushing—face first—into a connect-the-dots of rocky pain.

My body was forced over rocks that lashed my flesh.  In a voice and tone that I thought most appropriate in this situation, I pleasantly requested to be unhanded and left to my own devices.

Thankfully my fellows accepted my request, though they did feel it necessary to wait until after slamming my body into the rough 90 degree rock face on the right bank of this Zen-inspired tropical stream.

The river caressed my worn body and lifted me into a horizontal position as I grasped hold of the bluff.  Though my watery companion argued well to convince me to leave myself in her care I, in the end, decided to shrug off this suggestion and, with skin tearing ease, lifted myself from her embrace.

A short 90 degree climb, dense jungle trek, and hike downstream later I splashed again into the calmer waters of the river and rejoined my strangely wide-eyed crew.

And with that I returned to the front-right position of our inflatable vessel, pushed our craft away, and continued the journey.

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Contact me at: alexfelipe.photographer@gmail.com

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