February 26th 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1
The crew of Old Patch

The people from the rafting company were supposed to be picking us up at 7.45, which meant an early start.  However, we weren’t the only ones, as the whole village was throbbing with orienteers – there was some national meet on, so they were there from all over the place.  Certainly from Auckland, as I spotted Herman, our host from way back in October.  No time for more than a very brief hello, but it was still very nice to see him again.  With all the crowds around, the man from Buttercup (a curious name for an outdoor adventure company) had great difficulty in finding us, but he managed it in the end, + we were soon whisked on our way to the rendezvous point.  There were 5 of us from the Chateau, the 3 aforementioned, plus a couple of middle-aged expat Yorkshirepersons, Colin + Mary.  We 5, plus one other gentleman, were the only ones doing just a half-day, so were all in one boat, just the 6 of us, plus the guy who’d picked us up, who was the owner of the organisation, + acted as our captain + instructor.

There was quite a lot of messing about first, of course, meeting other people, signing indemnity forms, shifting onto other vehicles, but eventually there we were, down at the start point, sitting on our inflatable raft, perched on dry land, sitting in wet suits, life-jackets + crash helmets, being drilled in the rudiments of paddle-handling, water safety, + general piracy.  3 hours later it ws all over, + we were all standing round, drinking tea, exhausted + exhilarated.  It had been terrific.  Believe me, this had been no passive passage, a la roller-coaster.  We had been perched around the edge of the raft, one leg in, one leg out, holding on desperately with our legs – with both hands on the paddle, you can’t hang on with anything else.  We paddled forwards, backwards + sideways, fended the boat off cliffs, spun round, + occasionally just hung on desperately.  We’d shot thro’ rapids, bounced against rocks, bucked over small waterfalls, + had a terrific time.  And we’d also found time to chuck water  we did, over the “riff-raff” (there were many rafts on the water) + issue the war-cry of the infamous Pirates of Old Patch.  We were very lucky, you see, to have the captain we did, because, as well as being good at his job, believed in making the whole thing more than just a rafting trip.  So he splashed us with water, we splashed all the other rafts, + tho’ we were a respectably quiet + diffident half-dozed when we began, by the end we were whooping + yelling like any pirates.  So, a wonderful time – one I would like to repeat.  In addition, we were taken to a public thermal pool for a relaxing swim.  Val + I were in a dilemma at this point, since we hadn’t yet been asked for any money, + it seemed likely we could get away with it.  However, meeting the boss pricked our consciences into life, + we coughed up.  The day had been well worth the $30 apiece.

After dinner, Val + I went over with Mike to his place, the Skotel, to take advantage of their telly.  Stayed till late watching Visconti’s The Damned, a film which nobody but us seemed to like.  It certainly rambled, + didn’t translate well,, I think, to the TV screen, but was still interesting – a modern Macbeth.

We thoroughly enjoyed our expeerience of eafting, and vowed to do it again, but the only time we have done so was during a family holiday to Canada, when, becuase mary was so small, we opted for the safest option… which was so tame as to be tedious. But anyway, this time was wonderful, and we were in the right sort of boat, with a leader well-used to such a collection of oddbods.

  1. Pamela Blair

    Thanks for this entry. I share your love of river rafting, and it brought back many happy memories. I haven’t done it in years, and have only been thrown out of the raft once (that was enough). Our first trip was like you described your Canadian rafting adventure (or lack thereof), rafting with a friend and our three-year-old sons on the lazy part of the American River, but as Tim grew up, we got more adventurous, ending with a class-four river in Oregon. We made it without a spill, but the adrenalin was racing!

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