Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kanu fahren

So today we went on a canoe trip with the Fulbrighters down the Lahn. We met up around 9:30 and took a bus to Roth, a small town where we launching from. We were going to be in 2-3 man canoes, wearing lifevests of course, and going around 10km. We put our things in water resistant bags, and lugged our canoe down to the water (it was really heavy for Mariko).

 Mariko was in front and I was in back doing the steering, and luckily the guides gave us some info on how to steer and paddle. It took some time to get the hang of things, and it was amusing to see our group zig-zagging across the river trying to get things controlled. A few bumps ensued of course but the beginning was fairly good. The current was moving slowly, but carried us about 2-3 km shortly.... and that's when things got complicated.

One of the canoes had veered into the bank and gotten too close to a wasp's nest, which have been more abundant this year than usual. They were both stung numerous times all over their heads, and in the process fell into the Lahn. Imran lost his glasses and shoes, the shoes were later recovered... sadly not the glasses. Both of them looked pretty shaken up, and though they weren't allergic, they still had some swelling due to the number of stings.

We landed, in a safe location, and got things settled. They were going to the hospital, but sadly had to go further downstream before there was a spot to pick them up at. And luckily Mariko carries Benedryl around with her and was able to give them both doses to help with the swelling a bit. One of the other Fulbrighters gave them Ibuprofen for the pain, but it wasn't doing much. We landed at the designated pick-up location and got them unloaded and headed to the hospital. Raphael went along to make sure that they were going to be ok, and to translate if needed. You could tell that he felt so bad about the whole situation.

The rest of the group continued onward, and we got to our lunch spot shortly. It was a tasty lunch, consisting of bread, meat, cheese and vegetables..... the german staple. To drink we had orange juice with whey in it.... definitely bizarre, but I thought that it was nice (Mariko not so much). We had some chickens running around to entertain us during our meal, but it was nice to relax.

We got back in the boats and continued onward! We had a bit more practice at steering so we got going much easier than before. As we were paddling our day away, we could hear in the background a roaring sound... like one would hear from a waterfall. Now some of you are probably thinking "Oh no!" But fear not, we portaged around the small falls (it was only about 3-4 feet drop) and got back in the water! The funny thing is AFTER the waterfall is where the ride gets interesting for Mariko and I....

So we were the last to get back in the water and we are cruising along smoothly with another couple, though they were canoeing much better than us, when I saw a branch stretched out across about a third of the water. I was trying to steer slowly to the other side, which was not working so well. So I tried a harder turn, which caused us to go sideways at the branch. That wouldn't have been too bad had the branch not been so low.... but it was. Mariko was able to squeeze under the end of the branch, but my section was too much for me and the canoe wanted to keep going. So what happens when a canoe is sideways and getting pushed upstream while carrying a load of two passengers? It began to tip. At this point I knew I was going in, nothing was going to be able to stop it, so I just bailed out..... which for Mariko's sake was a good thing. Without me blocking the branch, it slide over and the canoe was able to not flip over! Bad news, in my attempt to rescue my wife from wet pants all day my glasses were swept away down current.... yeah not a good thing, but could have been worse.

So now I'm soaking wet, though cooled off from the heat of the day, and we are trailing WAY behind the group.... and Mariko is getting tired. Honestly she was doing a lot of paddling, and everyone knows how athletic we are not. We were able to catch back up with the people lagging behind, and the day was looking a little blurrier, but still a good day..... until complication Number 2 arose!

As we were going down the Lahn, we suddenly heard some German people shouting at us (in German of course), but not being very specific... just something about the middle. Even our tour guide, a real German, couldn't make out what they were saying. Don't worry we found out. If any of you are familiar with kayaking you may know what I'm talking about, but for those of you who don't I will explain. Stretched across the river were ropes, and draping down from the ropes were hard plastic "poles" in pairs... essentially an obstacle course for kayaks. We would have been fine had a number of things not been there, but it didn't turn out that way. First off, there were A LOT of the gates down this section of the river. Plus there were the kayaks trying to go through them, taking up the entire section. Thirdly the river got faster during this section. So when you combine us (new canoers) going down a faster section of the river, while dodging kayaks, canoes, poles and trying to keep our balance...... wasn't a pretty sight. So to put it plainly the canoe tipped.... or should I say flipped. Mariko wasn't able to avoid this one sadly at got just as soaked as I was once again. On the plus side this water landing was better in the fact that nothing got lost or ruined (our belongings were in water resistant bags).

We got the canoe righted, drained of the enormous amounts of water (with help from the patient tour guide) and got back on our way. The dip in the river gave Mariko and I a second wind, and we were able to get moving at a fairly steady pace..... but we were ready to be done at that point. Of course we were the last ones at the landing, but got our boat out fairly quickly. Two bus rides later we were back in our dorm room, getting into dry clothes and hunkering down for a nap! Poor Mariko's arms were killing her and she could barely lift them, but she took some Ibuprofen and was fast asleep.

Sadly we had no pictures of our own of the trip (the ones I posted here I stole from another Fulbrighter)... but it was probably a good thing considering how wet we got. After everything was said and done, I still had a fun day and enjoyed the canoe trip... should have worn my contacts, but hind sight is always 20/20.

1 comment:

  1. This was a very full, busy, adventurous... and fun day