Monday, November 06, 2006
Kayaking the Nile
When I think of the Nile I generally think of it as a river in Egypt. Flat, placid, calm. A meandering river that slowly winds its way to the Mediterranean. I have never thought of it as a wild river and I am glad for that. My friend wanted to go white water kayaking and, not knowing any better, I thought I would go along. I should have been scared, but didn’t know it at the time, as our guides showed us how to strap into the tandem kayaks, how to paddle, how to stay centered, and how to roll. It all seemed a bit mundane. Another experience that one should have because one could.
The rapids on the Nile varying from one to six. One being little more than a bump and jostle, six being rapids that will kill you within a minute. We never did anything more than a five and nothing really prepares you for it. Nothing can prepare you for being underwater, upside down, with water beating the air and life out of you, clinging to the kayak hoping that your guide will flip you back upright because you cannot breathe, you cannot think, you have no idea where you are, which way is up, and you are sure that you are not going to make it. You have no more air, the water has filled your sinuses, and there is absolutely nothing you can do but hold on. I’m sure there’s a metaphor for life somewhere in there if you’re dumb enough to want more metaphors for life.
In the nights afterward, just when I am falling asleep I will wake up startled remembering not being able to breathe. Remembering what it was like to be pummelled underwater, to know that you were completely out of control. I suppose some people like it. I did not, particularly. I like the deception of control in which most of us live our lives. I like thinking that, in the day to day humdrum of life, I am not particularly in any danger. And kayaking the Nile is not like that. A few days afterwards the friend and I meander down to one of the rapids rated five – and one at which I was underwater for a particularly long time. The water is pounding down the gorge a breakneck speed. It is almost impossible to hear each other talk over the sound. ‘Wow,’ she says. ‘That is something else!’ I shrug and nod and we walk away.