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Water in a hurry

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The rush is a little too rapid in a rubber raft

It's a picture of tranquillity, is the river Tons, as the little rubber raft goes floating along gently riding every crest and small ripple. Vaibhav, the river guide who's been running this river for years now is making us practice snappy commands - "left down" and then, "right back" I'm wondering what the fuss is about - so where are the rapids, the drops, the twists and the excitement? It is only when the roar gets angrier and you are poised on the last stretch of unbroken water, ridding huge ripples, the last of which will hurl you into the frothy chaos of a million cubits of water in confusion, that you realize that there is no way this little buttressed carpet of air and rubber is ever going to handle all the liquid fury that is about to hurled at it. My mind desperately started revising Vaibhav's instructions. What was that left down, right reverse, hard front easy back? Suddenly I found a huge wall of water crashing down on me. There was no co-ordination between me, my co-paddlers or the raft as the raft went vertical like the Titanic's last sigh and yet managed to fall back with all the souls in it wet and cold but still inside its periphery. Vaibhav's snappy commands had by now become heartfelt pleas, so that he could regain some semblance of control. Somehow or the other we managed to ride that rapid and get out intact. What a thrill! Vaibhav had been exposed to complete incompetence of these three plain dwellers in his command boat. With a shaky voice he once again went over the drill with us. This was a little rapid, a teaser, and a preview of the 70mm main picture coming up. I realised that we didn't even have to paddle; the current was taking us along at a very quick pace. The rapid coming up next was technical as it had strategically placed rocks that had to be avoided. This meant battling the current which would do all it could to catapult the raft onto these rocks. As soon as we hit the rapids, the water reared seven feet over the raft and whacked it with a backhanded slap. Once again Vaibhav was pleading with us to rally against the might of the Tons. This time we did, and the three of us at the paddles and Vaibhav at the rudder worked in perfect synchronisation. The knack of river running fractionally mastered, we were excited and flushed with adrenaline. And by the time we pulled up on the bank of the river, we were raring to go again.For details, go to www.aquaterra.co.in

RISHAD SAAM MEHTA

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