Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My $350 Canoe Trip

We decide to make the next day, our second full day in Belize, somewhat low-keyish, and explore the grounds about Black Rock Lodge. Specifically, we decide to rent a canoe and take it down the river, a suggested half-day trip that includes lunch at another resort and a trip to their butterfly farm. The manager tells us that because it had rained overnight, the river will be faster than normal so we’ll have to be careful navigating into currents. Fine—we’ll be great! It will be an adventure! Never mind the fact that neither Matt nor I have been on a river or near a self-propelled boat in years—how hard can it be?

I decide to take my digital camera since Matt’s is much older than mine and annoying to use. Plus, he had lost the waterproof one the day before. So, I put the camera in its case, seal it in a zip-loc bag, and put it, along with sunglasses, bug spray, some money, and sunscreen in our small, messenger bag. Matt and I meet the manager by the river where he instructs us in the way of the canoe. For about 3 minutes. Then, he straps life jackets onto us and puts towels and our messenger bag inside a plastic bag which he ties to a rope connected to the boat. He holds the canoe for me so I can crawl in; Matt crawls in to sit behind me. And we’re off.

I dip my oar in the river, wondering what we’ve gotten ourselves into. We’re rowing down the river. Why are we rowing down the river? And suddenly we’re turning. Why are we turning? We’re turning! The current spins us around and Matt tells me he’ll flip us around and he manages to push us off a rock and right before we turn back down the river I see the manager, not 50 feet away from us, shake his head and stifle a laugh. Oh God. He totally knows that is not a good idea.

But now that we’re headed in the right direction it’s going to be fine.
“I want to take a picture,” I yell. “Can you hand me my camera?”
“Let’s wait until we’re more used to this.” He answers.
I don’t know why he’s worried; we’re fine. We just have a little bend in the river coming up, that’s all. Except the current’s pushing us and we’re spinning around again and suddenly what seemed like a wave is really a bank of rocks. Ack! We’re on the rocks! And we’re stuck! But the water keeps moving and Matt’s doing something with his oar to shove us off the rocks and the canoe’s moving but the wrong way and it tips left and I tip right and I’m in the water. And Matt’s in the water. And we’re both yelling and I have to make sure not to lose my goddamn oar and the plastic bag with our stuff is bobbing up and down and there, off the my right is my flip-flop floating away.

“Are you okay.” Matt yells at me, scrambling to hold onto to canoe.
“Yeah, I’m fine—do you still have your oar?”
“Yeah.
“Ok. I need you to hold mine while I get my shoe.”

End of discussion, I pass off the oar and follow the traitorous shoe. I only brought one pair of flip-flops and can’t lose the fucker. I can’t think about the boat now, only retrieving the rubber shoe bobbing away.

A few strokes later, back at the canoe, I realize that perhaps I shouldn’t have left Matt to deal with the boat and the oars. He’s kind of freaking out.

“Did you get your shoe?” He asks panting, breathless.
“Yeah. What’s the matter?”
“Fuck. The boat. It’s, fuck, I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, give me the oars back—I’ll make sure we don’t lose them. You make sure we don’t lose the plastic bag with our stuff. Good thing you didn’t take out the camera, right?”

He hands over the oars and we float holding onto the canoe yelling over the current, trying to figure out how to right the boat, what to do. I’m really annoyed, but just because it’s been less than 10 minutes and I’m soaked and this is one stupid obstacle that I didn’t want to deal with. But Matt’s scared. His voice is all panicky and he’s acting like we’re in big trouble.

“Look,” I say, trying to remain calm and focused, “we can stand. We’re not in any danger. We just need to get to the side to flip the boat over.”
Matt’s gulping and grasping and I’m more worried about him than the river. “There,” he points to a little bank off the river. Fighting the current, we’re about the shove the canoe into the little embankment where we catch our breaths before righting it. Plastic bag in, both flip-flops on, I precariously get back into the canoe. Matt does the same. And we immediately flip back over. Fuck!

The second (third?) time’s the charm, though, and after we’re settled in, we set off. The river is calm. If only Matt was too. He’s still breathing hard and professes to being really scared. “I’m just annoyed,” I tell him, and in about 10 minutes I get even more annoyed because it starts to rain. And it’s cold. And it’s not even that pretty here. Why is the water so green and murky? It’s not blue at all—not like in those log rides at amusement parks or in the boat rides and Disney havens. Ah, here I go again wanting the Disneyfied version of this trip.

We slowly get the hang of maneuvering down river—we head perpendicularly into the current, making sure we join it slowly. Every once in a while we get too close to one side or another and if we’re going to fast Matt decides it’s easier to just run into the drooping branches, so after the first hour I’m not only wet, but the hands are scratched and I’ve got leaves in my hair.

“What the hell are we doing in a canoe?” I cry after another tree attack.
“I don’t know.”
“We’re not canoe people! We’re city mice, not country mice!”
“Agreed!” He shouts. “Can we make a pact? We’re never getting in a canoe again?”
“Done!

By the time we reach our destination 2 hours later, I’ve relaxed a little. Sure, I’m soaked. Sure, we capsized the canoe and Matt thought we might die. But it’s a funny story and we canoed down a river in the middle of the rainforest. It rained twice on us and we ran into tons of trees, it wasn’t that bad. We survived.

It’s when we dock that I realize not everything survived the river. Matt pulls the messenger bag from the plastic bag. It’s soaked. I scramble out of the canoe and head right for the bag. I don’t say anything as I pull out the zip-loc baggie. The zip-loc baggie with my camera floating in a pool of water. My camera’s been sitting in river water for the last two hours. It’s ruined. As my shoulders begin to shake and I concentrate on breathing and not crying and fuckfuckfuck, I realize that this just turned into a very expensive canoe trip.

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