It was around eight o’clock in the evening on Wednesday night when Manik gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to go to the Barapole in Coorg once again this weekend. He mentioned a friend was coming to town and wanted to get some kayaking action this weekend, with his newly purchased Dagger Mamba! This would be the trip where I could develop my novice skills in the sport and possible master the roll. I had to go… Before I knew it, I was packed and ready to leave on Friday morning, back to Coorg!

So we commenced our road trip to T. Shettigeri and had booked our stay in the very same homestay as last time. I am not going to lie, over and above the excitement of getting to hit the river again, I couldn’t help but yearn for some delicious food that Uncle and Aunty would so lovingly serve us. But my desire to stuff myself would have to wait, for we had planned to do a quick run of the commercial section of the Barapole, a two kilometer stretch where rafting is conducted as well.

We reached the put-in just in time to be able to do one run before the sun started to set. We quickly got ready, geared up and got into our kayaks. At first we warmed up a bit, got our paddling rhythm going. For me, this would be taking my kayaking experience to a higher level while testing and molding my technical ability as a kayaker. This river section, even though not too fearsome due to the low water level, had characteristics to truly question one’s ability. With all its bends, vegetation and rocks as obstacles, I had to give it my best to be able to shine in front of such a respectable river. At first, I attempted to paddle upstream and catch an eddy while ferrying across the current. Manik ensured I got the due amount of warm up and to test my basic paddling skills before it was confirmed that I can do the stretch. I had managed to do just about enough to make Manik and myself believe that I am ready to tackle the river head on!

We made our way downstream. The first rapid came up in no time. It wasn’t extremely challenging but ensured me to work hard in order to keep my line straight. We were done with it in no time and entered a peaceful stretch of still water. I ensured my spray skirt was latched on properly, for I knew I am going to be challenged a great deal as we paddle on. We had a brief chat, as the young jedi Luke embraced his new boat with such love and affection, performing rolls after rolls. I knew I had to get that this trip… The river took a sharp bend right and as I made the turn, Manik instructed me to catch the eddy on the left and to get off my boat.

 Trying to straighten the line

Trying to straighten the line

The next rapid we were about to face had a tricky start to it. A reasonably sized wave greeted any of the guests who traversed the rapid on their respective boats. However, once you pass the wave there are two lines available, one which ends up in a fun drop and the other, well a line you wouldn’t want to catch with all the rocks and swerves that will be faced. So the key is to ensure you hit the wave and paddle towards the left so you can comfortably catch the existing eddy and make your way down the drop. However, with my barely new paddling abilities, Manik decided that I skip the wave at the start and join the rapid at the eddy, which was easily accessible from the banks. Once I saw Manik hit the rapid, I got on my boat and paddled down hard into the drop. Seemed to have fared well as I bounced off the drop, with my boat facing the right side and not upside down. I couldn’t help but ponder over how engineered and constructed nature had decided to display itself in.

 Hitting the drop hard

Hitting the drop hard

So far so good! A few meters down lies a cave that was so aptly positioned opening its mouth onto the river. It warranted for a few snaps! Manik appeared to be in a rather spooky mood as he performed his award winning ghost impersonations while young Skywalker and I laughed away. As we went further downstream, it was then my underwater theatrics begun! It started off with me trying to ferry towards the other side of the river trying to catch an eddy. I clearly did not perform the stunt well so I flipped. Disorientation was setting in as I waved my hands for a t rescue. I managed to get myself out, still taken aback from how sudden the flip was. As I got my bearings, we paddled to the middle of the river where we were about to hit a marginally sized drop. However, what was trying to be achieved was an eddy boof. An eddy boof, is a combination of a boof stroke that is performed when coming down a drop, however with a motive to catch the eddy which is present right after. For this instance, the eddy was on the left. The technique is to paddle and steer the kayak to the left most part of the drop, perform a boof right stroke to propel your boat above the drop and finally a left stroke to move yourself into the eddy. Manik demonstrated it with ease as I stared on trying to understand what needs to be done. Well I clearly did not get it! As I paddled towards the drop, my line was wrong, I did not have enough speed and before I knew it, I was yet again flipped and underwater. I felt a light blow on the bony section of my nose but managed to t rescue myself up. Flip number two!

 We are in a scary scary caaaavvveeee

We are in a scary scary caaaavvveeee

The section wasn’t over. We had two more rapids to hit. As I recovered from yet another dose of flipping, we were up against another rapid that started of straight and took a bend towards the right at the end. We made our way down, Manik, then me and finally Luke. As we got to the bend, Manik had chosen a line that turned out not to be a wise one as the water was too shallow and got his boat slightly stuck. I noticed another line that seemed to have a broader entry and more water flowing over. I impulsively paddled towards it and got out of the rapid with a broad cheeky smile! We were almost to the end, having one more rapid to run called the Big Bang. This rapid could be considered the biggest and most fast flowing. I followed the line that Manik had and was aware of the two holes that are present. The importance lies in the timing of the stroke and at particular places. However for a beginner performing it to perfection, would be asking too much. I ran the rapid, getting thrown off my line, I managed to stay upright for the most part only to get flipped right at the end. That was the end of it! I was rather satisfied with me completing it. Bit of mental obstacles in the way, however nothing that cannot be overcome with true grit! Tired and hungry, it was time to go back and gorge on some delicious food. And gorge I did! Enough to give me a good night’s sleep before I hit the same section tomorrow.

 All smiles after a good day

All smiles after a good day

We were up and about fairly early by our standards. After breakfast, we got dropped by Uncle to the put-in, geared up and hit the river. The water level was similar as the day before. However, I was far more confidant and I had a better idea as to what I should do. We hit through the stretch in no time. I had a total of two flips through the stretch but nothing that perturbed me. As we got done, it was time for me to master the roll. Manik got off his boat and thought me in detail of the technique behind it. First and foremost, one must stay very calm and have faith in their own ability to pull it off. It might not work out at first, however one must keep at it! And so I did. I practiced on the shallow section, working on my hip jerk and the paddle stroke that will push you over water. After a few attempts, I actually found myself over the water! At first surprised I asked Manik, ‘Was that me?!’ He replied with a grin on his face, ‘Mostly yeah.’ Define mostly!! But it didn’t matter, for I was able to pull it off multiple times thereafter, definitely unassisted. I was thrilled!

Proud with myself, we got off our boats and decided to run the section once again. Only thing standing in the way was transportation. We requested the rafting company present to take our kayaks along with their rafts and we decided to take a hike back to the starting point. Mind you, this wasn’t just a regular hike. We got to hike through the tea plantation! It was an amazing experience with breathtaking views all around us, with rows and rows of tea plants lining up over the rolling hills. The three of us, bare bodied walked towards our destination, as we were greeted by many tea workers. We took a few snaps with them, all happy to see us but probably were wondering what the three of us were doing walking around aimlessly, two relatively fit and one with a paunch (me…). We said our goodbyes and finally reached our boats, only to gear up again!

 Time for a selfie!

Time for a selfie!

I kept trying to roll whenever I could. Manik ordered me to do five in a row. I was exhausted by three. With more and more practice, the easier it appears to be to perform. We hit the first rapid with ease as Manik told us to just pick your own lines and go for it. As we reached the still water section, I kept paddling only to suddenly find myself being flipped. I knew it was Manik! I rolled myself back up and looked at him with a look of satisfaction only to get flipped back again! The young Jedi got me… As I rolled myself back up, I was looking upon a comical scene of Manik and Luke trying to flip one another. At first flipping was a scare, now it’s all good fun!

We got done with our second run of the river and I was given the duty to tie up my boat and get the car to the takeout, while Manik and Luke intended on doing another run! As I drove the car, I felt like I have reached yet another milestone in my kayaking experience, with managing the roll. Now it appears as though going to the river is just as a part of my weekly routine, feeling far more comfortable. The level of excitement is paramount and much more easily expressible now that I can rely on myself when on the river. Well for the most parts! Some might think that being underwater is extremely frightening and deter people from attempting the great sport. Why, it is frightening! But that is a feeling that you control. Mental strength is off utmost importance, an ability that will make anyone realize the serenity that one can possibly experience when being underwater…

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There will always be a next time!

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