Your friendly neighborhood kayaking beginner is back! This time, I was fortunate enough to travel to the beautiful territories of Coorg, close to the banks of Barapole. So on Thursday, yet another team of four made our way from Bangalore to a small town called T. Shettigeri, close to Srimangala. Getting to travel to the notoriously famous area of Coorg as well as to have another dose of my newly found addiction in the form of kayaking seemed like an ideal weekend to me!

We reached the town around mid-evening to our destination of a homestay where we were taking up residence for the next two days. The homestay is run by this lovely couple who had built a few rooms into their cottage structure. They are traditionally coffee plantation owners growing, well of course coffee along with pepper. They welcomed us with open arms as our vehicle climbed up the dirt road towards their cottage, with four kayaks tightly strapped on top. They offered us some delicious coffee along with the ever so addictive banana chips! Once we recuperated from the long drive, having stretched our legs while finishing our coffee, we went to our room with our bags.

As you might have noticed, I had in fact used the word room in a singular sense, for it was in fact one room for the four of us! The room was capable of housing an additional two more as well. I found this to be very interesting and fun! Once we freshened up, we decided to sit on the porch that was existent in front of the room that overlooked a beautiful tributary of the Barapole with vast surroundings of lush green vegetation at varying altitudes. There was a brief few moments of silence as the four of us immersed ourselves into the newly darkened sky, coupled with the melodic roar of the water body. The night life in the form of insects were in their usual chirpy mood confidently offering their voices to this natural orchestra as we as a silent audience were once again feeling rather content with our surroundings. Finally, the ice was broken as we chatted for a while. I had remembered to bring along a Bluetooth speaker with me and we heard some tunes as the night went along. Soon we had a delicious meal of dinner cooked by Uncle and Aunty. It was rather hard for me to resist the multi course meal that I gobbled down only to find it rather hard to walk my way back to the room! But as we made our way back, we looked up and were awed by the clear skies that was present unfolding the infestation of bright stars. We glanced up rooted by the glimpse of the Milky Way. As I stood there looking up, a shooting star whizzed by. To add to the filmy-ness of the moment, ‘Make a wish’, Manik said. I thought in my head, no need to, for it will be fulfilled once again this weekend!

I did not get too much time in the water on Friday. The other three were intending on doing the tricky section of Barapole which required more experience in kayaking to conquer. I was the designated driver/photographer for the most parts of the day. I got to drive through a beautiful tea plantation downhill to a spot on the banks of the river where I was able to shoot videos and photos of the trio tackling a ferocious rapid. Once the regrouping was done at that meeting point, the trio got ready to go further downstream.

 The trio taking a quick snap before heading downstream

The trio taking a quick snap before heading downstream

I made my way to meet a friend who was about to teach me how to eskimo roll, which is a method used to roll back up in a situation of flipping, without any assistance. I had a quick lunch and met him at the river. It can be said with absolute certainty that I am still a beginner! I managed to understand the technique that needs to be carried out, however execution was lacking. I practiced a great deal and heard my instructor out clearly, understanding every trick that can benefit my performance. Finally, I decided to call it a day, for I was hoping to go along with the Uncle hosting us to pick up the trio from the take out point. So I made my way back to our room, met up with Uncle and accompanied him in his jeep with a trailer attached that would be used to transport the kayaks. The first hour of the journey was quite peaceful and uneventful. But then came the rains! To make matters a little more surprising for me, we were required to travel into the dense forest, on practically a dirt track that was wet with all the rains. The track was steep going down only making me wonder how the journey uphill would be…

We met the other guys at the rendezvous point. They carried their kayaks up the steep path. We all took a breather, only to be interrupted by the realization of the number of leeches that were clinging on to all of our skins! Those bloodsuckers were hard to pull out and all of us were jumping and pulling out the creatures on the spot, the scene almost comical. Once we managed to get rid of the leeches (or so we thought…), it had dawned onto us of the hike we would need to perform along with the boats to the jeep. There was no other way and we decided to just plunge into the greenery and handle those leeches once again. We reached the jeep, putting the boats into the trailer and repeated our talented performance of high kneed dancing on the spot, as Uncle looked at us with an expression that can only explain how ludicrous we looked. Once we were done and somewhat satisfied of our ‘safety’, we got in the jeep to traverse the tough road ahead. As soon as we started, my previous doubts were answered regarding the uphill battle. However, having Uncle with us, there was nothing to fear! He found a way to somehow ensure the four-wheel drive car found the appropriate amount of traction and soon were on our way to the cottage! It was a rather tiring day for all of us. We had our dinner and called it a night soon.

 Finding ways to move forward out of the water too, all part of the game

Finding ways to move forward out of the water too, all part of the game

On Saturday, we decided to go to another section in Dobare. The stretch there is a lot simpler and it would be a great run for a beginner like me. We reached there around afternoon, geared up and were soon paddling down river. The area was relatively crowded as it is a rather famous place for rafting and other activities with an elephant camp nearby. There were a total of about four rapids to tackle, while the rest of the way was predominately still water with some portions of a slow moving current. For me, it was a rather peaceful and enjoyable stretch. However for the hardcore paddlers I was with, it was too dull and uneventful. Thanks to me though, I added a little spice to the trip by facing difficulties in one of the rapids. I somehow managed to completely miss the line and went straight into a big rock. I was rather confused in what my next move should be and ended up flipping. While underwater, I realized how shallow the rapid was with rocks hitting my helmet and feeling a few blows on my shoulders. I managed to perform a wet exit and finally got my head out of the water only to find one of the paddler’s boats coming straight on to me! I quickly moved aside while he swerved his kayak. It was a continuous spanking that my backside faced repeatedly as I went down the remaining of the rapid, as though nature was scolding me with a thought in mind somewhat like this, ‘You dare believe you can beat me..?!’. But I made out of it, my lost paddle was found and soon I had drained my boat and was back into it. Manik then explained to me as to what should be a course of action in such a situation. Only then I realized that it had to be the complete opposite of what I had done.

 Slow moving current... Time to relax.

Slow moving current... Time to relax.

The rest of the stretch was uneventful but it was indeed a great practice for my paddling as well as in becoming more and more accustomed to being in a kayak and in the river. Finally, we reached our takeout, carried our boats up and strapped them onto the car. We changed and made our journey back to Bangalore. As I sat in the car next to a few paddles giving me a small cozy corner of the car, I felt more confidant. Even though I might have not increased my skillset in the sport, I firmly believed that the next time I hit the river, I shall be a lot more determined and focused in keeping attention to detail when going downstream. I had learned with the help of Manik and the other paddlers that the focus must be where you want to go while paddling down a rapid and not on the obstacles that are in the way. For if you focus on the obstacles, you will go directly to them and then you are punished, sort of what happened to me as I flipped. Wait, was that pretty much another life lesson…?

See you guys next time in the river!

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