Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chau Ram River

The water molecules split into a thousand million atoms as my forehead broke the calm surface of the water, followed nearly simultaneously by my nose, jaw line, neck, I felt it breach my shoulders, slide over my back, consume my legs, tickled my feet. I dove like an arrow from atop the rocks and into the deep river, torpedoing for the bottom, but never touching before my legs swung around to push me upward and my arm muscles braced themselves for liftoff. I rose up to the surface and broke for air. I felt alive.

After a long night of little sleep (I last saw 4:02am before my eyes finally stayed shut), it was difficult to get going this morning around 9:00am. The house was awake with morning clatter; company was over to retrieve Jared, the son, for a summer vacation for which he was asked to come along and provide man-power (I thought it pretty funny); I felt weak and tired, but wanted to resume some pottery work before we went out to the lake. 

The company left before I managed to conjure up enough energy to slide out of bed. They'd only been there for breakfast, after all. I come waddling out of my back room looking terrible as ever and quite array even for my typical mornings. Poured some coffee, ate some biscuits and apple butter, did other things I assume before going outside that I can't recall due my current state of fatigue, etc. etc.

I completed a bit of pottery work, had a revelation about my life being like a leaf, and then it was 5 o'clock. Karen, Bill, and I piled into the car with towels and headed for Chau Ram River.

We hiked for quite a while up the modest path that followed the river's edge, and we could see family's and lone dare-devils spotting the banks here and there. I so admired the river. It was broad and full, almost masculine looking from far away, with great boulders bursting up from its depths and absorbing the hot sun without any regard for the above one hundred degree temperatures.

We continued down the trail and eventually I noticed I could no longer hear voices -- only the rushing of the water and the mutual conversation among us.

The trail came to a head at a great rock that jutted out from the hillside. Boulders all around, the forest glowing with evening sunlight and its leaves shimmering like emeralds. The water sparkled with that gold light and small insects hovered above its surface and then scattered for no observable reason. At Karen's request (slash command), Bill got in first and tested the depths. I waited anxiously above on the rocks, having already flung off my over-shirt and stripped my shoes and socks. I got the "okay", backed up as far as possible, and darted off the edge into the water...

We were all alone at the water hole. Once the waves of our entrance subsided, the waters became still and calm, and we floated like ghosts and icebergs and absorbed the peaceful moment in time.

It wasn't long before the rapids nearby held my attention fully captive. Boulders and rocks and ledges and slopes, airborne waterfalls and gushing water -- there was no resisting.

I swam to the rocks in the middle there of the river and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were all connected and there was little worry of slipping in between two ledges and getting stuck in a current. I began to explore. I leaped and hopped (or delicately crawled) to each rapids I could find. Some proved not very difficult to lay down in, and in those I experimented and observed how the water moved along my body and how the currents seemed to attach to my skin and pour forth, underwater, in separate streams of their own. The bending of light often caused illusions and a variety of color in the waves (also due to the incredible amount of moss strands that clung to the walls. I felt happier than a child.

I came to one set of rapids that seems imminently more powerful than all the rest -- it was not a false perception. In order to brace just one leg in the midst of the gushing waves, I had to spear a rock and use more calf and quad muscle than I knew I had. I brought another leg in. More of me meant more obstacles for the water to force its way around, and I soon felt I may not be able to stand the rapids. I wasn't too far off in thinking, as not long after I had my legs in I found myself being sucked into the water and drug down.

Disclaimer: we're talking like, four feet of water with large smooth rocks underneath. Not really dangerous.

The force of the water was incredible and the speed was even more surprising. As a natural instinct I was screaming. As the result of being an adrenaline junkie, I was laughing even louder. The water pulled me a fair distance away from my starting point and it took a minute before I was able to find footing. I did, pulled myself out of the water -- still laughing and hollering with excitement since I was shocked that it had actually drug me away -- and then just breathed a minute. I decided to head back to the water hole.

We spent some more time there relaxing a bit, and I dove off the big rock a few more times. When we were all tuckered out we climbed back up to our clothes and towels and dried off, headed down the trail, and left Chau Ram River. I had no more energy, no more food in my system, and an absolute feeling of satisfaction and simple happiness. Tomorrow, we return with the tubes. Look out Chau Ram -- I'll be back.

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