Sunday, November 1, 2009

better above it than beneath it, or, my first time walking off a river

(notice the bags under my eyes....yeah...)

My first run in Chile was the lower section of the Maipo river. I've ran it last March with no problem at all, in fact it was a delightful run with big waves and a canyon section where the river channels into a geological gap of slick stone walls.

Now that it is spring in Chile and the snowpack is melting off and feeding the Maipo every time the sun comes out, the river is a different story. It is a few meters higher and a whole lot faster. In fact, it was the fastest, most continuous, and brownest river I've ever been on. The eddy where we put in was pocket sized and we all had to hold on to eachother's hands and grab loops to keep from being swept downstream.

The rapids started immediately and just didn't stop. Now, it is important to note that the river is safe. There are some manky pourovers and holes to avoid, but I went over one of those pourovers upside down and was able to roll up immediately. Intimidating yes, but consequences, not so much. Still, I wasn't used to such a strong, fast current and I could not seem to get my balance. I wobbled left, wobbled right, wobbled left, and when David led me to the left around the pourover, I couldn't get there in time so I steered right to avoid going right over the rock and flipped. I whipped up and caught an eddy a littleways downriver, but I was shaking like a sewing machine and felt something rising up in my throat like I was going to burst into tears. I kept thinking about the canyon coming up, the place where the river narrows and pushes through the narrow, high stone walls. I was so incredibly frustrated with myself.

I had the skills, but I did not have the confidence. After running the first mile of river, which were the most difficult rapids on the run, I didn't want to be on the river anymore. So I walked out.

Except for we didn't exactly walk out, more like we crawled, hauled, climbed and scrambled. We were relatively deep into the gorge, and between us and the road there was a hill so steep it surpassed hill and became cliff. It was made of sticks, thorns and was studded with rebar. Tracy came with us, and together we had ourselves our first taste of what it actually means to walk off a run with two kayaks in tow.

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