Los Nevados is a full on class 5 committed canyon run that is pumping right now and we're not doing it. But we are running the entrance rapid, a 100 foot slide that is frequently featured in paddling magazines because of it's sheer size and mediagenicy. A 100 foot bumpy slide like a wild toboggan ride, mostly clean, that you can hike up and run again and again, with no worry of the dangerous canyon that follows. Incredible.
It is raining and cold. A cloud of mist accompanies every word I speak. I bought a thick wool scarf in town, threaded with iridescent silver, and I wrap it around my shoulders as if it were a luxurious fur. The students sit in a ring around the tremendous fire in the Quincho and play Hearts and Uno. When it rains, the rivers rise into giants, and we draw inwards.Except between the hours of 3:00pm-7:00pm, approximately. That is when we seal ourselves into creek boats the bright, speckled, tangerine and lime colors of jelly bellies, and we go and play with the giants. They toss us with their powerful arms, or we slide down their throats into their canyon stomachs: David Hughes runs Gargantua del Diablo, "the Throat of the Devil" on the Rio Claro (C) Matt Smink
So I power up the camera and push the delicate lenses into their foam bedding in the Pelican Box. I pull on fleece pants and contemplate the upcoming trauma of pulling on a broken dry top, already soaking from three days hanging from an Ash tree in the rain. Then I spy Matt and Andy slithering from their room to the couch in their sleeping bags. The door opens and David steps inside, hair plastered to his forehead from the downpour. He says something about maybe taking the day off from the river. And then the bomb drops: Andy's got Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on his is Ipod.
A few minutes later, Tino comes out of his room suited up in a dry suit, looking like a power ranger. "You guys ready to go?!" He's all motivated and then he sees us lying on the couch in different positions of comfort. He stops in his tracks. "WHAT?" I decide to slink off to the kitchen to avoid this confrontation. Tino is the coach. He has to go kayaking every day, no matter how freezing and miserable it is. The rest of us are not the coach. We don't have to do anything. "YOU ASSHOLES!"
I wait till Tino is out the door before returning to the living room with my hot chocolate. Unfortunately, he is not yet out of hearing range when I jump on the couch and say "Alright Andy, Harry Potter me!" The door yanks opened. Tino sticks his helmet-head inside and says in barely a whisper, "Did you just say...Harry Potter?" We look at him. The guilt in the room could crush us all.
"...and the Half Blood Prince." I reply.
Matt, David, Andy and I remain dormant for the rest of the afternoon, half asleep in our goose-down sleeves watching magical movies, rain drumming the tin roof. A few kilometers away at the entrance to Los Nevados, the slide is running record high. The kids zip down with madcap lines. Eric hits the rooster tail, does a mid-air cartwheel and crash lands on his head. The video camera collects rain under the lenses and is rendered useless. Taylor's elbow knocks against the rock wall and fills with fluid.
In life, there are some times when you have to push yourself. Then there are those times when you have earned your rest. (Unless you're Tino: no rest for the weary. Good on ya, buddy.) Learning that balance, the perfect ratio of sleep to waking, whitewater to greenwater, is the key to life. My cousins taught me early on their NOLS course motto: Live to Wimp Again. Some advice you just have to take to heart.