Monday, July 7, 2008

Thrills and spills at Duck River

"Boom boom .... boom boom...." No, we weren't at the artillery range, nor were we in the line of canon fire. That was our guide yelling at us to crouch low in the raft as we hit the rapids at Sungai Itek (Duck River). Phew! Cleared the highest class rapids along Sungai Itek with all occupants still on board. " Gimme a five everyone!" our guide said and we jubilantly raised our paddles to hit it together in the air before clumsily smacking it back into the water.

It was only a class 3 rapid, on a grading of between classes 1 to 6 rapids, it is but a mere nursery playground for hard core thrill seekers. But enough to get adrenaline pumping for city folks like us whose thrill of the week is cutting off the next driver on the highway.

Instead of another typical weekend of errands and church, a bunch of us city dorks decided to seek adventure at Sungai Itek. Amy of the RATS (the white water rafting operator, not the rodent) took us through the safety briefing which covers paddling commands - forward paddle, backward paddle, to the left, to the right, on the job and my favourite ..... boom boom. We were taught the right way to hold the paddle and how not to hold the paddle lest you hit someone and capsize drills - what to do when you fall into the river. Pay attention to instructions on how to body raft we were told. "Draw up your knees and keep your feet together, otherwise its bye bye to Father's Day guys" said one of the guides.

With the safety briefing and demonstrations over, it was soon time to buckle up the life jacket and hit the water. Woohoo! We headed to the starting point at the backyard of My Gopeng Resort.

"Into the river everyone, body raft past the rock and then swim to the left bank." Darn, there goes my notion that we will be gently lowered into the raft as I peered over the raging river. One by one we had to jump into the river and body raft past the swirling eddy around the rock to get to calmer waters where the raft and the rest of the team of guides were waiting for us.

We clambered on board the raft and soon our coordination or lack of was apparent. "Forward paddle" our instructor barked. Chaos ensued. "Hah? forward ah?" Er..... which way ar?". "Eh... not like that lah.... forward lah, not backward", "Oi, watch your paddle, you nearly hit my face with it" We paddled in six different directions like a group of drunken sailors as our raft careened crazily around. Finally, we managed to get into some sort of coordinated rhythm and made progress down river.

The RATS had a safety raft that went ahead of us and stationed themselves at capsize prone areas, at the ready with a throw bag to fish us out should we tumble in. And tumble in we did, despite our best efforts to stay in the raft. One of our crew fell into the river and during efforts to pull him back on board, the raft tipped over at the rapids and spilled its guts into the swirling waters. Mercifully, I managed to quickly kick up and break surface, all the while trying to remember instructions to keep my body in the right position. The water was not deep but the swift current swept me down stream. I was bobbing downstream like a cork until help came to stop me from floating further down river. My posterior was sore from bumping and grazing the rocks.

Despite the thrills and spills, which were all part and parcel of enjoying the white water experience, Sungai Itek is well suited for beginners. There are 9 major rapids between classes 1-3. Apart from those adrenaline pumping moments, the rest of the trip was a pleasant and uneventful ride. In between paying attention to instructions that our guide barked out, we slacked off and sat back to enjoy the idyllic surroundings as we floated down river. Wild durian trees laden with fruits dotted the river banks and had us salivating. Unfortunately the fruits were not ripe for picking yet. Shucks!

Three hours and 12 km later, we arrived at the Kampung Jahang ending point and waited for the lorry to transport us back to My Gopeng Resort where we were staying for the night. I was rather sorry for the adventure to come to an end.

Next up.... shooting class 4 and 5 rapids at Sungai Selangor. Anyone game for it?