‘No, I can’t row anymore’ I said, my heart pounding and eyes almost in tears, taking my hands off the oars as the canoe motioned towards the reptile. I could just anticipate its huge mouth opening and its jaws putting everything out of my sight as it would crawl towards me - almost a year back when we took this tour but the fear of those few moments is unscathed.
On a Friday night a friend proposed and the next morning we went for an adventure trip but with no clue of the whole concept of canoeing. All of us being first timers were enthralled by the idea of going down the river into a deep forest.
But when we reached the rental shop, we were surprised to find that we had to do it all by ourselves – no guide around to help us. A little skeptical…but the idea of boat, river and woods kept us moving. We bought the tickets and hopped on to the bus driving us to the point where our adventure would start. On our bus ride a guide walked us through a route map to be taken and talked about creatures that we might come across. All seemed whimsical except the alligators, giving our doubts a little more space.
Finally we reached the park where our rowing adventure had to start. We got down from the bus to see what our next transportation item would be and it was a canoe. You would be aware, by now, that we went there blank…I at least had the poorest idea of a canoeing tour. Any ways, we received our sets of life vests and ores and marched closer to river for cursory paddling tips.
Okay, fine a canoe but I was still sure, if they had allowed a 1 year old (‘Ouch you had a 1 year old for a canoe ride’) to take the ride, they will provide some-kind-a-seat for him. I listened to basic instructions of paddling the guide gave while tucking in life vest to my son. And then the canoes were handed over to us (or maybe we were handed over to the canoe).
We were seated-in pairs and I paired with my husband. I sat, as a ‘front-warrior’, cross-legged so that I could keep my son in my lap and took over the oars. Initially it seemed that all five canoes mastered the route rather than letting us do the job. One canoe hit the other while another pushed into the bushes. Closely watching, you could have easily made out that we made our ores beat the bushes rather than the water. The more effort we made the more we became doubtful of reaching the destination in time (Oh yes the trip we opted was a self-guided tour in set time).
We reached the finish point. Yes bringing the canoe to the bank and parking it was in itself tricky. As we got off our canoes we felt our legs numb and as we moved towards the benches laid there, we were taken over by mosquitoes. It was almost evening time and their strength kept increasing. While we covered our children in towels, some of the friends tried calling the bus driver as they were nowhere to be seen. But phone network seemed to be failing. Finally one of the friend got through and we got to know that we had to row a little more to reach the destination.
To escape the mosquitoes, first the families with children were helped to take off. My husband and I lead the team this time. My son was now awake and enjoying the clear sky and chirping birds. Moving around half a mile further we reached into a little populated area where an interstate road ran across the river and a park could be seen on the left side of the bank where few children were playing. From this park a few people watched us. One of them alerted us about the alligators on the other side. As I looked across three alligators were enjoying sun bathing. Here the river was wider, I think almost 50 feet wide in comparison to the part we had just explored where it would have hardly been 25 feet wide. So my husband and I kept rowing but somehow as we rowed, we moved towards the other side of the bank rather than moving the length of the river. Also the silence of waters was now interrupted by my son. He had started feeling hungry and started crying. I tried to hold him from getting up while still rowing. Though now most of the rowing was done by my husband but a few strokes were needed at my end as well because of the flow. I think my strokes moved us closer to the reptiles so that I realized that we were hardly 10 steps away from them. Watching them this closely put me into panic and I left the oars saying I couldn’t do it anymore. My husband still struggled making the direction with the bushes around.
It seemed the world was coming to an end for me and I could make a passable feast for one of them. I really wished for existence of a Spiderman to come to our rescue. I was panicking just not ready to listen to what my husband yelled from behind. He gave up on me and kept trying making way out of there. I realized in all this time that none of those alligators had made a move. Probably he had already had his weekend feast by then and was still sleeping over his hangover! Then as my poor husband struggled the canoe moved a little backwards bringing some sense to me. By then I had at least made an effort to calm down my son and fed him his milk bottle. I finally took the ores and once again started to row making direction with the bushes, my eyes glued to the alligator. Ahh finally we made through and rowed backwards. Gradually we came to the other side while our friends were still not close enough to watch what was happening. They had seen us but not the alligators and then when they saw those reptiles they asked us ‘What were you doing there?’ ‘Nothing, we were asking the alligators if they wished to have us for their feast’, I felt like blurting. In a few minutes we reached our destination where the tour staff was waiting to help us get off the canoe.