Our original plan was to go from Memphis -> Nashville -> Myrtle Beach, SC -> Virginia -> Cincinatti. When we heard that our friends were going white water rafting in Tennessee, we changes our plans and included a place called Ocoee in eastern Tennessee.
We met our friend Pearl (Mariah) in Nashville with her cousin and took the long drive to Ocoee, making it 15 minutes before we could check in for our group. There were a lot of people at the rafting depot, all waiting for their group to be called. 10 rafts went down the hlll to the drop-in point on our group, and I can only assume the same number were in each group. After signing our life away on a piece of paper, we awaited our call-up and then collected our helmets, life jackets and paddles. Then it was onto the bus with the 50 other people to to drop-in. Before I left the UK, I had purchased a Panasonic Lumix FT-10 camera. It is water and shock proof so I thought it perfect for capturing some of our little adventure. I secured the camera to the top buckle of my life jacket, for ease of reach and also so I could tuck it in.
We went through a few procedures with our guide; what commands to listen for; what to do if we fell out of the raft etc., at which time it was our turn to get in. Jensen and I sat at the front as we would be the strongest and the girls made up the remaining 4 seats. Once we had been pushed out into the river, there was not turning back; we were at the mercy of the current. The first rapid, we were told, was the hardest of them all (out of about 12), so if there was one we would do well not to fall on it would be this one. Down we went over the first lip, a little more sideways that was optimal, it seemed. The lower edge of our raft caught on a rock and the whole thing lurched upward. Jensen, myself and Pearl's cousin, Catrinka toppled out. I immediately followed the instructions. Crossing my legs in front of me and holding my paddle above my head I began a rather speedy route down the rapid. This position did not last too long, for my concentration soon switched to trying to get to my raft, or another raft or even just to the side of the river. Seconds after abandoning the safe position, I had heavy knocks on my back and legs from the jagged rocks below the surface. They hurt a lot. I saw ahead of me a safety rope being cast into the maelstrom. I set my sights on it and stretched out my arm in the hopes of grabbing it. I managed to clasp it with one hand, while the other still held my paddle. If it weren't for my face being completely submerged I would have retained my grasp of the rope. Sadly, as it was, I could not muster a breath so I opened my hand and continued my journey downstream. Eventually I managed to get hold or a large rock protruding from the middle of the flow, and was picked up by another raft. There were many other companies using the same section of river. I got back to my raft on one piece, albeit a little shaken and with an already swollen left ankle (pictures of the minor injuries in the photo album). I can tell you that it was pretty scary being caught in a rapid, and relatively speaking it wasn't really that strong.
The remainder of the rafting experience was a little more tame, with one other spill much further down river. It was evident that our guide was somewhat new to guiding, perhaps it was her first season as a guide by herself. We were the only raft to have people fall out at all, and we got caught on rocks many times more than any other raft. Once the end of the route was spotted there was slight disappointment to end the fun, coupled with relief to get back on terra-firma.
Once we had got back to the rafting centre, showered and dried off, we headed to a nearby camp site for a camp fire, some food, games and songs. It was an extremely fun day and it was a great experience to be able to say I have had. An early rise and trip back to Nashville to get Pearl and her cousin back in time to drive back to St. Louis for their class the following afternoon.
Looking forward to Nashville
p.s. If anyone has any feedback about the blog so far please offer it. Any comments on my writing are welcome, thanks.