Peruvian Perils

‘No, I’m not doing it,’ I stated calmly but very firmly.
‘You want to, you do it,’ still said firmly but with a hint of hysteria creeping in.
Our three week trip to Peru was everything I had wanted, exotic, magical and cultural. Now Hubby wanted to ruin it all by doing river rafting. Wherever we go he has to do something with boats, water, lakes, and sea. Anything wet. It has to be said that I do not like water. I mean I went on a 12 day trek to the Annapurnas and didn’t wash once. Did it harm me? Did anyone even notice? (Hubby put your hand down). No, I’m not a fan of water. It could be the fear of drowning or it could just be I don’t like getting wet. ‘He’ thinks I was a cat in my former life.
Anyhow thankfully it was established that, no I don’t have to go and yes it’s alright if he does. There are four Italians in our party so it’s not like he’s on his own. We eat lunch. I start to get a little nervous for him. Then afterwards over the coffee it turns out that, no, the Italians are not rafting. He looks at me, I look at him. We sit outside and watch five men blow up a patched grey thing that looks like a failed organ. It becomes the ‘boat’. I can’t possibly let him go on his own.
We drive to the river and carry our grey collapsible lung down to the shore. The Italians wave to us from the bridge, ‘Ciao.’ The guide speaks no English, neither of us speaks Spanish. I notice he has Neanderthal toenails. Could they puncture our boat?
None of this bodes well. My legs are suddenly jelly-like but also solid lead. I can’t actually move them except to knock into each other. The guide pulls out a glass bottle of clear liquid. He swigs it then offers it to us. I wonder if it’s a kind of offering to Pacha Mama or a River God ritual type thing. I change my mind when I drink it and find that I now have fire in my belly and a voice to rival Bonnie Tyler.
We launch.
‘You owe me big time,’ I mouth to Hubby.
We hit the rapids (only grade 2 I must confess). I am determined not to scream or call out the entire time. I keep to my word. In fact it isn’t a problem. The adrenalin over the rapids is fantastic and then the calm…ah the calm in between. We drift over polished glass towards banks of fabulous birds, one with a matadors cap and plait. Parakeets call out and insects hover close by with jewelled heads and diamond encrusted wings. The forest breathes silence over us and the trees sway to an unheard rhythm. A huge boulder even crashes through the jungle and then splashes down next to us. We are nothing but flotsam on the river, drifting with everything else: out, down, along, gushing, rushing, gliding, sliding, slipping, crashing.
We turn a bend and stop at a tiny hamlet where we stand soaking wet in our life jackets while the guide goes in search of noodles (for himself) and coca leaves (for all of us). Then back into our saggy boat to do the last stretch. The lodge is in view down the river as is the huge billowing cloud of rain heading towards it and us. We row for all we are worth. The rain and mist are so bad and the current so strong we are told to row backwards. I thought I might pop a rib or two. Who knew also what strong gripping and pushing muscles you have in your toes. The lodge appeared, then glided past, then reappeared and slipped away. Finally a figure appeared on the bank and pulled us in. I staggered up the muddy slopes, cold, wet and very hungry.
‘That wasn’t so bad was it?’ Hubby asked.
‘It was one of the best things I’ve ever done, but you still owe me,’ I said.

K Braund

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